The benefits of eco-friendly beauty products are more than just a trend.
Sustainable ingredients are becoming a key focus for beauty brands as eco-conscious consumers want to minimise their environmental impact. Sustainable or ‘green’ cosmetics are defined as ‘using natural ingredients produced from renewable raw materials.’ Making sure the ingredients in your favourite foundation are eco-friendly is just as important as making sure the packaging it came in is too.
When thinking about the ingredients used in our beauty products we must consider how they are sourced and what the long-term impacts of farming them are. Agricultural plants, bacteria and natural oils, such as coconut and palm oil, have become increasingly popular ingredients in the beauty industry. This may seem like a much better alternative to brands using the petrochemical ingredients (derived from petrol) which we have grown accustomed to but petrochemicals are non-renewable and they also don’t sound like something you want on your face. However natural ingredients can have a down side.
Palm oil is farmed so unsustainably that it has caused devastating amounts of deforestation and the extinction of many wonderful species. The reason palm oil is so widely used is that it offers a much greater yield at a much lower production cost than other vegetable oils. These plantations are only found in the tropics and are spreading across Latin America, Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, this is where many endangered species and remote communities live.
So make sure to look out for Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance logos on packaging. This way you’ll know that the ingredients inside have been sustainably sourced. Also do not disregard the familiar recycling symbol.
Water may seem like a safe option when it comes to your beauty products but soon the demand could outweigh the supply. For many years our generation have been told not to waste water: turn off taps, take a shower instead of a bath etc. And the same applies here. Big brands such as L’Oréal are pledging to reduce their water usage by 60 per cent, per each unit of product, by 2020. So look for waterless beauty, where possible of course, water-responsible brands and brands that seek to rewrite their carbon and water-usage footprint.
Water is a precious compound that we need to use wisely and protect. Therefore, it is important to know that some chemicals in cosmetics, most notably sunscreens, can have large negative impacts for ocean life. Sunscreens wash off into the ocean and can cause coral-bleaching. This has a domino effect on the marine life that live around reefs, meaning a disruption to food chains, biodiversity and the overall health of our oceans. Everything has a knock-on effect.
Of course the beauty industry need to change the way things are done but as consumers we also have an important role to play. It is our job to make sure that the planet can flourish and grow for years after we’ve gone. Although challenges such as climate change can seem scary, we can still make positive choices. This all starts with how we behave: what we choose to buy and use.