The path to sustainability is more complicated than expected. Often, products within easy reach claim to be recyclable, but still cause climate change. This is known as greenwashing – where brands mislead consumers about how environmentally friendly their products are. Brands will often take advantage of this confusion to make a profit. To help save the planet, customers need to be savvy about what true sustainability looks like. The public should be well informed about where their products come from. This can be hard if you don’t know where to start.
This is particularly true for skincare products. Skincare is an important aspect of our lives. Not only does it affect our appearance, it also affects our health. Skincare shapes our mental health and confidence, and can protect us from physical illnesses such as skin cancer. We feel inclined to buy products that promise a healthy glow and SPF protection for our skin.
Despite our intentions, our purchases contribute to climate change. The majority of skincare products come in plastic. Millions of tonnes of plastic a year end up not recycled, and the beauty industry plays a big role through its packaging. Many beauty products contain chemicals that contribute to pollution and harm wildlife. Products that claim to be “natural”, however, are not always what meets the eye. Our guide is here to help you turn your nightly skincare routine sustainable, without falling victim to greenwashing.
One step towards sustainability is going for products with a smaller, more natural ingredients list. As stated, chemical products cause serious harm to the environment. Chemicals often make their way into water. Popular ingredients, such as parabens and fragrances are known to harm marine life. Many sea creatures have been found to have our chemicals in their systems. Microplastics, commonly found in facial scrubs, cause damage to animals and are difficult to recycle.
Going natural reduces your chances of consuming materials that damage the environment. By reducing your plastic and chemical intake this way, you are helping to protect marine life. Products with natural ingredients are often accompanied with the labels “vegan” or “cruelty free”. Seeing this on a label as well is a huge bonus. Not only are less chemicals used, but products do not come from and are not tested on animals.
It is however, of note that “natural” is not a regulated term. There is no law defining what natural is. A product can claim to be natural while still using harmful chemicals or hurting wildlife. It is important to not be fooled into buying bad products by this term alone.
Organic skincare typically refers to skincare that is not only natural in ingredients, but also in production. Ingredients are also grown without intervention by pesticides or fertilisers. Non-organic ingredients are known as GMO – genetically modified organisms. GMO chemicals often pollute local water and plant life.
In this way, organic products can be seen as a step above just “natural”. The ingredients are also made in a natural way. Not only that, the term organic is legally defined as “at least 95% synthetic-free ingredients.” This means that products cannot define themselves as organic without meeting these standards.
It is certainly good to opt for organic if you see it on a label. It means you’re cutting GMOs out of your skincare routine. In one way, you’re reducing your eco footprint. The term, however, doesn’t tell the full story. “Organic” does not equal 100% environmentally friendly. Brands can use this term to trick customers while still causing climate change.
“Organic” and “natural” can be misleading. It is not that brands are lying about their products being natural. This can be seen by their ingredients. Rather, natural or organic does not always equal good. This is especially true of being environmentally friendly. Certain natural products cause immense damage when harvested.
The Problem of Palm Oil
Take palm oil, for example. Palm oil is an oil that comes from palm tree fruit. In this way, it is 100% “natural”. It does not rely on chemicals or GMOs. Palm oil is highly common in skincare products. The oil is often used to create the texture of many creams and lotions. It also allows products to be fragrance free, thus more “natural”.
Palm oil, however, is highly destructive. The way it is cultivated creates mass deforestation. In Indonesia alone, 60% of deforestation is caused by palm oil production. Its removal destroys animals’ natural habitats. The orang-utan in particular is left uprooted, contributing to their endangered status. When these oils are harvested, the plant’s peat soils are emitting tonnes of greenhouse gases.
While very much “natural”, palm oil causes more harm than many chemical ingredients. The solution is to check for palm oil when shopping for skincare. This is especially true of any product that claims to be natural or organic. When intrigued by an eco-friendly label, always check the ingredients at the back.
I strongly recommend Terre De Mars as an environmentally friendly skincare range. Their resilience facial cream is a rarity in the market for avoiding palm oil in its cream. All Terre De Mars products are COSMOS certified according to ECOCERT Standards. All COSMOS products must conform to certain eco standards, including its production. This standard limits use of palm oil unless certified sustainable (CSPO). All Terre De Mars products are made from glass and PET packaging – the world’s most recyclable material.
Buying a Bar
Sadly, many brands are not like Terre De Mars with their packaging. When their skincare itself is sustainable, this only goes so far. Only partly – or even none – of the packaging may be eco-friendly. This is a common problem for the plastic cap on a lot of products. Keeping the product safe often relies on firm plastics. When possible, it is best to ditch packaging altogether.
One way of doing this is opting for skincare bars. These bars can come with protective cardboard, but this can be recycled unlike most plastics. Much like bars of soap, the product will disappear with use. This means nothing will go to waste.
LØRE Originals‘ The Bar Shampoo and Body Wash is a great solution. The bar is for both skin and hair as an all-in-one. This is a bonus, as hair products have similar eco issues as skincare. This will save buying and consuming more, especially with packaging. The bar is PETA approved as vegan and cruelty free, and has no palm oil.
The bar has natural ingredients such as avocado oil, which is kind to skin and hair. The product does contain chemicals, but not pollutants like parabens or sulphates. These chemicals are there to provide moisture and strengthening to skin and hair.
Løre Originals is a perfect example of science and nature working accordingly. The bar has the good type of chemicals that work for you and the planet. The bar is 80% natural, and their choice of chemicals are helpful and avoid animal cruelty. This cannot be said for “natural” products like palm oil.
The key to eco-friendly skincare is to be wise about the words being used. Knowing when terms such as “organic” and “natural” actually help the planet is essential. These terms can be misleading, and chemicals are not a dirty word when it comes to climate change.