Toxic Talk and Labels

Skin Care Ingredients that Harm the Earth

+ Britta Aragon

This Sunday, April 22nd, is Earth Day, the day we all work to clean up our neighborhoods and waterways, the day that people around the globe celebrate the great planet we live on.

This year, the Earth Day organization is focusing specifically on ending plastic pollution. Here’s what they say on their website:

“From poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones, from littering our beaches and landscapes to clogging our waste streams and landfills, the exponential growth of plastics is now threatening the survival of our planet. In response, Earth Day 2018 is dedicated to providing the information and inspiration needed to fundamentally change human attitude and behavior about plastics.”

We want to do our part by increasing awareness of skin care products that pollute our waterways and hurt aquatic life, and that also contribute to the growing plastic problem.

Cosmetic Ingredients that Harm the Environment

1. Exfoliating Microbeads

You’ll find these in exfoliating face and body washes. Manufacturers use polyethylene—a plastic substance—to create scrubbing beads. Unlike natural and organic products that use sea salts and other natural ingredients to exfoliate, these products give you the illusion of natural exfoliation while polluting our rivers and lakes. Fish and other wildlife may eat them and harm their digestive tracts. Worse, when animals eat them, that means we may eventually end up eating them, too.

Look for the following on product labels:

  • Contains microbeads
  • With microabrasives
  • Polypropylene
  • Polyethylene

2. BHA and BHT

These are popular preservatives often used in moisturizers and makeup. The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic lists BHA as a chemical of concern because of its tendency to bioaccumulate and because it’s toxic to aquatic organisms. It can also cause genetic mutations in amphibians.

3. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)

This chemical belongs to a class of chemicals called “phthalates.” You’ll find it in nail polishes. In addition to being a potential hormone disruptor, it’s very toxic to aquatic life, accumulates in the environment, has been linked to growth and development problems in fish.

4. Triclosan

If you purchase an “antibacterial” hand cleanser, sanitizer, deodorant, or laundry detergent, it’s likely to contain triclosan. This chemical has been linked to an increase in antibiotic resistant organisms, which have increased the risk that infections can be deadly. When it’s washed down the sink, it can change the biochemistry of amphibians, fish, and aquatic plants. It accumulates in the environment, and reacts with other chemicals in waterways to form dioxins, which are toxic.

5. Synthetic Fragrances

These are made up of a cocktail of chemicals that manufacturers are not required to reveal because of “trade secret” laws. You’ll find them in perfumes, shampoos, soaps, cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens, and more. Wastewater treatment plants don’t break them down, which means they slip into the rivers and oceans via sewage discharge.

6. Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone are toxic to coral and are contributing to the decline of reefs around the world. High concentrations of the chemical have been detected around coral reefs in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

7. Siloxanes (Silicones)

You’ll find these in anti-aging products, creams, lotions, makeup, and more. The Norwegian Institute for Air Research and the Swedish Environmental Research Institute reported in 2005 that high levels of siloxanes were found in samples taken from several locations in the Nordic countries. Scientists have also found traces of these compounds in soil, plants, phytoplankton, and krill all the way down in Antarctica.

What You Can Do to Protect the Environment from Harmful Skin Care

If you’d like to join the effort to help protect our planet, take these steps in your own home:

  • Swap out your products: Go through the products you currently have and look for the ingredients listed above. Then commit to gradually replacing those products with more Earth-friendly options that are made with natural and safe ingredients.
  • Shop at safer locations: You are more likely to find safe products when shopping in organic departments, at whole foods stores, clean beauty boutiques, or online with companies that care about using Earth-friendly ingredients.
  • Choose conscientious companies: Responding to public demand, many companies are now producing organic and natural products that won’t harm the environment. Look for these companies and shop with them. By the way, CV Skinlabs is one of those companies. We don’t include toxic ingredients in our products, and we also use only recyclable packaging.
  • Cut back on how much you use: Finally, you can ease your effect on the environment by cutting back on the products you use. Just like we can work to preserve water by shutting it off while brushing our teeth, we can take little steps to reduce our use of personal care products. Choose one make-up free day per week, or let your hair go without washing for a day. Use only what you need when dispensing a product, and recycle when you can.

How do you protect the environment from cosmetic toxins?

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