Welcome to the blog of the course and textbook Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

More than just a pretty face? Yes, a sustainable face!

Mother Nature always knows best. But for those of us who what to enhance what she has given us, there’s makeup. And thank God for that!  Yet, I wonder, what cost is the environment paying for our beautifully made up faces? The answer, it appears is a high one.

Most common makeup brands produce their products using a concoction of various different artificial chemicals such as parabens and petrochemicals. In particular, parabens have been shown to have very worrying effects to A) humans and B) fish that they come into contact with. It is a little known fact that up to 60% of the makeup that you put on your face is absorbed in to your body. So much for beauty being only skin deep!

It is therefore unsettling that chemicals, such as parabens have been shown to affect hormones and mimic estrogen in the human body, especially since excess estrogen has the potential to cause breast cancer [1]. Once off your face, these chemicals can then enter the main sources of lakes and rivers etc. This can be detrimental to the marine life of these waters and cause permanent damage to ecosystem. In fact, parabens have been shown to cause male fish to be transformed into ‘intersex fish’ – male fish with female characteristics. Mother Nature would not be impressed.

The next concern I have with makeup is its packaging. The packaging is often made of non-biodegradable plastics. So where does it all end up? The answer is a landfill site. Landfill sites are the horrible spots on the face of this planet. And concealer is not the answer! In fact, beauty products make up approximately a third of landfill waste [2]! Finally, the way makeup is manufactured can have a huge carbon footprint, not to mention the carbon cost of sending these products to the consumers world wide.

So what is the solution? The obvious answer is to go au natural and just forget about makeup all together. Realistically, however, this is never going to happen. And thankfully it is possible to look good and allow the environment to look good too. There are brands out there that sell natural cosmetics, such as Futurenatural. Its founder, Emma Pezzack, promises that the makeup she sells is made with 100% natural ingrediants and is sold in recycled packaging [3]. Once finished with your products you can then recycle them. Origins retail store accept empty cosmetics containers for recycling, regardless of the brand. The best part is that you get rewarded with a free sample of one of their high-performance skincare products in return.

To further reduce the carbon footprint of your pretty face, you should choose a brand the manufactures its products in an efficient way. Apparently, Eastman GEM technology is the way forward. GEM technology is better than conventional manufacturing processes in that it uses enzymes and closely controlled manufacturing conditions to produce its cosmetics. This in turn reduces unwanted by-products, consumes less energy and can lead to a 52% reduction in CO2 emissions. ‘The beauty is in the process’ [4].  So behind the pretty picture, there is an ugly truth. Makeup can cover up your flaws but it can create flaws in the environment. So, if you want to continue looking fresh-faced and beautiful well into the future, there is a need to evaluate what’s in your makeup bag. And remember, sustainable is always beautiful!

Megan Pendred
[3] http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/blogs/fashion-beauty/green-cosmetics-460407

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