The beauty industry may not be as clean as you thought. Here's how you can help

In a couple of day; us, the residents of earth will celebrate World Environment Day. Cue the barrage of emails arriving in your inbox with headlines like 'carry a canvas tote' or 'turn off your tap'. The arrival of this day and the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has got me thinking about the impact of beauty on the environment. I guiltily admit I haven't given it much thought before but the results were upsetting, to say the least.

The problem can start with something as small as a micro-bead. Often a component of scrubs, micro-beads are solid pieces of plastic which can be as small as a fraction of a millimetre in size. It may seem miniscule but their effects are not. According to Popular Science, these beads are small enough to enter the material used as fertilizer and even water supplies. They can also potentially absorb pollutants; which means aquatic life can ingest it so it could land up on your plate when having a butter garlic fillet. Many unchecked formulas also contain ingredients which are toxic for the body and are not degradable. That's just what is inside tubes and bottles on your shelf. The exterior isn't any better either.

Take a hard look at products you are using and you'll discover pumps, handles and cartons, most of which are plastic. Probably enemy #1 for the environment, plastic is non-biodegradable and based on this National Geographic report, is estimated to endure for around 450 years to forever. As of 2015, around 79 percent of plastic waste is present in landfills or the environment. If that isn't enough to terrify, Plastic Oceans says that around 40 percent of total plastic usage comes from packaging. Makeup removal wipes often slip under the radar because of how convenient they are. Unfortunately, they are responsible for clogging drains, spilling into the seas and washing up on beaches. Although wild and marine life are usually out of our sight, they shouldn't be considered out of mind. Like us, they too are residents of Earth and deserve the same treatment as human beings. My trip to Singapore's S.E.A Aquarium was an eye-opener to see how diverse the life forms are under the sea, the eroding effect of plastic in oceans and how they need to be protected.

If this is starting to feel more grim by the second, it isn't all bad. The beauty industry may have been one of the dirtiest on the planet but many conglomerates are taking strides to change that. In 2018, L'Oreal launched Seed Phytonutrients, a line by brand executive Shane Wolf who also happens to be a farmer. While the ingredients tick off the usual list of being free from parabens, sulfates and much more, it redefines product packaging by coming in a shell that is paper-based, recyclable and compostable, says Packaging Digest. Beauty brands are also taking smaller steps to truly go clean; buy-back programs and bio-degradable ingredients are a few ways in which they are doing so.

biodegradable micro beads body scrub for skin

Expecting one to toss all their products in the trash right away would be silly but you can evaluate your choices and routine to make it cleaner in tinier ways.

1. The Body Shop has a recycling program and Indian vegan brand Plum has Empties4Good which encourage empty product containers being returned to be recycled.

2. Avoid products with plastic micro-beads. I switched to chemical exfoliation and the Foreo cleansing device few years ago which has been satisfying for my skin and my conscience. FYI: Oriflame, a brand I'm personally fond of, only uses biodegradable, natural-origin beads in their exfoliators. You're welcome.

3. Not every product can be replaced by a home remedy but in the case of hair masks and face packs, where it can be, rustle through the fridge for a zero waste beauty concoction.

4. Avoid wet wipes for daily makeup removal. It's okay if you need them when you're in a pinch but cleanser which can be used straight on your face without any applicator is the best choice for regular usage.

 5. The truth is, no matter how desperately you think you need this lipstick or that serum, you really don't. I drastically simplified my skincare routine on my dermatologist's orders over the past few years and it did me well. Besides the positive effect on your skin, simply cutting down and purchasing only what you actually need is a step Mother Earth will thank you for.



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