Updated: May 27, 2021
Environmental sustainability should precede brands value for teenagers who’s youth sustains their beauty.
Walk into any drugstore, supermarket, or makeup shop, and you’ll be sure to find an assortment of shelves equipped with a deluge of cosmetics of all kinds: body lotions, cleansers, soaps, shampoos, makeup, creams, and more, all of which fall under this umbrella term. Essentially, cosmetic products of the same kind intend to serve the same purpose and don’t differ much in terms of functionality. For instance, all face cleansing products on the market share a paramount goal - that is, to successfully rid the user’s face of dirt and grime. Apart from that, one can discern small, yet fundamental divergences between cleansers from different brands or collections, that aim to set them apart from their competitors. Some brands might boast that their products are capable of removing makeup, others may say that their products are especially moisturising, while others might emphasise their product’s sustainable packaging. Advertising, unequivocally, is instrumental in promulgating sales, as advertisements can influence consumer choices to a large extent.
The cleansers example pertains to the entire range of beauty and care products currently on the market. Cosmetics, as we’ve established, are ubiquitous - and the slight variations between products, all of which are made to sound enticing by advertising, instil a sense of uncertainty in consumers. How are we supposed to make a choice between products, when all of them are almost identical, except for minor differences that each is endowed with?
The answer is inherently simple: when in doubt, go with the most environmentally friendly option. When met with a copious amount of possible choices, one needs to employ guidelines on which one’s decision should be based. In the case of cosmetics, these could be one, your personal wants and needs, and two, the sustainability of your product of choice. Once you’ve tailored your options to fit these two fundamental criteria, it’ll be much easier to select a product that suits your own needs, and doesn’t unnecessarily strain the environment.
What exactly is meant by a sustainable product?
The term ‘sustainability' can be defined as “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.” Natural resources are anything that originates from nature (water, wood, animals, etc), that are used in the manufacture of goods and services. Sustainability closely correlates with protecting the environment - this relates back to limiting pollution, and preserving our ecosystems. Hence, a sustainable product is one whose components are not limited to the natural environment and can be extracted from nature without depleting ecosystems.
How can we recognize sustainable products?
If we pick up a cosmetic product from the shelf and examine its packaging, we can usually quickly deduce whether the product is especially sustainable or environmentally friendly. When looking for signs of sustainability on a product’s exterior, one should look for the following labels: ‘recycled’, ‘vegan’, ‘cruelty-free, and ‘microplastic-free’. If a cosmetic product can fulfil all, or at least most of these criteria, then you can be sure that you’ve made a sustainable and environmentally conscious choice. That makes you a sustainable consumer, which is quite a venerable title to hold. Sustainable consumers consider not only their own needs and wants when choosing products, but they also keep the environmental impact of their purchase at the forefront of their minds.
RECYCLED AND RECYCLABLE PRODUCTS
→ We all know what recycling means: converting waste into reusable material. By choosing products that have recycled packaging, whether that is made of plastic, paper, or glass, we are choosing to carry on the lifecycle of a material rather than creating new material from scratch. Undoubtedly, this is beneficial to the environment as it doesn’t exploit any new resources.
If a product doesn’t contain a label saying ‘recycled’, then it might have one that says ‘recyclable’. This option is just as good because recyclable means it is able to be recycled - after you’re done using the product, you can simply chuck the empty package into the recycling bin, and soon your packaging will be put to a new use.
→ Cruelty, in this context, refers to animal cruelty. Many beauty products are tested on animals before they’re tested on humans, to ensure that they are safe for us to use. However, by protecting human safety, brands are concurrently jeopardising the health and safety of animal testing subjects.
Cosmetics are tested for eye irritancy, skin corrosiveness, skin sensitivity, and more. In these contexts, animals endure chemicals being injected into their eyes and bodies or forced to inhale toxic substances. Deafness, blindness, drug addiction and more may ensue as a result. To ensure that you aren’t actively contributing to the perpetuation of animal testing by buying products that were tested on animals, always check to make sure the products you buy have a label saying ‘cruelty-free
→ You don’t have to follow a vegan diet to benefit the environment by buying plant-based products. You may ask: how can cosmetics not be vegan? Well, some products have been known to contain animal urine, sheep’s wool, and ground-up insects.
You wouldn’t want these to be absorbed into your skin, and you certainly shouldn’t want to support animals living a life in captivity just for humans to exploit their produce.
What’s more, vegan cosmetic products, in general, are considerably better for your body, as they often contain fewer ingredients and less questionable chemicals. Instead, vegan products stick to natural ingredients that will help you achieve a natural, glowing complexion.
MICROPLASTIC FREE PRODUCTS
→ You might have not yet heard of microplastics, but these tiny pollutants are exactly what their name suggests: microscopic plastics, which often cannot be seen by the naked eye. Microplastics are small plastic fragments, with a diameter of less than 5mm. Sometimes, they go by the term ‘microbeads.’
They contaminate our oceans, kill our marine life if ingested, and interfere with the soil ecosystem and plant health. If they enter the food chain, if for example, they are eaten by fish or absorbed into crops, they can enter the body and exert harmful toxic effects. What are they doing in our cosmetic products, you ask? Microplastics are popular in peelings, scrubs, and face masks. They often constitute the tiny grains in products with a rough texture, which claim to help reduce acne and treat wrinkles. However, once these products flush down the drain, the microplastics are released into the environment, and cannot feasibly be removed due to their size.
Essentially, practicing sustainable and environmentally friendly consumerism is quite simple when you know what to look out for. So, next time you find yourself facing a difficult decision between a variety of products at the store, start by narrowing down your options to products that are recyclable, vegan, cruelty-free, and free of microplastics!