Harsh, unnatural chemicals, ingredients that pollute lakes, and landfills full of plastic — is this a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie? Nope, just the everyday effects of many common skincare products. Whether you’re already onboard with the sustainable lifestyle or you’re new to the green scene, there are myriad ways to make your skincare routine a whole lot better for the environment.
There are two ways the ingredients you use may impact the environment: how they’re harvested, and how they impact the environment once they head down the drain.
Quality, not quantity: Many companies will add a few natural ingredients just to slap the label on a product. So, just because something says “natural” doesn’t mean it’s good for the environment. As explained by Simple Luxe Living, this sort of product, which is natural for the sake of marketing, not Mother Nature, is actually worse for the earth in the long run. “When done mindlessly the mining of minerals for natural ingredients and of oil for petroleum based products disrupts ecosystems and depletes non-renewable natural resources.”
The solution? If something seems too good to be true (e.g. it’s very inexpensive, yet filled with “natural” goodness), it probably is. Look for higher-end products produced in smaller quantities with short ingredient lists you can understand. Your dermatologist can be an excellent resource for understanding which ingredients may be harmful and where to find reputable natural products.
Wash, rinse, repeat: When you rinse your shampoo or face wash down the drain, you may be rinsing away ingredients that won’t naturally break down. Those chemicals accumulate in Mother Nature, damaging ecosystems over time. A few chemicals to watch out for include: P-phenylenediamine, BHA, BHT, dioxane, DBP, triclosan, and DEA (you can learn more about the impact of these chemicals here). Again, look to your derm for some help developing a harmful-ingredient-free routine.
Perhaps the easiest way to cut down your environmental impact is to reduce the amount of packaging you toss in the garbage.
Recycle: You may already be doing it, but this bears repeating: Always recycle the packaging your products come in (if it can’t be reused). If you’re using plastic, take note of the number in the triangle on the bottom, and familiarize yourself with what these numbers mean. Better still, opt for glass packaging when possible, as glass is safer to recycle.
Reuse: Many natural grocers offer bulk toiletries, so you can refill bottles you already own. Glass cosmetic bottles can also be reused around your house — as bud vases, for example. Check out these other ideas for ways to reuse plastic bottles.
Reduce: Not every item requires packaging; for example, many cosmetics companies are now offering makeup refills so that you don’t have to toss the palette every time you buy. Opting for more concentrated products will also cut down the number of packages you go through. Take note of the products you replace often and see if there’s a way to reduce the number of containers you throw away.
Going through dozens of drugstore products (and let’s be honest — most of those probably end up in the trash half-used anyway) is far from an environmentally sound practice. If you’re serious about reducing and reversing the effects of sun damage or aging, you may want to consider an in-office procedure rather than going it alone in the anti-aging aisle of your local pharmacy.
In-office cosmetic procedures, like laser resurfacing or injections, can be far more efficient than over-the-counter products. And because you won’t go through a dozen failed options to find one that works, you’ll likely be choosing the greener route in the long-run.
No matter how you choose to green your skincare routine this Earth Day, start with a quick digital visit with your dermatologist. Checking in online will save you gas, too — another green choice!