Plastic Beauty

You woke up this morning and did your morning routine. Chances are you’ve used at least 3 to 5 different beauty products, this includes, shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste, moisturiser, etc. you get the idea. Congratulations, you just contributed some more for the worldwide plastic pollution problem.

“How is that?” you ask. Don’t worry, is not your fault, entirely.

Most, if not all, mainstream beauty, hygiene and cosmetic products that we use on a daily basis contain something called synthetic polymers, AKA plastics. The only reason why this ingredients are used in cosmetics is because they are cheap and allow companies to make the maximum amount of profit possible. Synthetic polymers also give the “illusion” of all the things people want - they thicken creams and conditioners to make them feel more luxurious - they create an outer layer on the skin so it feels silky and the hair so that it looks healthy and shiny - silicones make you think that the product is working even though it is just temporary and at surface-level.

Let’s have a closer look at how these products harm your skin and body:

  • Synthetic polymers form a barrier on your skin which means it traps dirt, sweat and bacteria in your pores.
  • This can lead to congested skin and can cause acne and breakouts.
  • These clogged pores may manifest as dull, dry skin as it is unable to shed dead layers and hydrate itself.
  • Synthetic polymers slow down the production of new cells which slows down the healing of fine lines and pigmentation.
  • If you’re using a cleanser or serum that contains a synthetic polymer, it will block the absorption of any treatment or cream that you apply after.

Besides the synthetic polymers, there’s another kind of plastic present in beauty products, the microbeads. This kind of microplastic has a specific function of scrubbing or exfoliating. 

So, every time you thought that you were using a super great scrub, you were washing plastic down the drain.

These particles are hardly visible to the naked eye so they flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter them out; that is how microplastics contribute to the ‘Plastic Soup’ swirling around in our oceans.

Fish and sea animals absorb or eat microplastics; these particles can then be passed along the marine food chain. Since humans are ultimately at the top of this food chain, we also end up ingesting microplastics (there’s been microplastics found in human faeces), and I believe we can all agree that ingesting plastic isn’t good for us or any other animals for this matter. Studies show that some of these chemicals may cause certain hormone-related cancers.

Microplastics are not biodegradable and once they enter the environment, they are impossible to remove. Some studies show that microplastics outnumber fish in the sea by as much as 7 to 1. Just one shower with a shower gel containing microplastics can send 100,000 microbeads into the ocean. If one person takes a shower every day, that’s 36.5 Million microbeads a year. Multiply that by at least half the world population and you can see how gargantuan is this issue.

So what can we do to ensure that we don’t continue to harm ourselves and the environment while doing something as mundane as taking a shower every morning?

First and foremost look for this ingredients, that are basically plastic, when buying beauty or cosmetic products:

  • Polystyrene
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon)
  • Polyacrylate
  • Polyquaternium-6/-7/-11
  • Sodium polyacrylate
  • Styrene acrylates copolymer
  • Trimethylsiloxysilicate
  • Acrylates copolymer
  • Carbomer
  • Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Dimethicone
  • Ethylene/propylene/styrene copolymer
  • Nylon-6/-12
  • Phenyl trimethicone
  • Polybutylene terephthalate
  • Polymethyl methylacrylate
  • Polypropylene terephthalate
  • Polyethylene glycols (PEGs)

The list goes on and on. I can guarantee that if you go to your bathroom cabinet now and check the back label of any of the products you have, you’ll find at least 1 of the ingredients above.

Of course you won’t be walking around trying to memorise all those names or with a piece of paper checking every ingredient making sure there’s none of those present, let’s be reasonable.

Now, what you can definitely do is, look for natural cosmetic and beauty products. Look for solid and not liquid products, solid products 99% of the time have no plastic in them. Inform yourself, read the “about us” section on the company website. If you read the back label and you see something that you could probably buy on a hardware store, don’t buy it.

Bottom line is: inform yourself and be more conscious of your consumer choices, less is always more and simplicity goes a long way in this world. We don’t need to make the world ugly and unliveable by making ourselves look pretty.

Look at the bigger picture, be more compassionate, let’s strive to leave the planet a better place than what we found.


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