8 INGREDIENTS IN YOUR SKINCARE PRODUCTS THAT ARE HURTING THE EARTH
- Earth Day 2020 – Safer at Home
- Is your skincare regime hurting the Earth?
- 8 Ingredients in your skincare that are not eco-friendly
- Tips for switching to eco-friendly skincare
- Coming together to help the Earth, even during quarantine
Earth Day 2020
Like all major events, Earth Day looks different for us this year due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Earth Day is all about taking positive action to create positive change, but we are all feeling frustrated this year because our actions are very limited. Don’t let quarantine get you down, as part of our Safer at Home series, we have good news! You can help the Earth and create change right from the comfort of your own home! Real, specific and attainable change for the better. Come on world, we’ve got this!
What action can I take as an individual?
Our individual and collective relationship to the Earth is a special one. If you’re reading this page, you probably already know how important it is, and that every year EarthDay.org along with many other organizations work tirelessly to highlight where the Earth is in trouble and how we can try to fix it. However, the challenge appears when we adjust our focus from global, to individual. It can be hard to funnel the broad understanding of a movement all the way down to our very own life choices and daily habits. Perhaps you already utilize reusable bags, turn the water off when you brush your teeth and have even started a compost… but are your skincare habits having a negative impact on the environment too?
Earthday.org’s objective: “diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Growing out of the first Earth Day in 1970, Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 75,000 partners in over 190 countries to drive positive action for our planet. Earth Day Network works in countries around the world to drive meaningful action for our planet across these issues: Climate Action, Science and Education, People and Communities, Conservation and Restoration and Plastic and Pollution“. You can read more about each of these issues by clicking here.
A focus on skincare and its effects on the Earth
It is important to mindfully evaluate the products we use and how they affect Earth’s body, as well as our own. The good news is the rapid growth of the organic skincare movement now offers us an eclectic array of choices. This growth is a direct representation of consumer interests and how humans are urging brands to be more transparent so we can make better decisions for our health.
To consider what impact your skincare has on the Earth, first look at sourcing – what ingredients your product is made from and how it is sourced. Then look at the manufacturing – how those ingredients are mixed together to create your product. Then consider how and where you use the product, and most importantly, where the product ends up after you have used it.
Direct exposure to nature is a valuable concern, but you don’t have to be bathing in a lake for the chemicals in your body wash to end up in the gut of a fish that calls that lake home. The whole circle of life and ecology is affected – from our bathroom cabinets to the world’s waterways. Then from that water to the marine life who call it home, the wildlife it feeds and the soil it quenches. We can follow this narrative along the whole food chain, even to our own family dinner tables.
If you start by replacing skincare products with natural alternatives that are made from biodegradable and safe ingredients, YOU will be adding to the momentum of global change for the Earth.
8 specific ingredients to avoid as you move toward an environmentally friendly skincare regime:
What: Microbeads are made of polyethylene, a plastic substance used to create exfoliating, scrubbing or abrasive beads in skin and body care products.
Why: According to a report by Science American, microbeads are small enough to pass through water filter systems and end up in natural bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes for example. “You can almost never identify what product or where the source of microplastics is out to sea” explains Eriksen, the executive director of the 5 Gyres Institute. “But in the Great Lakes we can.” (It is easier to understand where pollution comes from in smaller, confined geographic areas). These tiny plastic beads are considered one of the most concerning environmental threats coming from skincare ingredients today. After polluting the water, the microbeads then get mistakenly eaten by fish and other marine life. This not only harms the digestive system of the animal but also means that we may also end up ingesting them if eating fish from an infected body of water. The scary reality is that microbeads make their way from your bathroom shelf, to a body of water and eventually back to your own internal body.
Where you’ll find them: Microbeads are often marketed as an exfoliator, so can be found in exfoliating face wash, exfoliating body wash, face scrubs and body scrubs. They are also used in products to enhance texture and fill in fine lines, so can be found in anti wrinkle creams, face serums, age defying sun screens and makeup primers. One tube of exfoliating body wash could contain around half a million microbeads. Avoid products with wording such as ‘contains microbeads’, ‘microbead technology’, ‘micro abrasives’, ‘Polypropylene’ or ‘Polyethylene’.
hat to look for instead: Look for products that use natural and biodegradable substances to create friction and abrasions such as: sand, sugar, salt, oatmeal, ground nuts and so on. By making this switch you are not only choosing a safer and better performing organic body scrub or microbead-free cleanser for your own body, you are also choosing a safer option for the Earth, too.
