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The Ugly Side of Beauty: The Beauty Industry's Effect on our Oceans and Excessive Plastic Usage.

There's no denying that we have a serious plastic problem. In the UK alone, over 2 million tonnes of plastic packaging is used and between 8 to 14 million tonnes enter our oceans every year - shocking, right? The beauty industry, although glamorous and feel good, contributes massively to plastic waste and plastic pollution. We all love a good skincare haul but when each product comes in array of unnecessary and complex packaging, multi-layered boxes, cellophane and bubble wrap, most of which is not fully recyclable, we can understand how these figures are so high. Just within the beauty industry, 120 billion units of plastic packaging is produced annually which can take up to 1000 years to decompose.

Products we use for a few months, a couple weeks or even just once will be on our planet for a hell of a lot longer than we are, and that just doesn't sit right with us. It's crucial that we begin to take serious action to save our wonderful planet. Everyday millions upon millions of plastic pieces are making their way to our oceans. Without immediate and sustainable action, this is only set to increase, and by 2050, it’s said there will be more plastic in our oceans than there is fish. This amount of plastic in landfills, in our oceans and in our environment is horrifying and needless to say, is causing serious harm to our marine and wildlife, cluttering our oceans and damaging our planet.

Breaking it down

 turtle in sea next to plastic waste

The earth is facing a plastic crisis and, what was once a practical solution to packaging goods, is now threatening our planet's future. Plastics are made from unsustainable materials like coal, natural gases and crude oil, therefore the manufacturing process itself is terrible for the environment, not to mention the plastics created are not all 100% recyclable. Plastic never really disappears but instead breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics. Shockingly, within the beauty industry, microplastics were purposely manufactured into exfoliating cosmetics like face and body scrubs, until they were banned in 2018 for the harm they were causing marine life. Microplastics and other plastic waste is killing our wildlife - they either eat it or get caught in it. As the beauty industry grows, more businesses must adapt to a plastic free model to reduce plastic waste entering our oceans and polluting our planet. 

Let's talk greenwashing

woman holding up climate sign

Although the increasing public consciousness and initiatives surrounding sustainability and reducing plastic pollution is extremely encouraging and positive, many cosmetics brands are using this as an opportunity to use greenwashing tactics. What in the world is greenwashing you ask? Greenwashing, also known as ‘green sheen’ is a form of marketing spin in which green PR and marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organisation's products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly. As consumers, it can be a challenge to determine which brands are genuinely eco-friendly and which are just slapping the terminology on their products. Take The Body Shop for example, with all their sustainability claims, they still package a large majority of their products in plastic tubs or tubes and although it may be ‘recyclable plastic,’ only 9% of plastic is actually recycled. 

What's inside?

plastic waste

Plastic in the ocean isn't the only problem the beauty industry is faced with - there are also certain ingredients found in beauty products that are extremely harmful to the planet. Some of the chemicals hidden in our skincare products may be having a harmful effect on the environment once we’ve washed them from our faces. Many of us know what ingredients we are looking for when we are skincare shopping - think Hyaluronic acid for skin restoring agents, Green Tea Extract for anti-inflammatory properties and Vitamin C to brighten - but there are certain ingredients we should be avoiding.

First up, Oxybenzone, commonly found in suncreams, is believed to have damaging effects on coral reefs and ocean ecosystems. Next, Triclosan, a synthetic antimicrobial agent known for strong antibacterial properties and commonly used in toothpaste, shampoo, soap, face wash and hand sanitiser. This chemical has been found to be toxic to aquatic bacteria, considered to have negative effects on algae which fish feed from, and it has actually been banned in the US because of its potential risk to human health.

Lastly, Parabens such as Butylparaben, Methylparaben and Propylparaben are not only bad for our bodies, but also bad for the environment. Many people have already begun boycotting Parabens and this is because they have caused concern surrounding skin sensitivities and allergies. As well as this, scientific studies suggest that Parabens can act like the hormone oestrogen in the body and disrupt normal function of hormone systems. Parabens are also believed to cause harm to marine life, as they've been found inside sea creatures and are believed to damage and kill coral. The beauty industry must start to pay attention to what ingredients they're using in their products, recommending consumers to use on their skin and how these ingredients, as well as packaging, is harming the environment. Big businesses within the beauty industry must do better, for people and the planet!

So, what can you do?

girls holding up soap bars

The beauty industry is the top offender for creating plastic waste and shockingly, most of it isn’t even recyclable. Plastic is cluttering our oceans and killing marine life, largely as a result of single use plastics and excessive packaging. But what can we do as consumers? The answer - avoid plastic! Many great brands are paving the way for the beauty industry, creating amazing plastic free products with good ingredients and a mission to save the planet. Ditch the plastic - swap out plastic packaged beauty products for products in paper or cardboard packaging, or products with a refillable scheme.

Take notice of products’ ingredient lists and avoid ingredients that cause harm to our environment and marine life. At nuddy, our mission is to make soap bars cool again. It was important for us as a brand to ensure we are not contributing, whatsoever, to plastic waste and pollution and that's why we are a 100% plastic free business. No plastic packaging here honey! All nuddy products are heavenly scented, performance led, vegan friendly, and free from all the ugly ingredients too, so you don't have to compromise one little bit when making a more conscious purchase, the DREAM! 

It’s time to choose the planet over plastic.