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I decided it was time to ditch my plastic razor. I had taken my time addressing environmental hair removal before finally - timidly- googling what options there were out there.
I was pumped to discover sugaring , a hair removal technique which uses a sugar and lemon paste which can be washed down the sink. I hadn't expected to be scouring the same websites two days later for eco-friendly nail polish options.
It wasn't until earlier this week, trying to compare the cost of disposable contact lenses with glasses, that I understood my initial reluctance to google the environmentally friendly hair removal options. It was because if there weren't any planet friendly alternatives, I wasn't ready to give up on these beauty products.
Although technically not necessities, having smooth legs, red nail polish and disposable contact lenses felt so important to how I felt about myself that it could be worth the environmental cost.
The Ugly Problem with the Cosmetic Industry
Before we consider our reliance on beauty products (which are technically not necessities) lets have a look at the cost of some of these products.
The global cosmetics market is worth over four billion dollars and that figure is projected to rise by 30% in the next six years.
Beauty products often include toxic chemical products that don't break down. Instead they accumulate in our waterways and airways. Chemicals such as lead acetate or formaldehyde, which can be found in hair dye, creams and makeup, have been linked to causing cancer. There are other products such as hair spray and some fragrances that cause air pollution.
"The Cosmetics industry has an ugly problem: make-up, shampoos, and lotions are contaminated with toxic chemicals that harm health"- Janet Nudelman, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
"The Cosmetics industry has an ugly problem: make-up, shampoos, and lotions are contaminated with toxic chemicals that harm health" Janet Nudelman, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The strong containers required to store these chemicals are also an issue. The single use containers are typically made of non-recyclable packaging, which further contaminates the environment.
Palm oil plantations are responsible for major losses of Indonesian rainforests and the sourcing practices for supposedly "natural" products aren't free from environmental concerns either.
But beauty products aren't just degrading the environment, they could also be degrading your skin.
[Image Caption] Palm oil plantations are destroying rainforests.
Our skin's greatest energy is no longer the sun
Exposure to pollutants in the air has been found to cause skin blemishes. The most noticeable effects of the pollution include pigmentation, redness and an uneven skin tone, which are the same conditions moisturiser creams and foundations claim to combat. Some cosmetic companies are even researching ways to manufacture creams that will use anti-oxidants to protect skin from pollution.
Linda Blahr from SkinCeuticals tells us that "Ozone pollution surrounds us around the clock. It's proven to cause oxidative stress in the skin by forming free radicals, which in turn leads to visible ageing."
So we're stuck in a downwards spiral: beauty products releasing toxins that cause flawed skin, which we rely on beauty products to fix. It's a sad abuse of nature when we strip the environment of its natural beauty in order to satisfy our own vanity.- -
With the majority of city inhabitants exposed to air quality levels that exceed safe levels, this is an issue that will become increasingly relevant. So we're stuck in a downwards spiral: beauty products releasing toxins that cause flawed skin, which we rely on beauty products to fix. It's a sad abuse of nature when we strip the environment of its natural beauty in order to satisfy our own vanity.
True Beauty is more than flawless coverage
(1) Consider our motives
The cosmetic energy relies on convincing us that we need the products they are selling. And so it's worth taking a moment and asking ourselves why we need to have longer eyelashes. Or if then reason we are ripping out the hair on our legs because it makes us feel good, or is it based on a picture we've seen in a magazine. This kind of desire to always fulfill a certain look is an example of a desire that won't go away. There isn't a product that will satisfy this urge, because it's an issue with how we are taught to look at ourselves.
If we're trying to get out of this cycle of cosmetic bingeing, it's important to recognise which products we are using out of necessity and which ones are just successfully marketed to us.
(2) Focus on other forms of beauty
Beauty isn't just something that is found in a makeup bottle. Focusing too much on how we look and trying to hide flaws and insecurities is letting the ugly side of the cosmetic industry have the power. Beauty can be about your character and the love that you show other people. Or it can be about the natural environment, and how we can be bold to protect it.
In a world filled with beauty there is so much more to focus on than the insecurities or flaws you may feel.
(3) Find those alternative cosmetic products
Don't believe that there aren't options out there. There are so many innovative people out there, working together to do their part for the environment. It's exciting to be able to share our ideas and learn from each other.