BHA / BHT
What: BHA and BHT are common preservatives that can be found in skin care and beauty products.
Why: In addition to being suspected hormone disruptors in our own bodies, they are both also linked to environmental harm and danger to marine life. BHA is listed as a chemical of potential concern by the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, and classed as toxic to aquatic organisms. BHT is also listed as having moderate to high potential for bioaccumulation in aquatic species.
Where you’ll find them: Look for the ingredient ‘butylated hydroxyanisole’ and ‘butylated hydroxytoluene’. You will find these ingredients in moisturizers, lotions and makeup products acting as a preservative. Brands can market that their product as being made with a biodegradable ingredient, which is a good start, but then often need to use a chemical preservative like this to keep that biodegradable ingredient from going bad.
What to look for instead: Finding skincare without chemical preservatives is probably the biggest challenge on this list. Look for chemical free lotions and makeup that do not include these two ingredients, and use a botanical preservative instead. Look for alternatives to toxic preservatives such as naturally derived Citric Acid (from citrus) and Caprylhydroxamic Acid (from coconut oil). Or perhaps purchase small but frequent amounts of something with raw ingredients so that there is no need for a long lasting preservative.
What: Phthalates, pronounced tha·leits, are esters of phthalic acid and are most commonly used as a plastic binding agent or solvent.
Why: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics explains that “these chemicals, which are linked to endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and cancer, have been banned from cosmetics in the European Union, but still remain prevalent in U.S. products”. The build up of Phthalates in nature has been linked to altering genetics and development across species.
Where you’ll find them: You can find Phthalates in anything from nail polish to moisturizing lotion, shampoo and more. They are commonly found in skincare products with fragrance. Look for ingredients such as ‘phthalate’, ‘DEP’, ‘DBP’ and ‘DEHP’ on your labels. But here’s the tricky part – they can also be found in synthetic fragrances and products do not have to disclose what the fragrance it made up of. ‘DEP Phthalate’ is widely used in scented products to help the fragrance last longer.
What to look for instead: Look for products that don’t have Phthalates in the ingredients, that tell you they are a Phthalate free product and, most importantly, do not use products with synthetic fragrances. You can usually tell if a fragrance is synthetic because it’s ambiguously labeled . Products that want you to know their fragrance is not synthetic will list what their fragrance is made from. Search for essential oil scented skincare and essences of biodegradable elements such as flowers.
What: Oxybenzone, or benzonephenone-3, is one of the most common ingredients found in sunscreens. The main use of oxybenzone is to absorb UV light.
Why: Oxybenzone is said to be a threat not only to humans by disrupting hormones, but also to the Earth by poisoning its coral reefs around the world. A study on environmental contamination found that Oxybenzone contributes to reef bleaching and disrupts reproduction and growth, leaving young corals fatally deformed. The chemical is said to have a similar effect on DNA as gasoline. “It causes weird deformities in soft tissue and also causes the coral larvae to encase itself in its own skeleton, in its own coffin,” explains Craig Downs. The researchers found large concentrations of the ingredient in popular waters off Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands. Between 6,000 and 14,000 metric tons of sunscreen lotions end up in coral reef areas each year. In 2018 Hawaii passed a bill that would ban sunscreen products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Where you’ll find them: Oxybenzone is most commonly found in sunscreen and SPF lip balms, but can also be seen in nail polish, skin care fragrances, hair spray, and cosmetics as a photostabilizer which protects the product from light damage.
What to look for instead: Look for natural sunscreens that use zinc oxide as a base instead of Oxybenzone. Try using organic lip balms that use biodegradable ingredients to protect your lips from the sun instead of SPF. Try buying brands who use plant based aromas instead of synthetic fragrances where Oxybenzone can also hide. Lastly, avoid products in clear containers, they usually need more photostabilizers to protect the product inside from the sun.
What: Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent.
