The final destination of your cosmetic product

Let’s do a quick survey.

How many pieces of personal care and cosmetic products have you used today? Browse around your washroom, your bag and room.

Shampoo, shower gel, body lotion, sunscreen, facial cleanser, facial cream, lip balm, hand cream. For girls, the list might go on, foundation, concealer, lipstick, brushes, makeup removal etc. These are the product I use in a normal day, and I am pretty sure I missed out some product.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has done a survey, which found that adult uses 9 personal care products each day, with 126 unique chemical ingredients. Over 50% of women and 10% men use up to 15 products per day. The number of personal care product we used does not really concern me, but what concern me is, I don’t even know what is inside those products.

It is not a breaking news for us that cosmetic product contains ingredients that cause harm to our body and the environment. But have you ever imagine, the final destination of the cosmetic that you are using can be within what you eat?


This is definitely one of the most well-known ingredients in skin care product that cause harm to our environment. It is greatly used in facial scrubs, soaps and toothpastes. These microplastics act like sponges for certain pollutants and are easily ingested by aquatic organisms, including fish and shellfish, which may ultimately end up on our plates.

Survey any stream or river in the Great Lakes region and there is a good chance you will find plastic debris, including microbeads or microplastics,” treatment.”

Microbeads have been found in water released from six out of seven wastewater treatment plants in New York State. Neither Canadian nor American wastewater treatment plants are required to monitor plastics in their discharge, so the true extent of plastics loading is currently unknown.The States recently legislation passed in the United States that has banned the production and sale of products containing microbeads by July 2017. Comparatively, the act in Australian Government on the same issue is a lot slower, which companies in Australia have the option to remove microbeads from their products by July 2018. It is not completely banned, but voluntary opt-out.

Other Chemicals

Other than micro beads, there are other chemicals that pollute the aquatic system, including P-phenylenediamine, BHA and BHT, Dioxane, Dibutyl phthalate, or DBP, Diethanolamine, or DEA and Triclocan. They exist in different personal care and cosmetic product, and are great contributors to water pollution.

Water pollution bring great impact to the environment, firstly, it destroyed the habitat of different aqua organisms. It interrupts the feeding and breeding system of the aquatic system. As water is essential for all living things, when the primary food source of a larger underwater animal becomes endangered or extinct, that animal will too encounter problems in finding sustenance (or will become poisoned through eating the same chemicals that killed its prey), thus leading to a chain effect. Or as underwater animals intake those harmful substances and are unable to detoxified those substance, it will store in their bodies. At the end of the day, it is the upper end of the food chain, which is human, turns out eating all these harmful substances. And who can we blame, if this happen to us?

Practical tips


Australian Government defined cosmetic as a substance or preparation that is for use on any external part of the human body—or inside the mouth—to change its appearance, cleanse it, keep it in good condition, perfume it or protect it. In other words, soap, shampoo, moisturiser, sunscreen, hair dye, perfume, lipstick, mascara, nail polish, all these are called cosmetic. There is no special regulation for product claiming themselves “Natural” or “Organic”, but product can be “Organic certified” if they meet the standard of the certification organization. In Australia, the most well-recognised certification is Australian Certified Organic Standard which help consumers to purchase 100% honest organic product. Most of the people recognized the identification in the food and beverage product, but actually this also imply in skin care and cosmetic products. To be honest, the “Organic” or “Natural” system in skincare and cosmetic product is not well-established.

Be Watchful of Companies that banned harmful ingredients

Even though it is still very hard to know what harmful ingredients are within the products we used, it is not hard to find out what are the companies that have committed to ban certain harmful substances in their product.

Beat the Microbeads” is one of the examples, it is an international campaign that advocate plastic free product, here is a short list of companies, full list can be found in the website.

  • Unilever announced that all of its products worldwide would be plastic free by 2015
  • Procter & Gamble’s product will free from microbeads by 2017
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Adidas Skin Care
  • Body Shop
  • Albert Heijn
  •  ASDA

 Purchase cosmetic with glass container

This tips work for food and beverage product as well, as glass is recyclable and has no danger of leaching toxins into the product contained within. Purchasing products that are packaged with glass is often more environmental friendly than plastic.


This is not as convenient, as just squeezing or pouring out product from a bottle, but it is neither as troublesome as what you would imagine. Below is one of the demonstrations on how to make your own facial scrub. And there are a lot of recipes and ideas on Pinterest or other social media platform, you can easily find them by search “DIY skincare” or “DIY cosmetic”. I personally have tried some of the natural skin care product ideas, and they work really well! Most of the time, the ingredients involved are already in your house.


Stick with brands that have environmental policy

If you are lazy (like me), but still want to use safe and environmental friendly cosmetic, just find a brand that have a all-rounded sustainability system. Lush is a very good example, from packaging, to ingredients used, it considers way to protect the environment in ways that affect the consumers the least.

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