From Packaging to Plastic Pollution—How the Beauty Biz Harms Our Oceans

The tides are turning for the beauty industry. The latest trends hitting the space have less to do with highlighters and those strange rubber masques and more to do with our environmental footprint—from cruelty-free products entering the mainstream to plant-based masques, bath bombs, and eye creams.

But, the same isn’t entirely accurate for the packaging part of the equation.

Think about it— those pieces of plastic attached to that new lip gloss from Sephora or the latest highlighter you can’t wait to try. All come with layers of plastic film to peel off and toss.

Plastic is everywhere, baby, and finally, people are starting to do something about it. Slowly, but surely the beauty industry is becoming greener. But, we’ve got a long way to go.

Here is a look at why plastic pollution is something you should consider alongside finding your perfect shade:

The Beauty Industry Plays a Huge Role in Ocean Plastic Pollution

Plastics are seemingly everywhere. In materials designed to keep our products sanitary, affordable, spreadable, exfoliating. The average person is likely unaware of the amount of toxic or harmful ingredients found in products across the beauty spectrum.

Eye creams with petrochemicals—face washes and shampoos synthetic polymers like carbomer or sodium polyacrylate, pore minimizers with nylon or dimethicone. In general, these hard-to-pronounce ingredients aren’t necessarily harmful upon contact. You can rest assured if you’ve yet to assemble a 100% clean arsenal of eco-friendly beauty products.

The problem is—these plastic polymers may be contaminated during processing or react with other materials when present in the water supply.

There are untold quantities of plastic waste in our oceans—from plastic beads and packaging to the polymers we wash down the drain in the shower—our marine life is suffering, and our choices in personal care products play a major role.

Plastics on the Inside, Plastics on the Outside

Look at the back of the face wash hanging around your shower, the high-end eyeshadow palette at the department store. Your eye creams and sunscreens. Plastics—lurking behind every corner. The beauty industry alone is responsible for a third of all plastic pollution, by some estimates.

Let’s explain. So many products contain synthetic polymers—including things like nylon and silicones. These ingredients are present in many products for their ability to fill in fine lines or pores upon application.

When we wash our faces and hair, these chemicals are washed down the drain and make their way into the water supply. One Green Planet offers a nice explanation of how things like parabens, petroleum, and other additives affect the food chain.

And then there’s the issue of packaging. Plastics housing personal care products are exceptionally thick and durable, so the product on the inside doesn’t degrade its own housing on supermarket shelves. As a result, much of the plastic used to make mascara containers and body wash bottles take an awfully long time to biodegrade. We’re talking 1,000 years long.

Plastic Pollution is Impacting the Fishies

According to the non-profit, Plastic Oceans, we’re collectively producing 300 million tons of plastic a year—and dumping 8 million tons into the ocean in that same time frame.

In the ocean, plastic affects marine life in a variety of ways. Plastic litter—in the form of bottles, straws, and the plastic from your last beauty haul breaks down over time—releasing a stream of toxic chemicals into the ocean—affecting the fish and wildlife in the area.

What’s disturbing is, through the process of breaking down, plastic particles begin to resemble plankton, both in odor and appearance. As a result, marine life, from krill to the whales that eat them are chowing down on plastic pollution.

If the fact that animals are confusing plastic with food weren’t bad enough—hear this—plastic acts like a sponge of sorts for other chemicals floating around in the sea. Think mercury, PCBs. Eventually, these chemicals move their way up the food chain—finding their way into the systems of large, fatty fish like tuna and swordfish.

Yet another reminder that our collective commitment to looking great comes with a larger than life impact and unpredictable repercussions.

Our Pledge to Do Better

To reduce the plastic waste in our environment and oceans, Fountain of Youth Skincare is making some changes. We’re making the switch to using glass containers for some of our products rather than the traditional plastic containers we’ve used in the past. Though this is a slow transition, we’re excited to offer a sustainable solution extending beyond the contents of our products.


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