Sustainable Cosmetics

Multinational companies that have jumped on the “green” band wagon continue to push the message that by purchasing their products people are protecting the environment, saving animal lives and keeping indigenous groups safe. As the McLibel two  put it “The truth is that nobody can make the world a better place by shopping.”

People have been demanding more “natural” skin care, which is a great movement! But they need to be aware of “green-washing”. Consumers are missing the point if they continue to buy products that are being presented by large corporations in the traditional manner – unnecessary packaging (you don’t need all that plastic), only a minimum amount of natural ingredients and in some cases a “natural” product is not natural at all. Keep in mind that the cosmetics industry is not as highly regulated as many think – there is a large amount of products marketed as being natural, raw, (fill in buzzword) etc. without actually fitting the criteria.

What strikes me most is that many of us continue to pay for things that can very easily be made at home or replaced by simpler ingredients. I agree there may be time constraints, but caring for your health should be made a priority. There are many alternatives to commercial cosmetics products out there: sustainable cosmetic brands, using simple products & growing your own.

Consequences of applying synthetic skin care products can lead to disturbances in the endocrine system of the body (=hormonal system) and lead to overly sensitive skin, headaches and other unwanted effects. If you don’t know what ingredients a product is made of, don’t use it on your body. Doing your research & making sure you ask questions when you are buying a product is crucial: make sure the products you use are ethically sound, free from unwanted chemicals & sourced in an environmental-friendly manner.

Just because there is a fancy label on a product doesn’t make it better or safer for the environment. Just have a look at commercial cosmetic brands; Yes, their products may “look” fancy and even environmental friendly at times, but the ingredients are often synthetic and toxic. The harm caused by these products shouldn’t be underestimated.

There is also the very important aspect of supply chain to be considered: How are the ingredients sourced? Where are they manufactured? What means of transport are used? Who are the people producing the ingredients & end product? Some of this information can be found on company websites, reviews & ethical shopping guides. However, always make sure that you do your own research as well. It very often pays off to compare information from different sources – leaving you with a better idea of where the product comes from.

Below are some suggestions to help you make better choices when moving to more sustainable cosmetic choices:

  • Download a list of common chemicals to avoid & use this to help you navigate. A good guide can be downloaded here. You can also refer to the Red List by Safe Cosmetics to learn what to avoid in common products.
  • Consider DIY cosmetics products: plenty of products can be made very easily at home with plant oils, food & herbs.
  • Simplify what products you use: Often you don’t need too many ingredients to do the job (E.g.Coconut oil by itself is an amazing moisturiser & make-up remover).
  • Choose local where possible & learn about the sourcing of the product ingredients you use.
  • Less packaging is more: Look for brands & products that have minimal packaging & use sustainable materials.

Start somewhere and proceed from there – take the time to learn. You don’t need to change overnight into someone who only uses 100% sustainable products – but get on the journey towards more ethical & environmentally sound choices.





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