Have you ever wondered what happens to the sheet mask after you dispose them off in the bin? What about the microbeads in your morning freshness face wash? From sunscreens to strobe creams chemicals in our beauty products harm both humans and the environment as most of these end up in water bodies and ultimately in oceans.
My mother, who is also a scientist and expert in toxicology often expresses concern about the lack of research about the ingredients that make up our everyday use products. She says that the remains that go down our skins and the packaging that is thrown in trash ends up in the seas. Every day the newspapers are filled with reports about sea creatures being washed up on shores or fishes with stomachs full of plastic waste. According to estimates, there is a patch of trash about three times the size of France floating right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. While we are proudly flaunting our reusable bags and switching to metal or paper straws, why has the same concern not been adopted when it comes to our skin?
With increasing awareness, there is hope that we will be able to move in the direction of a more environment-friendly beauty regime. The most important step, however, will be brand transparency.
To begin with, things like shampoos and sunscreens can be packaged in more eco-friendly ways by using glass or refillable bottles. Plastic might be cheap and beautiful, but the environmental cost outweighs aesthetics. There is already 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics, and almost 90% of it has not been recycled. The day is not far when there will be more plastic in the seas than fishes if we do not make better choices for the future.
How often have you seen brands promoting their products as natural or nature-friendly? They usually do this by adding a few drops of organic extract and then depicting trees on the bottle to drive home the message of it being a natural organic product when in reality, the product might just contribute to polluting the same environment it sought to seek inspiration from. Small changes like metal bottles and metal pumps might be more helpful to the marine environment than microplastics that these bottles otherwise break down into and cause problems in the reproductive health of fishes.
We need to move away from chemical-based sunscreens to mineral-based ones. This is because the former harms humans and the earth. While chemical ones are cheaper and user-friendly, they have oxybenzene and octinoxate that prove lethal to coral health. But it doesn’t just stop at the oceans, it enters the bloodstream and is stored by humans, and its ill-effects remain unknown.
The question is, why hasn’t anyone taken the skincare industry on the path of course correction? This is because the industry works under few restrictions and almost none of the environmental laws apply. For the lawmakers, the beauty industry is not really a major concern because there are so many more pressing issues in our country.
Despite these problems, our country has a rich history of Ayurveda, which we can always go back to. A haldi ubtan is any day healthier and better for the skin than a chemical-based facial. If we try, the impact will be significant. While scientists create enzymes that dissolve plastics, it is time we go back to our dadi ma ke nuskhe, and make a change for the better.