How Beauty Products Affect the Environment

7 Mins read

The beauty industry is huge.

From makeup to facial lotions, to hair dye, and more. In many cases, these products are being consumed at an alarming rate with little regard for the environment we inhabit.

This blog post reviews how beauty products can affect the environment and what we can all do about it.

How Beauty Products Affect the Environment

1. Production

The production of beauty products is a huge industry that creates a lot of pollution through emissions, hazardous waste, water contamination, and the use of unhealthy ingredients.

2. Ingredients

Beauty products are full of chemicals and preservatives that can pollute our bodies and our environments.

Ingredients used in beauty products are sometimes harmful; some have been linked to cancer or other diseases.

3. Shipping

Emissions created by shipping contribute to climate change.

By avoiding excess packaging, we can reduce shipping costs by as much as 20 percent—and that’s good for everyone.

Which Beauty Products Are Bad for the Environment?

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Hair dye
  • Sunscreen
  • Makeup (concealer, foundation, blush, bronzer)
  • Nail polish
  • Body wash
  • Moisturizer
  • Face wash
  • Perfume/cologne

If you’re unimpressed by the above list, it’s probably because you use most of these products every day.

Still, many of them can be used more mindfully to reduce their impact on the environment.

For example, if the product is packaged in single-use plastic packaging or plastic bottles with plastic pumps that can’t be recycled, replace them with refillable glass bottles.

If a product contains microbeads or glitter that doesn’t biodegrade in water and filters into our waterways, find an alternative product made with natural exfoliating ingredients like oatmeal and sugar instead.

What Is in Beauty Products That Can Harm the Environment?

1. Parabens

These chemicals are widely used in cosmetics as preservatives and are easily absorbed through the skin.

They can also be found in a number of foods.

In 2004, research suggested that parabens may disrupt hormone function by mimicking the effects of estrogen, at least in laboratory cells.

2. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium Laureth sulfate (SLES)

According to The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, these ingredients are present in a wide range of cosmetic products from shampoo and body wash to mascara and foundation.

They’re also used as detergents in industrial cleaners and engine degreasers.

SLES/SLS is readily absorbed into the skin, where it can remain for up to five days.

3. Phthalates

This group of chemicals is primarily used as plasticizers to make plastics more flexible when dry—they’re commonly found in nail polish but can be present in other cosmetics as well, including hairspray and soap.

Their use has been restricted or banned due to concerns about their potential toxicity and impact on reproduction, yet they still appear on ingredient labels under names like dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), di-isobutyl phthalate (DIBP).

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4. Triclosan

This antibacterial compound is an active ingredient found in soaps, toothpastes, deodorants, cleaning supplies, toys, bedding textiles, and even socks!

It’s also often paired with triclocarban – an antimicrobial agent frequently added to bar soaps – making our exposure level higher than previously thought.

Both compounds have been linked to reproductive problems such as reduced fertility in women who use products with triclosan daily over long periods of time.

Although triclosan has been shown effective at reducing or

How Does the Transportation of Beauty Products Affect the Environment?

Another way your favorite beauty product may affect the environment is through its transportation.

This can be a big emission contributor due to the fact that beauty products are often manufactured abroad and then shipped in bulk to distribution facilities, where they are separated into orders and sent off on multiple trucks, trains, planes, and ships.

The bigger, more established brands may have an advantage here because it costs them less money to ship large quantities of their products around the world.

Smaller companies or independent producers who sell direct-to-consumer will likely have a larger carbon footprint from transportation because their products need to be shipped more frequently and in smaller quantities.

If you want to help minimize emissions from each shipment of your beauty products, consider buying locally made goods wherever possible.

How Can We Reduce Our Carbon Footprint When Buying Beauty Products?

There are plenty of ways that you can make conscious, environmentally friendly choices when buying beauty products.

1. Buy only what you need

How often do you buy a product because it’s pretty, smells good, or is really cheap?

Don’t buy something just because it’s discounted—it’ll go to waste if you don’t like it.

2. Choose packaging that is reusable, recycled, or recyclable

This one seems like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to overlook the amount of waste we create in our daily lives.

Try to limit your use of non-recyclable packaging and containers as much as possible.

Look for refillable cosmetics so you don’t have to keep purchasing single-use items such as makeup wipes, cotton swabs, and other disposable items—vendors for these types of products are becoming more common than ever before!

3. Look for local brands or locally sourced ingredients

The less distance your beauty products have to travel between production and point of sale, the lower their carbon footprint will be.

