Plastic Free Beauty
How can we reduce plastic in our beauty routine?
Published at Women Environmental Network
Are you in shock too about how plastic is harming wildlife? Here a breakdown of plastic in numbers, as quoted by the documentary Blue Planet II:
- 300 million - tons of plastic produced globally each year
- 12 per cent - amount of plastic which is recycled
- Five trillion - pieces of microplastic in ocean, with one rubbish truck load added each minute
- 11,000 - pieces of microplastic ingested by humans each year from seafood
- 780,000 - microplastics humans will ingest by the end of the century if trends continue
- 8.5 billion - plastic bags used in English supermarkets annually before 5p charge
- 6 billion - estimated bags removed from circulation annually at last count, an 80 per cent reduction.
- 12 minutes - useful lifespan of average plastic bag
We believe every change - however small - makes a difference, also it helps us to feel more empowered. Rather than stress out about the enormity or seemingly hopelessness of the situation.
The best action step we can take is to buy organic - whenever possible - besides buying less of course. Anything that is grown without pesticides or herbacides - toxins that negatively affect wildlife too - is better for our planet. This affects all consumer choice from food, clothes, cleaning, laundry products, beauty and personal care items. Mainstream beauty products contain many polymers, silicones and micro plastics in the product formulations that do not biodegrade and challenge our health too.
Everyday staples like cotton (buds), sponges, make up blenders, make up wipes, tampons and glitter all contain plastic fibers. The good news is that there are many sustainable options now, like compostable konjac sponges, paper stemmed organic cotton buds, bamboo tissues and muslin cloths, certified organic cotton sanitary items, re-useable menstrual cups and biodegradable glitter!
As discussed by Racked:
“Regular glitter is polyester, so when it goes down the drain, it breaks down into even smaller pieces of plastic. Then it goes into our waterways, and our oceans are getting this tiny, tiny coating of plastic that’s insulating it ... [it] gets digested by micro-organisms, by fish, all of it. And that becomes our food, that becomes our water.”
To inspire yourself watch this make up tutorial with bio glitter - it looks just like normal glitter - only it gives you plenty of sparkle minus the guilt.
What about sustainable packaging?
Of course the best sustainable option is to make your own beauty products that don't require preservatives for shelf life, or robust packaging for transport. Yet these days most of us are busy and require something that fits into our handbag, whilst we do our make up midst commute..
A well known plastic alternative is glass. Many organic brands use it to preserve their botanicals, without the danger of plastics leaching into the product. Our favourite examples are Nourish, Oskia, Aurelia Probiotic Skincare, Tata Harper, Body & Birch, Skin and Tonic, Luxe Botanics and of course organic veteran Neil'sYard Remedies. There are even glass choices in make up like RMS Beauty and Gressa.
Yet glass is not without its problems either, read the statement below by Green People who definitely have their - organic - heart in the right place and fund many environmental conversation projects.
The plastic we use for our packaging is either PP or HDPE. In both cases, the material consists of long molecule chains made from Carbon and Hydrogen. These materials are recyclable and are inert substances that do not react with or adversely affect the products packed within them.
Please note that we never use PVC or any other form of plastic. None of the plastics we use contain phthalates in any form whatsoever. The reason we don't use glass packaging is three-fold. Firstly, glass is not a safe material to use in bathrooms and showers as it is prone to breakage if dropped onto hard surfaces. Secondly, glass is very heavy and expensive to transport and would add considerably to the cost of the products making them unnecessarily expensive. Thirdly, the cost to the environment of using glass is very high when compared to PP or HDPE.
Taking into account the energy needed to manufacture glass (whether from recycled material or from scratch), and then to transport it means that up to three times as much energy goes into making a glass container compared to a plastic one. Added to that is the fact that unless glass is properly recycled it never biodegrades and contributes the build-up of waste materials polluting the earth. On balance we believe that our use of selected plastics is fully justified, although we continually monitor the situation and review all developments in new packaging materials as and when they happen.
Are there luxury & durable alternatives for make up packaging?
We researched bioplastics, as we love All You Need Is Me an organic balm in a tube - created from sugarcane fiber. It's and exciting development yet unfortunately still in its infancy. Max Factor and Cover Girl reportedly have used bioplastics for make up packaging, yet durability in warmer climates seems to be an issue. Cost is a deterrent too, especially for smaller brands as bioplastics require separate recycling, usually via an in-house collection scheme. Science writer Chris Woodford brings up other sticking points:
Biodegradable plastics and bioplastics don't always readily decompose. Some need relatively high temperatures and, in some conditions, can still take many years to break down. Even then, they may leave behind toxic residues.
Bioplastics are made from plants such as corn and maize, so land that could be used to grow food for the world is being used to "grow plastic" instead. By 2014, almost a quarter of US grain production was expected to have been turned over to biofuels and bioplastics production; taking more agricultural land out of production could cause a significant rise in food prices that would hit poorest people hardest.
Some bioplastics, such as PLA, are made from genetically modified corn. Some environmentalists consider GM (genetically modified) crops to be inherently harmful to the environment, though others disagree.
Many people think terms like "bioplastic," "biodegradable," and "compostable" mean exactly the same thing. But there's a huge difference between a "biodegradable" plastic (one that might take decades or centuries to break down) and a truly "compostable" material (something that turns almost entirely into benign waste after a matter of months in a composter), while "bioplastic," as we've already seen, can also mean different things. Confusing jargon hampers public understanding, which makes it harder for consumers to grasp the issues and make positive choices when they shop.
Cardboard packaging is sustainable and affordable, brands like Pacifica, Mulac, Coleur Caramel, Puro Bio offer cardboard palettes that can be re-filled. Downside is that cardboard does loose it shape, especially when thrown around in a handbag for a month or so. In contrast bamboo is durable and very sustainable, see Zao make up or Mahalo skincare.
Other more luxury options are made from metal. Kjaer Weis has refillable very stylish packaging - though a bit heavy - yet perfect as a statement piece for your handbag. The refills come in cardboard packaging and other items in exquisite luxury red boxes, check out the beautiful collectors item above.
We love Axiology's sexy gold packaging, and especially the triangle hand-made cardboard boxes which support a women-owned paper recycling boutique. Also check Vapour - 70% organic and 30% mineral content- and the new high pigment, silver-tubed lipsticks by RMS Beauty, a fav cult brand worn by Gisele and Miranda Kerr. Celebrities like Emma Watson, Maggie Gylllenhaal and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley are fans of MV Skincare, an artisan organic skincare range that used aluminium bottles.
What are your thoughts on sustainable beauty?
Please do share any brands that you have discovered and love, especially make up. For anyone out there that wants to deep dive in to plant based beauty we have a Clean Beauty eCourse coming out soon! If you are interested in personal clean beauty consults - available online too - we are happy to help you switch to sustainable beauty. Bio glitter optional!