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  • Liv Forster

Highlighting the Truth About Sustainable Beauty

With the current technologies existing in our world today, beauty industries are some of the most highly advertised corporations in North America. There are a seemingly endless number of products to make people seem younger, healthier, and, obviously, more attractive. Almost every person contributes to this industry as it encapsulates many different types of products, including makeup, skin-care, hair products, perfumes, deodorants, toothpaste, soap, and other oral cosmetics. The outcome: over 250 Canadian dollars being spent on cosmetic products in the average household annually. It is no surprise that the Canadian beauty industry is worth around 20 billion dollars.

However, due to the pervasiveness of these products, their origins are often overlooked, especially in the makeup industry. Many makeup companies choose the cheapest and most efficient materials to create their merchandise to ensure high profit for the brand. Environmentally unsafe ingredients, plastic packaging, and cruel sourcing have infiltrated many makeup products, leaving it up to us to make sustainable choices.

The truth behind selecting sustainable products is more complicated than it may seem. Though many consumers trust the advertised benefits on the packaging, companies are not always honest. When a cosmetic is marked as ‘green’, the majority of the time the focus is on the reusable packaging as opposed to the chemicals within the makeup itself. ‘Hypoallergenic’ makeup can still contain chemicals such as preservatives that cannot be broken down by the body, although they tend to avoid chemicals that have common adverse effects on the users. As well, products marketed as ‘natural’ simply indicate that some of the ingredients are real, but the majority may still be synthetic. To avoid unsustainable products, focus on choosing reusable or recyclable packaging, products that use predominantly organic ingredients, and choose brands that are transparent with their sustainability and sourcing.

Regardless of the packaging, it is important to always check ingredient lists on cosmetic products to ensure that there are no toxic ingredients that may have adverse effects on the body and the environment. Despite FDA approval on materials, there are several common ingredients found in makeup that are environmentally unsafe and proven carcinogens. BHA and BHT, preservatives found in lipsticks, are marketed as synthetic antioxidants but have severe health effects and are environmentally unsafe. Parabens are preservatives found in almost every makeup product and type of cosmetics, but are known to disrupt hormones and cannot be properly broken down in nature. Petroleum distillates are carcinogenic materials found in mascaras, while sodium laureth sulphate is the toxic equivalent in foundations and concealers. Checking the ingredient list on makeup is a huge way to help the environment and ensure your health and safety.

The most horrifying secret that the makeup industry contains is found in the most outwardly cheerful: the sparkle. Glittery eyeshadows, eyeliners and highlight all have one thing in common: the majority contain a mineral known as mica. Due to its soft and sparkly nature, it is the perfect ingredient to achieve the desired shine in many products, however, not only is mica an unrenewable resource, but it is often mined through child labour. Mica is found in hidden crannies of rock faces, and consequently many companies find it more efficient and cheaper to use smaller hands to mine it. 60% of all cosmetic mica is mined in India. There, 22 000 children are recruited for labour, and are paid the equivalent of 45 US cents a day. Other countries as Madagascar also provide mica for the North American cosmetics industry through child labour, but to a smaller degree. The hazardous conditions in which the mica is mined proves fatal for many, but the material continues to be in high demand for products in Canada and the United States. It is for this reason that brands are not always transparent with their ingredient sourcing.

Despite this, there has been a huge rise in ‘zero-waste’ and ‘sustainable’ makeup that is both healthy for the body and the planet, as well as is responsibly sourced. The idea behind sustainable makeup is that it uses as few harmful ingredients as possible, has properly sourced materials, and uses packaging that does not create waste. Some notable brands include Beauty Counter, Elate Cosmetics, and Alima Pure. It is only once we, as individuals, make better choices when it comes to cosmetics and other products that we buy that we will begin to see widespread change and development towards sustainability in major industries.


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