Plastic debris kills over 100,000 marine mammals and over a million seabirds each year, according to UNESCO.
According to a Plastic Pollution Coalition report, the global cosmetic and personal care industry produces approximately 120 billion plastic units solely through packaging.
Plastic debris kills over 100,000 marine mammals and over a million seabirds each year, according to UNESCO. However, the beauty industry is not only bad for the environment. It will kill us in the long run. While beauty brands are becoming more vocal about their environmentally friendly practises, can they finally say goodbye to plastic? We spoke with skincare experts..
Polyethylene is a common microplastic found in cosmetics such as eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, eyebrow pencils, lipsticks, face powders, and foundations, as well as skin cleansers and skin care products. Think twice the next time you use that scrub or facewash to clean your face, as you could be contributing to the dwindling fish population!
"Microplastics often found in exfoliants and other products, these tiny particles don’t break down easily. While they might not harm the skin directly, I’m deeply troubled by their wider environmental implications. Their accumulation in our oceans and eventual consumption by marine life can indirectly affect our health through the food chain," says Dr Nishita Ranka, Internationally acclaimed dermatologist, Medical Director & Founder of Dr. Nishita’a Clinic for Skin, Hair & Aesthetics.
"Biodegradable alternatives for these ingredients exist but they will be adopted when companies feel pressure from customers. Some western countries have regulations in place that ban the use of microbeads (which are present in exfoliating products). For a truly plastic-free industry, domestic laws would have to be enacted that regulate the use of microplastics. Self-regulation could also be a path that cosmetic companies take in order to set themselves apart from their competitors. This can definitely increase their brand value and customer trust and loyalty," Dr Akanksha Singh, Senior Cosmetologist, SENS Clinic.
How are we changing this?
"All is not lost, though. Change is in the air. With public awareness growing around the plastic problem, the beauty industry is looking for ways to cut down on plastic pollution", says Dr. Nishita Ranka.
"Microplastics in skincare and beauty products and packaging trash both contribute to the buildup of plastic debris in landfills and seas, which might have negative consequences on ecosystems and marine life. Numerous cosmetics
companies have taken notice of the rising need for eco-friendly procedures and sustainable packaging options," says Dr Stuti Khare Shukla, M.D. Dermatologist, Founder of Elements of Aesthetics, Hair Growth Queen of India, Founder of FDA Approved Hair Growth Booster.
Cost to the environment
"To be honest, seeing the cosmetic industry without plastic seems like a formidable challenge. Its lightweight nature, durability, and cost-effectiveness make it an attractive choice," believes Dr Nishita adding, "While envisioning a cosmetic and personal care industry devoid of plastics might be challenging, I believe that with collective efforts, we can make significant strides. Brands can prioritize sustainable practices, consumers can make informed choices, and professionals like me can play our part in guiding these decisions," adds
REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE AND THEN RECYCLE!
According to Dr. Nishita, consumers can limit their potential exposure to microplastics by reducing use, purchasing products with minimal packaging, and carefully reading ingredient lists. Although cosmetic companies ensure that their packaging is safe, I always advise my patients to keep their products away from direct sunlight and extreme heat.
I’ve discovered biodegradable substitutes for microplastics in cosmetics, such as plant-derived cellulose, beeswax beads, or jojoba esters. They have a similar texture and feel without the negative long-term environmental impact. There is an increase in the use of glass or metal packaging by brands. While they may be a little heavier on the pocket and in hand, their environmental footprint is undeniably smaller.
With the rise in environmental consciousness, many brands project themselves as ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’. However, based on my observations, distinguishing genuine practises from mere marketing tactics is critical.
SOLID SOLUTIONS TO PLASTIC PROBLEMS
We have the clean beauty movement which isn’t just about launching organic, cruelty-free product lines — it also extends to implementing eco-friendly cosmetic packaging. Reusable, recyclable, or refillable materials are being preferred," Dr Kritu Bandhari, M.D. in Dermatology & Cosmetology and founder of Orijine Clinic.
Dr Kritu Bandhari adds, we are witnessing the big leap the cosmetic brands are taking to include newer concepts and materials to reduce plastic footprint: