8 sustainable beauty items that work better than single-use plastic products.
When it comes to skin care and beauty products, we really are spoilt for choice…and there are a few reasons for that, one being demand. The beauty and skin care market sees Australia alone spending over $100 billion annually on ‘looking good’, and $729 million of that is on products for our skin1.
A more practical reason as to how we can supply our demand and fork out our hard-earned dollars for a myriad of skin care and beauty marvels is down to plastic, without which we would have to rely on more expensive, less readily available packaging materials. As it’s officially Plastic Free July, the question we really want to ask is, what are single-use plastics cosmetic products really costing us?
It probably won’t come as a surprise to know that the cosmetic and beauty industry doesn’t have all its beauty bases covered, most notably in relation to packaging and single-use plastics. It’s true that plastic totally revolutionised the planet, but now plastic is so ubiquitous, scientists predict that by 2050 there will be more tonnes of plastic than tonnes of fish in the world’s oceans.
It’s most definitely time the cosmetics industry looked into ways to make their packaging a more attractive shade of green, as sustainable products are more than a ‘nice-to-have’ they are a necessity. It’s the choices we make in relation to the tasks we carry out every day that culminates in the most significant effect on the environment, with our daily skin care and beauty routines at the forefront.
Actress and environmentalist Isabel Lucas epitomises the natural and pure and is recognised for her love for the world’s oceans and trying to protect them. One way Isabel is helping make a change is with a sustainable skin care routine, and here’s why she’s decided to make the switch.
How plastic changed the face of the beauty industry?
Skin care routines and beauty innovations have been noted as early as the Egyptians, where naturally occurring, readily available resources such as honey, beeswax, milks and oils were used to help keep skin soft and supple. Over time we’ve tried a lot of sometimes highly questionable concoctions (lead and arsenic infused powders to name but a few) in our quest for beautiful skin.
It was the invention of plastic that led to the beauty-industry boom, with packaging allowing for the mass marketing of every beauty product under the sun from lotions, creams, cleansers, toners, tonics, ointments, oils, exfoliators…the list goes on, with plastic offering a cheap, easy-to-produce vessel to bottle-up these lotions and potions.
Clever messaging promising all kinds of magical skin miracles saw interest in the nature and origin of the ingredients within the plastic packaging become insignificant, to the point where actual plastics featured as a common ingredient in thousands of personal care items sold around the world.
A booming industry that sees 6.3 million Australian women over the age of 14 (64%) buying makeup/skin care of some kind in an average six month period2, you get an idea of the scale of the beauty industry globally, and the role plastic plays within it.
Are single-use plastic products really a problem?
Quite simply, yes. Since its clever creation this durable and versatile material has woven its way into our daily routine, and the main problem, it won’t be going anywhere quickly. Plastic lasts a long time, so long in fact, that it’s thought that almost every piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists somewhere on this planet, and considering 300 million tonnes is produced globally each year3, it’s a huge problem.
How is the skin care industry contributing to the plastic problem?
Skin care and beauty items are used daily and replaced regularly, and when you think about your favourite skin care products, each is probably contained within the plastic packaging. It’s the item inside the packaging that you want and are paying for, and once the packaging has served its purpose it becomes infinitely useless.
If you keep a cleanser, toner, exfoliator and moisturisers in your beauty bag, that’s four plastic bottles. Let’s say the products last 2 months, that’s around 24 plastic bottles a year. This may not sound like a lot, but when you consider the Australian population sits at around 24 million, and let’s say half are female (let’s just focus on female skin care first), then half that number again to eliminate children and people that don’t commit to a regular skin care regime. That leaves 6 million people (just in Australia), each using approximately 24 single-use plastic bottles a year just for skin care, this amounts to 144,000,000 plastic bottles ending up in a landfill in a single year… just to take care of Aussie skin care routines.
On top of the plastic packaging problem, there are also microbeads and chemical pollutants. Microbeads are tiny plastic particles that thankfully being removed from many skin care and beauty products. They are defined by their size, smaller than a grain of sand between 0.5-500 micrometres in diameter… and in spite of their small size, they are causing a big problem.
Originally designed for medical purposes, the whole idea behind these tiny, highly-absorbent spheres is that they can get into the smallest of places, however, in achieving this, bringing microbeads into the cosmetic industry has seen the clever design backfire dramatically on a global scale. Microbeads aren’t biodegradable and they are too small to be filtered so they head straight out into our oceans. Collectively microbeads have a huge surface area, and their sponge-like abilities mean they absorb any other toxic materials around them and become highly-concentrated toxic little beads.
Marine life can’t avoid them, this is detrimental to their health, and also means microbeads enter the food chain.
How can you help reduce your use of single-use plastics?
Making a conscious choice to reduce your environmental footprint is the first step, and fortunately, there are plenty of ways to avoid single-use plastics, with many plastic items having a plastic-free alternative. It’s initiatives like Plastic Free July that really help drive awareness and demonstrate just how much plastic (particularly single-use plastic) dominates our daily lives and how we can get around without it and make a difference.
If you’re interested in sustainable skin care and protecting the planet, there are 8 single-use plastic beauty products you can remove from your life with minimal fuss.
8 single-use plastic beauty products you can remove from your life today:
In Australia over 30 million toothbrushes are used and disposed of each year, amounting to 1000 tonnes of landfill annually4. Opt for a biodegradable toothbrush made from bamboo and natural cellulose fibres. Bamboo grows quickly and has amazing self-renewing ability.
Cleansers and toners
Cleansers and toners are usually packaged in plastic, contain chemical components that get washed out into the ocean and require disposable cotton pads too. Switch to a sustainable skin care option or product with plastic-free packaging. Santé’s Face Glove allows you to cleanse with just water and is reusable for up to three years. Plus, Santé by ENJO upcycle old fibres at their headquarters in Austria for truly zero waste skin care.
Exfoliation is a beautiful-skin must and its exfoliating products that are usually associated with microbeads and microplastic in addition to their plastic packaging. Santé Exfoliator discs are the answer to your eco-exfoliation needs! Reusable discs with a unique fibre-weave that work to buff the skins surface gently, brightening and bringing new life to your complexion. Needing nothing but the skin-loving properties of water, simply wet the disc and polish your skin in a soft circular motion one-to-two times a week. Voila – skin-loving, earth-loving exfoliation.
Removing makeup is an important step in your skin care routine, and the process has led to specialised products designed to purely remove makeup and make the makeup removal process quick and simple. Items like makeup remover wipes are super convenient when it comes to makeup removal, but they create a huge problem for the environment by clogging our waterways and polluting our oceans at an astonishing rate….plus the plastic wrapper. Choose an equally convenient yet sustainable makeup remover. Santé Makeup Removers are made from a uniquely woven fibre that is so specialised, it cleanses and removes makeup using nothing but water. The ultra-fine fibres are designed to lift impurities and trap them within the weave, so unlike wipes, you’re not just moving makeup and dirt around your face. With seven in a set, you’re all set for the week.
Moisturising helps protect and nourish the skin’s surface keeping your skin soft, supple and hydrated. If you suffer from dry skin, moisturising is an essential step you should not skip, but you want to be sure the ingredients you are using are nice and natural and the packaging is plastic-free. We love using organic (Fairtrade) coconut oil, it leaves your skin feeling velvety smooth and the glass jar can be repurposed or recycled.
Lip balm is something you can get through quite quickly, especially in winter, and they usually come in a small plastic tube. Try a sustainable salve that comes in a reusable tin or cardboard packaging, natural beeswax balms and a great naturally moisture-full option.
Shampoo and conditioner
More natural shampoo and conditioner recipe are hitting the market since research suggests that harsh chemical ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulphate could have carcinogenic, irritant and corrosive properties, but there are fewer options for plastic-free packaging. A little bit of research goes a long way, and there are eco-option out there such as refillable bottles or aluminium packaging.
You need to protect your skin from the harsh rays of the Aussie sun that can cause permanent skin damage without protection. Conventional chemical sunscreens contain toxic ingredients that work by absorbing UV energy and are generally packaged heavily in plastic. Choose sustainable skin protection with a natural mineral formula instead. Zinc is a great choice as it works as a physical block against UV rays, and can be purchased in eco-friendly, biodegradable sticks.
Simple and sustainable skin care does exist, so if you ever thought about making the change, Plastic Free July is the perfect opportunity to redefine your skin care routine. Share your favourite plastic-free beauty products and let us know how you go by reducing single-use plastics.
1. Suncorp Bank Cost of Living Series: The Cost of Looking Good. October 2015