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Cosmetics & the environment

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

When you think of cosmetics, lipsticks, eye shadow, all those things related to makeup come to mind. But what you might not know is that skin care products like moisturizers, shampoo, deodorant and perfumes can also be categorized as cosmetics. So it covers a wide variety of products that we use every day without calling them cosmetics. If someone wants to feel confident, they wear a bit of lipstick, if someone wants to hide acne scars, they wear foundation and have a good skin care treatment, and spritzing a bit of perfume before we step out of the house is done almost unthinkingly. All these things that are done by millions of people around the world have an environmental impact that is so much larger than what you can imagine. The situation is more serious than we know. So let us see how much our daily use of cosmetic products harm the environment and the steps we can take to minimize this effect.


Does environment contribute to cosmetic production?

In a world that is becoming increasingly aware of the human impact on nature, it's no surprise that quite a few haircare and skin care products labeled "naturally made” appear in the cosmetics aisle in your local supermarket. Clearly, the environment has a big impact on cosmetic manufacturing. In this scenario, using natural components does not imply that the items are composed entirely of plant materials. But, all-natural elements such as honey, jade, algae, charcoal, and mud are also used in cosmetics. Some people may be surprised to learn that mud is utilized in facial masks as mud-based facial treatments are quite popular among women. It is not simply the mud that we see in canals and lakes that is used for this – certain specially made cosmetic clays are employed for this purpose. When cosmetic clay is combined with water, it takes on a mud-like look. Bentonite, Rhassoul White kaolin, and French green are all popular cosmetic clays. Although certain cosmetics are made using natural raw materials, most of them are synthetic, and are created in laboratories using chemical methods rather than extracting materials straight from nature.


Are cosmetics eco-friendly?

Not all cosmetics are safe for the environment. Environmental damage has been connected to exfoliating microbeads, BHA and BHT, dibutyl phthalate, triclosan, synthetic fragrances, and silicones. Many companies all over the world ceaselessly use these components in their products.

Some of the more environmental-friendly raw materials used in the development of sustainable cosmetics are natural oils, agricultural plants, and bacteria. But here’s where the situation gets interesting – a lot of companies adhere to the term “natural” so that they can include a few natural elements in their products, but all the while, they load their products with hazardous chemicals which are harmful not only to the environment but also to the consumers.


The threat to the environment

When large-scale production of such cosmetics is carried out, the environment suffers severely. Non-renewable resource extraction, such as for natural oils and minerals, has a harmful impact on ecosystems. An example we can take is Vaseline, a cosmetics brand that is banned in Europe because it contains Petroleum Jelly, which is a carcinogen and a non-renewable resource.


Sunscreen is a popular product among beachgoers, tourists, and even the general public. But did you know that sunscreen can harm coral reefs? Sunscreens include oxybenzone, which reacts with coral's DNA and prevents corals from reproducing. Marine organisms suffer the most as a result of this vicious cycle, as they lose both their habitat and their food. So when people take showers, the sunscreen would dribble down the drain and would ultimately end up in the ocean. Additionally, if you apply sunscreen to your skin while swimming in rivers or lakes, the water will eventually reach the sea.


Consider how strongly you are drawn to the beautiful packaging of a perfume or shampoo. Almost all the personal care products on display in a store are attractively packaged to help with sales. Of course, many corporations use this clever marketing tactic. Occasionally, individuals are tempted to buy things they do not need just because of the packaging. Nonetheless, the issue is not with the packaging, but with its disposal. Plastic bottles and tubes wind up in landfills or the ocean, where decomposition might take hundreds of years.


The eco-friendly suggestions

Why are we still being prevented from using more natural beauty products? Natural resources are available in abundance in a tropical country like Sri Lanka. Face masks made with aloe vera, honey, lime, and turmeric have all been clinically proven to boost results. Furthermore, there is minimal environmental impact because all of these substances are renewable.


Companies selling cosmetics should be encouraged by the consumers themselves to switch from plastic to glass or recycled paper packaging. Then, the amount of waste can be decreased because glass bottles are reusable.


Moreover, all companies must be encouraged to achieve a stage where they can employ green ingredients in their cosmetics without combining them with synthetic chemicals. People will eventually suffer from the adverse effects that they have created for the world today, whether deliberately or unconsciously. So, why should future generations bear the brunt of our nefarious actions? If we can find enough generosity in our hearts to protect the beauty of the environment, our Earth will last long and provide comfort and support to humans for a long, long time to come. So, let us make an effort to be gorgeous, smell good and be clean while also being environmentally conscious.

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