Why: When triclosan runs into waterways it can change the biochemistry of marine life and aquatic plants due to it’s non biodegradable build up. It then reacts with other chemicals found in water to form harmful dioxins. The EWG reports that in animal studies triclosan has been linked to liver damage, hormone toxicity, developmental defects and cancer “due to its toxicity towards a wide spectrum of microbial and algal species, triclosan may disrupt critical ecological processes performed by beneficial microorganisms in nature.” The European Union classifies this ingredient as having the potential to cause long-term adverse effects in aquatic ecologies. Triclosan is restricted in cosmetics in Japan and is classified to be toxic or harmful by the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List. Some medical professionals even blame the emergence of superbugs on an overuse of Triclosan, allowing bacteria and fungi to develop resistance.
Where you’ll find them: Triclosan can be found in an array of personal care products including antibacterial items, anti fungal treatments, whitening toothpastes, shaving foam and deodorants. Look for ‘Triclosan’, ‘TSC’, ‘triclocarban’ and ‘TCC’ on product labels. The EPA warn that “manufacturers can add antimicrobial chemicals to any consumer product they choose. As a result, people may be exposed to multiple sources of antimicrobial pesticides in their own homes, often without their knowledge and without a chance to make an informed decision“.
What to look for instead: Look for products that do not have Triclosan on the label. Even better, try using an organic alternative that uses biodegradable antimicrobial properties such as Oregano essential oil, Eucalyptus essential oil, Tree essential oil or organic coconut oil (the lauric acid in its fat is converted by the human body into monolaurin and this gives it its antibiotic, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties). Go one step further and try a tea tree infused coconut oil product for a double action!
In need of a product to whiten up your teeth? Try using an activated charcoal product or try oil pulling will coconut oil to draw out bacteria and stains.
And wherever possible, use soap and water over antibacterial gel. Thordarson, a professor at the School of Chemistry in Sydney, explains that “nothing beats soap — the virus detaches from the skin and falls apart readily in soapy water. Supramolecular chemistry and nanoscience tell us not only a lot about how the virus self-assembles into a functional, active menace, but also how we can beat viruses with something as simple as soap.”
What: Parabens are chemicals used as artificial preservatives in cosmetic and body care products.
Why: A recent study discussed by the EWG reports that Parabens are not only linked to human endocrine disruption but also ecological harm. “Low levels of butylparaben can kill coral. Parabens have been detected in surface waters, fish and sediments. When parabens are combined with chlorinated tap water, a number of chlorinated paraben byproducts can also form” and add to the threat.
Where you’ll find them: Parabens can be found in personal care items such as shampoos, conditioners, lotions, face wash, body wash and exfoliating scrubs. Parabens are usually easy to spot because they end in ‘paraben’, such as ‘Ethylparaben’, ‘butylparaben’, ‘methylparaben’, ‘propylparaben’, ‘isobutylparaben’ and ‘isopropylparaben’.
What to look for instead: Look for products that do not contain parabens. Because parabens are commonly talked about, brands that say no to parabens will usually make it clear that their product is paraben free on the packaging. Look for alternatives to toxic preservatives such as naturally derived Citric Acid (from citrus) and Caprylhydroxamic Acid (from coconut oil).
What: Siloxanes are types of Silicones used in personal care products for their smoothing properties.
Why: Another ingredient said to be harmful to the human reproductive system, has also found to be harmful to the Earth. The Norwegian Institute for Air Research and the Swedish Environmental Research Institute reported concerns about the build up of silicones after increasing levels of siloxanes were found in samples taken from several locations in the Nordic countries. It has also been found in fish from The Great Lakes, raising the alarm about the toxin being passed through the food chain.
Where you’ll find them: Used in anti-aging products, moisturizing lotions, makeup and hair care products. These silicone-based compounds are used to temporarily soften, smooth and fill. You can spot them in ingredients by looking for words that end in ‘cones’, ‘conols’, ‘silanes’ and the full form ‘Siloxanes’.
What to look for instead: After offering you a temporary smoothing effect, these ingredients clog pores and dull skin, so choose Silicone free skin care instead. Choose something with a naturally derived smoothing agent instead, such as naturally occurring fats like you find in nut extracts, to give you a silky texture. Coconut oil for anti aging with its high lauric acid content is a good example of a safe alternative.
What: This is a broad term, that covers any synthetic ingredients that go into creating product scents and fragrances in skincare.
Why: Synthetic fragrances are often the culprits of allergic outbreaks on human skin. Irritation from synthetic scents are so common that many people are turning to unscented skincare products because of this very reason. But they also affect our Earth too. Wastewater treatment plants don’t break them down, which means they sneak into ours rivers and oceans. The National Geographic reported that they “compromise a cell defense mechanism that normally prevents toxins from entering cells.” That means the toxins can inhibit an organism’s ability to defend itself from other types of toxins which could cause permanent damage.
