They may make us feel pretty but what they do when they leach into our environment is pretty ugly.
Here are 6 beauty product ingredients harmful to the planet:
These tiny polyethylene (plastic) beads could be in your facial scrub, cleanser or toothpaste. Not only are they potentially harmful to your health, but they also do nasty things to aquatic life. This video describes how they make it into our waterways and what they’re doing to our poor fishies. This ‘micro’ problem is so big that one Montreal student has started a petition for Quebec to ban them. Go, Megan!
2. Benzophenone-2 (B-2)
Here’s one for the holiday list because it’s found in most sunscreens. Why is it so bad on vacation? You put it on and then go snorkeling around the reef. But, oops, the reef isn’t looking so good because B-2 can actually bleach coral, cause it to mutate and even kill young coral. Even if you don’t go swimming, washing it off after a day in the sun often pushes it right out into the sea. Seek out sunscreen without B-2 and snorkel (guilt-free) to your heart’s content.
3. Palm Oil
This one may be surprising because it’s a natural ingredient. Palm oil comes from palm fruit and is popular for use in soap, shampoo, and lipstick. It’s in such high demand that hectares and hectares of rainforests are being chopped down to make way for palm plantations. This deforestation process has threatened many species of animals, including orangutans, who aren’t just displaced but have been killed for being in the way. If you must have palm oil products, look for sustainably harvested palm oil.
4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
We love it because it makes fun bubbles in our shampoo and face washes but this ingredient causes real issues for our planet (and it’s not doing us any favours either). SLS is slow to degrade and it bio-accumulates, meaning it will add up fast in aquatic life living in tainted waters. And, it doesn’t just impact the fish – it hurts the plants and algae they eat too. Time to say bye-bye to the bubbles.
You find this most often in perfumes but also in beauty products with a fragrance (aside from natural essential oils). They are known endocrine disruptors in humans (meaning they mess with your hormones) and that’s true for fish too. Studies have found that phthalates can seriously impede fertility in fish. In some tests, actual changes to the reproductive systems of fish were found in a very short time.
This anti-bacterial agent became super popular (and infamous) when everyone was addicted to hand sanitizer during the SARS outbreak. Triclosan is also in soaps, lotions, make-up and deodorant (some with some very misleading names). Why do you want to avoid it? Eventually, we wash this off our bodies and it ends up in our waterways where it wreaks havoc on fish and crustaceans by turning them androgynous. Yep, it’s so toxic it can change the sex of marine life making repopulation pretty tricky.
If you find these ingredients lurking in your beauty routine, do the earth a favour and switch to cleaner products.