But cruelty-free skin care is just the baseline – there are further environmental issues to consider that go well beyond cruelty-free.
Each purchase we make supports not just a brand, but a type of industry—the way each ingredient was grown and manufactured, shipping practices and the effect that product will have on our lakes, streams and marine life.
Here are 5 tips to make choosing ethical skin care simple.
1. Read Before You Buy
There are over 10,500 chemicals used in skincare products today, most of which have not been tested for your safety. Some are harmful to us and to marine life once they head down the drain.
The effects can be visible, like the recent discovery of microbeads inside the waters and fish of the Great Lakes, or invisible, like the bioaccumulation of mercury in large fish (like tuna). More insidious are the hormone-disrupting chemicals; these cause reproductive, immune, and neurological problems for marine life and humans.
Before making your next skincare purchase, have a look at the David Suzuki Foundation’s list of the Dirty Dozen for common culprits to avoid or use the Environmental Working Groups handy Skin Deep® mobile app to look up ingredients while you shop.
2. Buy Products that Resemble a Classic Italian Recipe
It can take many steps and chemical reactions to create a single ingredient used in skincare products. Most chemicals are created through reactions with other chemicals. Although the final product may not be harmful in itself, chemicals used to produce it sometimes are (and trace amounts of these chemicals could be left behind if lab technicians aren’t careful).
3. The Outside Counts, Too
Our dependence on plastics is no secret. Pieces of discarded containers end up in large garbage islands in the middle of the ocean and are also causing havoc closer to home.
Phthalates and BPA, substances used to make some plastics and vinyl, are endocrine (hormone system) disruptors. Phthalates are used in vinyl and plastics to keep them rubbery, while BPA creates a hard durable plastic.
Due to public pressure, some phthalates and BPA are being phased out of consumer products, but they can still be found in many skincare containers. To avoid these nasties choose skincare in glass containers or BPA and phthalate-free containers (often listed right on the label). And, once your product is finished, recycle, recycle, recycle!
4. Organic is Still Best
Like a stick of celery placed inside coloured water, pesticide-treated plants absorb these chemicals from the soil, passing on trace amounts to you. Conventional agricultural practices also seep toxic runoff into lakes, streams, and oceans, creating dead zones in once flourishing ecosystems. Watch this eye-opening documentary to learn more.
Organic ingredients are grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Look for the words certified organic on the label or in the ingredients list. Organic is always the more ethical choice when it comes to skincare, as well as food.
5. Stick Close to Home
Independent and local skincare brands craft their products with care, in small batches. Keeping the business small gives these artisans more control over production, and where ingredients are harvested and manufactured.
While some of these brands are not exclusively organic, smaller companies tend to be passion-driven, caring more about health than pure profit. Health food stores and farmer’s markets will often carry local brands. For skincare products that are exceptional in both quality and ethics, choose local whenever you can.
Your skin, hormones and all of our sea creature friends will thank you.