Where you’ll find them: Synthetic fragrances are commonly added to perfumes, shampoos, soaps, cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens, and much more. The difficulty here is trying to pin down a synthetic fragrance, being as brands are allowed to hide ingredients behind a catch all term like ‘fragrance’, ‘scent’ or ‘parfum’.
What to look for instead: Either look for ‘fragrance free’ or ‘unscented skincare’, or look for naturally derived fragrances. The main sources of organic aromas are essential oils and the essence of botanicals. If a product has created a nice scent from something truly natural, they’ll usually be excited to share that with you.
Skincare ingredients will either get absorbed by your skin, or end up in the Earth’s waterways. Toxins bioaccumulate and cause issues to the environment, wildlife and humans via the food chain.
Tips for switching to an Earth friendly skin care regime
- Learn: Knowledge is power! Learn about ingredients and their effects. Learn about natural alternatives.
- Don’t get green washed: Bypass marketing and go straight for the ingredients listings, you’ll find (mostly) everything you need to know there. Look for certifications and what standards their certifying bodies look for.
- Evaluate: Take your knowledge and evaluate what you are currently using in your skin and hair care regime.
- Take it slow: replace each product with an environmentally friendly one – one at a time. Don’t try to replace everything at once, it will become too overwhelming. Be realistic and make small and steady changes for the better.
- Create mindful habits: Being environmentally friendly in your personal care regime starts with mindfulness. This just means – be aware and be present. Stop to think before you purchase, assess before you use, and consider the journey of the product and its packaging after you have used it.
Small habitual changes made by many = a big global impact for the environment
Come together in 2020
So let us come together for Earth Day 2020, even during quarantine! EarthDay.org puts it perfectly “seize all the tools and actions that we have, big and small, to change our lives and change our world, not for one day, but forever. While the coronavirus may force us to keep our distance, it will not force us to keep our voices down. The only thing that will change the world is a bold and unified demand for a new way forward. We may be apart, but through the power of digital media, we’re also more connected than ever!”
On April 22, join EarthDay.org for 24 hours of action. No matter where you are, you can make a difference. And you’re not alone, because together, we can save the Earth!
Start your quest for environmentally friendly skincare products
Organic Fiji says a big NO THANK YOU to any ingredients that are harmful to you, or the Earth. Organic Fiji is committed to offering high-quality coconut oil infused products that are made from the cleanest of ingredients and created within an ethical and socially responsible production setting.
A note from organic Fiji’s president, Reycel Baysa. “We look inward towards our company and products, making sure that we create marine safe, wilderness friendly and biodegradable personal care that won’t harm our customers or the beautiful ecology and precious wildlife around us. We apply environmentally friendly production and shipping methods wherever possible – recycling materials and even using biodegradable packing peanuts. There is still a lot of work for us to do to live a greener life and improve the protection we give to nature, but it is a start. As well as what we do in-house, we decided to offer a $1 donation to The Surfrider Foundation for every ecommerce order we receive. And we want to remind our customers that every order placed is creating a wave of change, so thank you.” You can read more about Organic Fiji’s plan to pay it forward here.
Your gift to the Earth – start switching to environmentally friendly skincare today
What makes Organic Fiji eco-friendly?
- Clean, pure & plant based ingredients that are human-friendly and eco-friendly
- Ethical ingredient sourcing that does not negatively impact the environment
- Responsible production that operates under eco-friendly and fair trade working methods
Organic Fiji says NO to:
- BHA / BTA
- Synthetic fragrances
- Animal byproducts
- Artificial colors
- Chemicals & toxic ingredients
Organic Fiji’s mission is to bring you the traditions of island life and all the benefits earth’s harvest has to offer your body and soul. The active ingredient in all our products is organic, cold pressed, extra virgin coconut oil. We create unique, artisanal personal care and culinary items, inspired by the tropics of the Fiji Islands. We will never compromise the quality of performance or the cleanliness of ingredients when designing our organic wellness range.
⚠️ ORGANIC FIJI COVID-19 UPDATE: We are open, we are getting your orders out the door within 24 hours and we have lowered pricing / free shipping minimums to better serve you during this challenging pandemic. Read full COVID-19 address here.