When someone talks about beauty and its standards, an Alessia Cara song “Scars to Your Beautiful” comes to mind. It goes something like this: 

“She just wants to be beautiful. She goes unnoticed, she knows no limits. She craves attention, she praises an image. She prays to be sculpted by the sculptor”

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So many of us have grown up with a preconceived notion of beauty. You have to look a certain way in public to be considered beautiful and desirable. It has become so ingrained within us that we don’t even question the rules anymore. We just accept what cosmetic advertisements tell us is the ideal beauty and do whatever it takes to achieve that. Even if that means spending thousands of dollars on products that we don’t really need for results that they don’t really give.

The gargantuan cost of beauty

The cosmetic industry has not only distorted our vision of self but also made us accomplice in creating hazardous waste for our surroundings. The cost of fashion isn’t just heavy on a woman’s psyche but also on the environment.

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The global cosmetic industry, per year, produces more than 120 billion units of packaging, most of it, non-recyclable. Personal care is a $500 dollar industry and it relies mostly upon plastic for packaging. From your shampoos to body washes to day and night creams and moisturizers, everything is wrapped in attractive plastic packaging that takes thousands of years to decompose.

The microbeads and microplastics introduced into the ocean through things like cosmetic glitter are near impossible to shore out of the ocean. And it is not news how these little particles have drastically impacted the marine life, and in turn, us.

The personal care industry plays a big role in introducing harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC) into the environment through perfumes and hairsprays. These VOCs are dangerous to human health and the environment as they contribute to the smog and air pollution that surrounds us.

Chemical sunscreens pose a major threat to our coral reefs. Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, and Avobenzone are the major contributors to depleting corals near beaches.

According to a 2016 National Geographic Documentary, Before the Flood, to create more and more palm oil plantations, a huge part of south-east Asia’s rainforest is being burned down in Indonesia. Palm oil is a major contributor to the continuous deforestation of the last remaining rainforests around the world, even the Amazon. And it also heavily used in most of our cosmetics, almost 70% of them.

Course correction

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Okay, enough doom and gloom. We have talked enough about how the cosmetic industry is wasting our environment, now let’s shine a light on the steps it is taking to rectify these mistakes.

  • Ditching the disposables – A number of indie companies, like W. Basics, are prioritizing plastic-free packaging for their products. Alternatives like glass bottles, jars, and bio-sourced plastic are starting to make their way into packaging. Big brands, like Lush Cosmetics, champions environmentally-friendly products, and packaging in their bath-care line. They redesigned their shampoo into a solid bar form and got rid of the imposing plastic bottle.
  • The byproduct beauty movement – UpCircle Beauty created a whole “by-product beauty movement.” They collect used coffee grounds from cafes and restaurants to create their entire skincare range. It is 100% natural. This is a great way to reduce food waste and simultaneously cut back on the beauty industry’s carbon footprint.
  • Moving away from palm-tree destruction – Ethique is another brand that offers natural beauty products in plastic-free packaging. It makes use of plant-based, vegan raw materials for its products, and none of them contains palm oil. Moving away from palm oil could prove revolutionary in slowing down the deforestation around the globe.
  • Reducing water waste – A lot of companies are coming up with sunscreens that are chemical-free and coral friendly. Solutions to control the toxic waste from chemical treatments and dyes added to our rivers and groundwater are being worked upon.

Even with all the steps, the beauty industry is far from cleaning up its act, so the responsibility rests on our strong shoulders. Our decisions and steps could make a colossal impact on their behaviour and their impact on the environment.

What can you do?

It is our turn to decipher which brands are actually organic and which just claim to be and make the right choice. Buying products that are packaged in plastic-free containers, swearing-off of palm oil, and choosing chemical-free cosmetics, like sunscreens and perfumes that are made from natural, environmental-friendly ingredients can go a long way.

Research about the brand that you support, see their carbon footprint. If it’s a big number and you see that they are not doing much to offset it, switch. There are actually a lot of cosmetic products that you can make at home using common household products, so DIY your own beauty line.

And last, but in no way the least, you do not need 16 items for your face, 10 for your hair, and whatnot. This industry has fooled us into thinking that we lack something, and they are here to ‘fix us.’ You, in no way, need to be fixed, the natural you is perfect.

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Going back to Alessia Cara’s song

“There’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark. You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are. And you don’t have to change a thing, the world could change its heart. No scars to your beautiful, we’re stars and we’re beautiful.”

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