So you just purchased a clean beauty product, but how certain are you of its claims? The beauty industry — just like fashion — is no stranger to greenwashing and unregulated business practices. Not to mention, it’s equally responsible for plastic pollution, microplastics in the ocean, and landfill waste. Ahead, we unearth some of the most alarming facts about the beauty industry to inform and help you make better choices in the future.
- The terms ‘clean’, ‘organic’, and ‘natural’ lack regulatory definitions in the beauty industry, and as a result, you could be legally duped into buying these products with unsubstantiated claims. In the United States, the law does not require cosmetic labels to have FDA approval before hitting the market shelves. (Source: The Counter)
- The booming $500 billion per year global personal care industry relies on plastic packaging. Why? Because sustainable options like cardboard tubes cost 60 times as much as mass-produced plastic options. (Source: National Geographic)
- Over 120 billion packaging units are produced globally every year by the cosmetics industry contributing to the loss of 18 million acres of forests annually. (Source: Forbes)
- Ever wondered where the thousands of disposable wipes that get flushed down every year go? River cleaning teams in London have found that they’ve created a new river bed in the Thames – a phenomenon found increasingly in rivers worldwide. (Source: Glamour Magazine, U.K.)
- Microbeads (present in facial and body scrubs), often advertised as physical exfoliants that slough off dead skin cells are made of tiny plastics, aka microplastics. P.S. If a scrub product has ‘polyethylene’ high on the ingredient list, it almost always contains plastic microbeads. (Source: Plastic Soup Foundation)
- Manufacturers are legally allowed to hide hundreds of chemicals in the ingredient “fragrance” and do not have to list them on the ingredient label. So, if your product contains the ingredient ‘fragrance’, all bets are off because there is no way to determine the actual toxicity of the product. (Source: Huffington Post)
- If a brand claims it is natural, it might not mean it is. Like food, ingredients on a label are listed from highest to lowest concentration. So if a natural ingredient that’s being marketed in a product’s name or packaging is near the end of the ingredient list, you can bet that there’s not a lot of it present in the actual product. Natural ingredients cost more — so for big brands trying to make big margins, the bulk of the ingredients they use are cheaper derivatives and preservatives. (Source: Well and Good)
- There are only ten banned ingredients in the United States, but more than 1,400 in Europe. Manufacturers have to clean up their formulations to export due to the European Union’s stricter safety standards, but the same can’t be said for products available in the U.S. (Source: Huffington Post)
- The chemicals commonly found in sunscreens are wreaking havoc on the world’s coral reefs. When you swim with sunscreen on, chemicals like oxybenzone can seep into the water, where corals absorb them. To put it into perspective — 14,000 tons of sunscreen are thought to wash into the oceans each year, whereas 82,000 chemicals from personal-care products may be tainting the seas. (Source: National Geographic)
While these facts may seem daunting, there are ways to avoid causing more harm to the environment. Phone apps like Think Dirty and Beat the Microbead can scan product barcodes and immediately inform you whether the product in question is sustainable or not. Additionally, buying products with innovative packaging like refillable makeup palettes or recyclable packaging, such as glass, metal, cardboard, can go a long way in keeping landfills free from plastic.
Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2021-06-01