Shipping is one of the easiest ways to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—limit how far your skincare has traveled by supporting local brands and businesses whenever possible!

4. Consider companies that use renewable energy

Consider companies that use renewable energy sources for production and shipping processes such as wind power or solar panels in their warehouses instead of fossil fuels when researching companies whose ethics align with yours!

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This can help combat climate change while also providing clean air around factories where employees work every day – a win-win situation all around!

Why Should You Be Concerned About the Environmental Impacts of Beauty Products?

Do you ever wonder how your favorite moisturizers, makeup, and hair products are made?

How do they get to the store shelves?

If you haven’t thought about it before, maybe now is the time to consider what goes into making them.

Production of these products has a significant impact on our environment.

The packaging used for these products often includes polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), and PVC which are all toxic to both humans and the environment.

Some of these substances cannot be recycled so they end up in landfills where they can take up to 1000 years to decompose or worse yet, leak harmful toxins into groundwater.

So why should you be concerned about what goes into your cosmetics?

Because some ingredients may cause skin irritation or allergies and many are toxic as well. In addition, using such products also contributes to global warming due to their production processes which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere

How Much Waste Does the Beauty Industry Generate Each Year?

Cosmetics and personal-care products contribute a great deal of plastic waste to landfills and oceans.

According to the United Nations, only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled, with most of it ending up in landfills or in our waterways.

The beauty industry doesn’t help matters: Bottles, tubes, palettes, lipstick cases, and other containers are either made from plastic or packaged in it.

As a result, an estimated 120 billion units of packaging are produced by the global cosmetics industry each year.

And because many consumers throw away their empty containers instead of recycling them, this creates an enormous amount of non-biodegradable waste that can end up in oceans and harm marine life.

“We’ve definitely seen whales and dolphins dying from ingesting plastic waste that they think is food or get entangled in the material itself,” says John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA’s ocean campaign director.

“It’s not uncommon to see sea turtles with straws stuck up their noses.”

What Can You Do to Be More Eco-friendly When Shopping for Beauty Products?

When shopping for beauty products, here are a few things you can do to ensure your purchases are as eco-friendly as possible:

1. Buy less

One way to be more environmentally friendly when shopping for beauty products is to simply buy less of them.

This will not only help you save money, but it will also reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in landfills.

2. Buy products with sustainable packaging

Plastic is one of the most popular materials used to package beauty products today.

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Because it takes millions of years for this material to decompose naturally, recycling is one of the main ways we can prevent plastic from ending up in our oceans and landfills (although there are many other great uses for recycled plastic).

Look for brands that use recycled materials or renewable sources when packaging their goods.

Also, look into companies that offer refills or reusable options.

3. Buy cruelty-free products.

In addition to the environment, animals are also affected by our purchasing decisions when it comes to cosmetics and personal care items.

Some brands test their goods on animals including rabbits and mice, while others pay third parties to perform these tests on their behalf (even if they don’t actually conduct these tests themselves).

To avoid supporting these practices, check out PETA’s list of cruelty-free beauty brands before heading out for your next shopping trip!

How Are Cosmetics Companies Working Towards Sustainable Solutions?

Sustainability is a word you might hear a lot when it comes to beauty or personal care products.

But as with many buzzwords, it’s not always clear exactly what that means.

Here are some examples of how companies are working towards sustainable practices:

1. Sustainable packaging

Aluminum, glass, and paper can often be recycled into new containers for your skincare products.

Some brands even use compostable or biodegradable materials such as wood pulp and sugar cane plastic for their bottles, jars, and tubes.

2. Organic ingredients

The best organic products are certified by third parties such as the Soil Association in the UK, Ecocert in France, and Germany’s BDIH to ensure they adhere to a set of quality standards that prohibit artificial chemicals and synthetic pesticides from growing plants used in cosmetics.

3. Eco-friendly products

A term you might come across more often is ‘natural’ – but research suggests there isn’t much difference between this category and organic ones when it comes to harmful effects on the environment.

And while natural beauty products may encourage people to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle because they shed light on important issues such as protecting wildlife habitats or reducing water pollution, there are few if any official standards or criteria relating to ‘naturalness’ in cosmetics.

This means you could be paying more for a product than its actual value after all!

Final Thoughts

I also use beauty products like anyone else.

However, I find it important to note that there are options to reduce the environmental impact of our beauty routines.

This doesn’t mean that we have to sacrifice our sense of style when it comes to experimenting with different products, either.

We do indeed have alternatives to the makeup and skincare products we use in order to lower their environmental impacts.