The beauty industry has a lot to answer for when it comes to the problem of plastic pollution. Letâ€™s start with unboxing, a social media trend that sees influencers and celebs unpacking the beautiful gifts they receive. Thereâ€™s suspense, joy, and a whole lot of plastic waste. And thereâ€™s no prize for guessing where the packaging goes after theyâ€™ve turned off the video.
But itâ€™s not just the rich and Instafamous creating this problem; itâ€™s everyday people too. For almost every beauty product we buy, it seems to come with a ridiculous amount of plastic envelopes, bubble wrap, cellophane, polystyrene, plastic bottles, and the list goes on. Itâ€™s very unlikely that any of it is recyclable, and even the stuff that is probably doesnâ€™t get recycled anyways. Like the 13 million tonnes of plastic dumped in the ocean each year, it will probably end up there too.
This is why the focus of this World Oceans Day is so important. Something needs to change, and it needs to change fast.
Ban the Bead
The consequences of this problem are large and ongoing, and likely to only get worse if we keep up using plastic like itâ€™s going out of fashion (even though it really is). Itâ€™s not only an issue for sea creatures (a whale was recently found dead with over 7kgs of plastic in its stomach), it also affects us directly. Because there are unprecedented levels of toxins in the ocean due to plastic waste, it is possible that some fish we eat is contaminated. This problem also affects the water we drink, which contains harmful chemicals that are able to disrupt our hormones.
Not only is the packaging of beauty products to blame for this ecological disaster, what they contain is hugely damaging too. Microbeads, tiny balls of plastic used in body scrubs and facial exfoliators, are a prime example of this. Some products can contain over 300,000 microbeads, per tube. These eventually end up in the ocean, absorbing toxins in the water. They then end up being eaten by marine life; either killing the fish as they fill their bellies, or winding up on our dinner plates. Luckily, microbeads are being banned in many countries around the world, so their presence will be greatly reduced in both beauty products and the ocean.
Another problematic beauty ingredient is Oxybenzone, which is a chemical that is often found in sun creams. It is extremely harmful to coral reefs and oceanic ecosystems, and the question of whether it is harmful to humans still remains a problematic mystery. Lawmakers in Hawaii ruled to ban the sale of sunscreens containing Oxybenzone throughout the state as of January 2021, so there is hope that if other countries follow suit, this chemical will no longer be used. Wet wipes and tampon applicators are also to blame for filling landfills and harming marine life.
There are a number of responsible beauty brands who are very conscious of their environmental impact. Among these are brands like Lush, Ethique and Tailor Skincare, who are extremely forward thinking when it comes to their packaging. Lush is dedicated to reducing waste and not using plastics to package their products. As an alternative, they sell products naked or packaged in biodegradable or recyclable materials. Ethique is the first beauty company in the world to develop an entirely solid product range. All of their products are sold in compostable packaging (meaning zero consumer waste), which has prevented more than 150,000 bottles from being made. Tailor Skincare products are 100% natural, cruelty-free, and packaged in biodegradable and recyclable packaging.
Weâ€™ve chosen some of our favourite, environmentally friendly, products below.
Next time youâ€™re unwrapping your latest online beauty purchase remember: if you canâ€™t reuse it, refuse it.