When it comes to sustainability, it’s the small changes that can make a real difference. Recycling, growing vegetables or cycling to work can contribute to creating a more sustainable world for everyone to enjoy.
But one thing that often goes unconsidered is our beauty regime.
Although shampoos, sunscreen, and makeup are easily accessible, we don’t often think about how much energy and resource was used to create them. When we start to dive deeper into where our favorite products come from, what ingredients they’re using, and how they’re packed, it becomes clear that the beauty industry is a massive issue for sustainability.
The majority of beauty or hygiene products are packed into single-use plastics. Some are then shrink wrapped and packed into an additional cardboard box to make shipping easier. All this packaging for a tiny product? It’s a problem.
Excess packaging and the production of plastic causes all sorts of toxic pollution for both the air, and the sea. Typically ending up in landfills, plastics are filling the world and damaging our wildlife. And as decomposing could take anywhere between 20-450 years, the world will soon be swimming in the stuff.
The ingredients used in our favorite beauty products are, let’s just say, not sustainable.
Just because something isn’t toxic to humans, doesn’t mean it’s not harmful to other creatures. As such, we need to start taking more responsibility for the ingredients we’re choosing to accept in the products we use.
According to All Things Hair, 91.27% of us already look for natural ingredients in the products we shop for, but natural doesn’t immediately mean sustainable.
Palm oil, for example, is commonly used for lip balm, shampoo and even processed foods. In fact, it’s predicted that palm oil is used in around 50% of the packaged products we see in the supermarkets.
Why is it so bad? Well, to extract the oil from trees, mass deforestation has to occur – ultimately destroying the habitats of wildlife and endangered species like orangutans and rhinos. The carbon-rich peat soils these habitats stand on are also emitting a huge quantity of greenhouse gases that were previously absorbed by the trees.
Whether it’s showering, skincare or brushing your teeth, our beauty and hygiene regimes use a ton of water. And it’s not just us that are using the water either: Each product requires gallons of water to be produced and packaged, and a wide number of products have 60-80% water contents. Not only does this mean there’s a huge amount of water being wasted to create the product, it also means the products we’re buying could be more concentrated.
By adding more water, we have to buy new products more often – costing us more money and contributing to our negative impact on the Earth.
Small things like turning the tap off while you brush your teeth can save a huge 8 gallons of water, so it’s actually pretty easy to make a difference.
How to make your beauty regime more sustainable
So, now you know the types of things to look out for, how else can you make your beauty regime more sustainable?
Below are a few small changes you can make to help the planet. Why not set yourself a few challenges for Earth Day 2021?
Skip the shower
A single shower can use 17.2 gallons of water, while feeding a family of four for a day only takes 6.8.
If you can skip showering completely, or go longer between each shower, you can be doing a whole lot of good for the planet.
As people become more aware of water wasted from showering, more and more brands are offering alternative ways to get clean. The ‘No Poo’ trend has quickly gained traction and encourages us to skip the shampoo altogether, at least a few times a week. Instead, the use of dry shampoo, in between showers, or fast rinse conditioners and shampoo bars are encouraged when you really can’t last any longer!
2-in-1 products like shampoo & conditioner can also help reduce the amount of time you need. If you’re not sure you can handle skipping the shower entirely, be part of the 73.9% of people who choose natural products over non-natural products. Every little help.
In 2020, the UK banned the sale of plastic cotton buds and straws, to help reduce the number of plastics ending up in landfills or our oceans. Instead, retailers have phased these options out for more eco-friendly versions using bamboo or cardboard centers.
You can even buy reusable cotton buds to take it that one step further.
Additional alternatives to use for your beauty regime are reusable cotton pads for cleansing, or simply using a washcloth. Despite face wipes claiming to be ‘flushable’ this doesn’t mean they’re biodegradable. Wipes are constantly being washed into the ocean, with rates being 50% higher today, than they were in 2014.
For brushing teeth, bamboo toothbrushes can be recycled and put in compost to biodegrade, while shavers with replaceable heads last longer and can typically be more widely recycled.
Refill, not landfill
Heightened concerns for how the beauty industry is killing the planet has resulted in major brands taking steps to create more sustainable products. Research your favorite brands to see if they offer recycling opportunities for empty products. Alternatively, take a look at brands who sell refill packs, rather than you having to buy a new one entirely.
Create a pile of all your cleansers, skincare, shower products and makeup and take a serious look at what you need, what you can recycle and what ingredients are being used. By improving your awareness of the products you already use, you can see where simple switches can make the most difference.
Sustainability is a challenge we all need to take on. And it’s with these small changes that we can make a bigger contribution to protecting the planet.