The beauty industry has a long list of adverse environmental impacts, and many big and small brands are guilty. Thankfully some brands deviate from this norm to provide genuinely sustainable and cruelty-free beauty.
Sustainable and cruelty-free beauty products are not just better for the environment; they are better for you as well. You can slather on lotion or enjoy a luxurious hair wash without feeling guilty about being an unwilling partner in animal cruelty and the destruction of our beautiful planet.
Below are 7 excellent reasons for anyone to take a chance on sustainable & zero waste beauty products today.
Chemical pollution from skincare products is a significant cause for concern. Traditional cosmetics use synthetic chemicals as ingredients. These include synthetic dyes, parabens, oxybenzone, and micro-beads. These synthetic chemicals can endanger your health and negatively impact the environment. For example, oxybenzone parabens are endocrine disruptors which researchers have associated with cancer1.
Cruelty-Free products are usually healthier and contain significantly fewer chemicals than most non-cruelty-free products in the market. Because if a brand is kind enough not to torture animals, we expect that they would care for enough not to include harmful chemicals in the products.
They make natural beauty products with ingredients and methods that make them better for your health.
Man ingredients and raw materials for traditional cosmetics, such as petroleum used for plastic packaging and microbeads and aluminum stearate used to stabilize and lubricate, require extensive mining. Mining poses a threat to wildlife habitats and soil health. Plantation encroachment into natural forests is also an issue.
The coral reefs and fish don't use skin care products, but they pay for it, mostly with their lives. From plastic packaging, chemicals, and microbeads, the beauty industry is actively endangering marine life. Oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor and is responsible for extensive coral reef damages3. Chemicals like parabens, BHT, BHA reduce the plankton population and cause the death of fish. Fish can swallow bits and pieces of plastic and choke to death or ingest toxic microplastics.
Sustainable and cruelty-free brands steer clear of harsh chemicals. They use natural and sustainably sourced ingredients that do not endanger marine life. They also use sustainable and organic farming methods that promote biodiversity. By choosing organic beauty products manufactured and sourced in environmentally friendly ways, you will be doing your part in protecting the planet.
Many beauty product companies use animals for their ingredients and product tests to check for possible reactions, irritations, and suitability for human buyers. They do not test cruelty-free cosmetics on animals. This is important because animal testing can be torturous and inhumane. These tests are painful and usually result in death.
Organizations that stand against animal testing have argued that using rats, mice, cats, dogs, and rabbits to determine whether or not a product is safe for humans is not truly effective. So not only are the tests hurtful, they are not as effective as they purport them to be.
They test cruelty-free skincare products using non-animal test methods such as in vitro tests or conducting clinical studies on humans to ensure safety. Other options are also available, and brands can simply formulate products using ingredients already determined to be safe.
The beauty industry's supply chain is shrouded in mystery. It seems not to have the same demand for transparency as the fashion or medical sectors. But research has shown evidence of child labor and exploitation in the beauty industry. Over 22,000 children are involved in illegal mica mining in India4. Mica is often used to add shimmer to a range of foundations and cosmetic colorants. They risk their health and life to earn meager wages to support their families.
No industry is truly sustainable or cruelty-free if any people along the supply chain find themselves cheated out of fair wages and safe working conditions. Your skincare products should not cost human lives. That is another reason to choose sustainable products. Choose beauty brands that have a transparent supply chain and Fair Trade or Fair Labour certifications.
The beauty industry is guilty of sending tons of packaging to landfills. Packaging consumes resources like water, trees, plastic, metal, glass, and energy. Packaging makes up 70% of the industry’s waste, which is a significant waste of resources.
Producing cosmetic ingredients like palm oil has resulted in deforestation and the loss of wildlife habitats. Deforestation is a significant contributor to climate change.
A big part of sustainability is the renewability of resources, whether naturally or through recycling. Sustainable beauty brands consider that renewability. They make the best sustainable cosmetics with sustainably sourced organic ingredients and sustainable materials. Therefore, the best choice is to choose beauty brands that source and manufacture products without permanently depleting natural resources.
The beauty industry produces over 120 billion packaging units every year, which is usually single-use. They end up in the trash right after the product is purchased. Apart from resource waste, plastic packaging also pollutes the environment and endangers aquatic animals.
Manufacturers make sustainable packaging from organic materials that will biodegrade into soil nutrients. It could also be made from recycled materials and help to reduce waste in landfills. Some brands offer fill-ups and refills, with stations where you can fill up your own containers.
Some innovative brands have minimalist or zero-waste packaging. Various kinds of sustainable packaging are also reusable.
Aside from providing care and natural protection to our skin, organic cosmetics help us contribute our quota to environmental protection. With sustainable organic cosmetics, eco-conscious individuals can care for their skin without the burden of guilt over negative environmental impacts.
Unlike traditional cosmetics, sustainable cosmetics have a smaller carbon footprint and do not aggravate climate change. So if you are a climate change activist or just generally concerned about the future of our planet, green cosmetics is the way to go.
An easy way to ensure that you buy sustainable and cruelty-free products is to look for an eco-certification. Third-party organizations provide these certifications after investigation to verify a brand’s sustainability claims.
Certifications can help you avoid buying greenwashed products. Greenwashing is when brands make bogus claims about their environmental impact. About 42% of green claims are potentially false or deceptive2 in sectors such as cosmetics, textiles, and household equipment.
Certifications to look out for include Leaping Bunny, USDA, NSF, Rainforest Alliance, and COSMOS.
A lot of people look for good beauty products based on the popularized ingredients touted by the brand. That is an easy way to fall for greenwashing tricks employed by some brands. Educate yourself on the origin and effects of the items listed on the ingredient label of your favorite skincare products.
Beauty and sustainability can go hand in hand if we choose earth-friendly products over other options. Sustainable practices in the cosmetic industry are a demand that we must embrace to be successful and even viable economically in the long term. You can contribute significantly to the emergence of a sustainable beauty industry by choosing sustainable and natural products.
Juliano C, Magrini GA. Cosmetic Ingredients as Emerging Pollutants of Environmental and Health Concern. A Mini-Review. Cosmetics. 2017; 4(2):11. https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics4020011
Screening of websites for greenwashing: half of green claims lack evidence (2021) European Commission
The courage to change (Pdf, 2020) British Beauty Council
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.