From high heels to corsets to makeup, the physical pains of beauty are often a small price to pay in exchange for their perceived benefits. But what about the pain that our beauty habits and social constructs may induce upon Mother Nature? The truth is, more often than not, behind the pretty picture cosmetic products paint lies an unpleasant ‘elephant in the room’.
In fact, packaging waste from beauty products alone occupies 1/3 of total landfill space worldwide. Even more surprising, despite countless products claiming green status and biodegradability, the variable rate of this breakdown between products is substantial. This in turn means that harmful chemicals such as phthalates, disruptors of the reproductive success of fish, too often end up in our water systems and work to offset marine ecosystems.
Contradictory to their advertised benefits, other chemicals like parabens, which function as preservatives in anti-aging and moisturizing creams, have substantial empirical evidence which suggests their roles as carconigens and disruptors of key hormonal mechanisms. Thanks to the large preservation of physiology between mammals, these foes are bound to have similar effects in a wide range of species. Moreover, other common products contain main ingredients which exploit non-renewable petroleum resources.
Sadly, these are not the only ways our ecosystems suffer—each year, millions of animals are killed worldwide while undergoing cosmetic tests for toxicity, effectiveness and side effects of experimental products. The problem is, a vast majority of animal testing is inherently inaccurate in that researchers assume that the results they derive can be readily extrapolated to human populations that inevitably differ in age, sex and environmental exposure factors. Promising research involving cosmetic testing on stem -cell derived human tissue, however, could better gauge its reaction in humans and help animal lives, although many ethical debates continue over its plausibility.
Unfortunately, our uninformed habits are only magnified by the all-too-often exaggerated and unrealistic claims made by manufacturers, which are only loosely regulated under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act. The good news is, with a little research, we can make informed and sustainable choices which are effective, live up to their expectations and work to wash away the mask of partiality which has been caked upon much of the beauty industry for years. When purchasing cosmetic products, you should consider those that do not contain animal products such as gelatine or those that have certified sustainable product supply chains.
It’s time to take a stand—to see the interconnectedness in everything that surrounds us and realize that the indirect consequences of our actions directly impact us and what we love most. If we approach the issue in this way, there is no doubt that we will all look good. For a list of the biggest chemical villains found in common products, and those you should avoid, click here.