Environmental cost of beauty

10 tips on how to show perfect makeup during the day

10 tips on how to show perfect makeup during the day

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(Sustainable development and leadership) The beauty industry is always surrounded by an aura of elegance and glamour, which is its hallmark and an important marketing argument. But behind its glitzy facade, there’s a less-than-glamorous side: it carries an environmental and climate footprint that needs to be reduced due to both regulatory requirements and the demands of increasingly environmentally conscious consumers.

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The luxury industry is a sector that will never decline, not only because of customer loyalty, but also because those who are not part of the mainstream market are eager to enter it. But while it has traditionally distinguished itself by sparing resources and costs, today it also strives to reduce its impact on the climate and the environment in all directions: low-emission fashion, perfumes with reusable containers, recycled gold and diamonds.

Cosmetics and other beauty products also fall into this broad category, a sector that earns more than $600,000 million a year and is associated with very prestigious firms. And yet it is a minefield of traps for sustainable development, health and safety: from the use of resources, raw materials and water, through the impact of production processes and packaging, to pollution with their waste, not forgetting the chemical composition of products. .

The problem of water recycling

According to the British Beauty Council (BrBC), the industry body in the United Kingdom, the industry is at a time of need for change to meet the challenges of sustainable development and the climate crisis. The first is the main ingredient: water makes up 70% of cosmetics, which is why it is used in huge quantities; 10.4 billion liters in 2020. The giant in this sector, L’Oreal, aims to achieve 100% recycling of water used in a closed loop by 2030, and other firms are taking similar measures.

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Some brands have launched anhydrous products such as shampoo powder or balm-balm. According to University of Southampton researcher Denise Baden, promoter of the Eco Hair and Beauty project, reducing daily washing and conditioning to twice a week, supplemented by using a waterless shampoo and leave-in conditioner, can reduce hair loss. the environmental cost of hair care from 14,222 liters of water, 1,252 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy and 500 kilograms of CO2 to just 613 liters, 55 kWh and 25 kilograms of CO2. Reducing water consumption is also a goal of the ultrafine fiber cosmetics encapsulation technology developed by the Higher Research Council and its spin-off Bioinitiation; The fibers melt into the skin, maximizing product penetration without the use of water or the addition of other excipients.

Reducing water consumption is the goal of the technology of encapsulation of cosmetics in ultrafine fibers, developed by the Higher Council for Scientific Research and its division Bioinicia.

Packaging is also an issue: in the beauty industry, aesthetics take precedence over functionality, and this often translates into unnecessary elements in the packaging. The paper and cardboard used annually is equivalent to nearly 73,000 square kilometers of forest. This sector is the fourth largest consumer of packaging plastics, which drives oil production and is a source of plastic and microplastic pollution; According to the 2020 BrBC report, 120 billion containers are produced each year and 95% of them are discarded, accounting for 70% of the sector’s waste. Recycling remains an unsolved problem, and container filling, which is beginning to be used in perfumery, is still far from becoming a widespread practice.

Contaminant trace ingredients

Another thorny field is the possible harm due to ingredients deposited in the environment as a result of washing – interestingly, the hot water used by consumers for this purpose is responsible for 59% of the emissions associated with the sector.- and whose emissions of volatile chemicals substances are equal to those resulting from transportation. A study found that the air in nail salons contains volatile compounds with carcinogenic risks at levels comparable to those found in oil refineries or machine shops. Some components of cosmetics can affect a woman’s reproductive health. Regulation in this area is moving at different speeds: according to CNN, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) lists 2,495 substances banned in cosmetics for the EU, while the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists only 11.

A study found that the air in nail salons contains volatile compounds with carcinogenic risks at levels comparable to those found in oil refineries or machine shops.

Some companies are exploring biotechnology to pursue the use of biodegradable molecules. Brands seek to avoid using palm oil, which is blamed for deforestation in Southeast Asia, oxybenzone in sunscreens, which causes coral bleaching, or parabens, petroleum-based preservatives; Such ingredients account for up to 46% of the carbon footprint of Unilever’s products. Big companies like Garnier are committed to naturally sourced ingredients from organic farms, adding to the substitution of cardboard for plastic and water-free hard products.

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In summary, it is clear that the beauty industry is aware of the need to transition to sustainability, which is demanded by consumers and which is in the focus of attention of experts. But the trends are similar pure beauty about to green beautyrecently on the menu brands and influential peoplearouse suspicion of greenwashing in many campaign ads. As the British Beauty Council points out, only “bold, urgent change” will fulfill the industry’s aim to “make people’s inner beauty and our planet shine”.

*Javier Yanez, candidate of biochemistry and molecular biology, majoring in immunology. Scientific journalist and novelist.

** ** Text originally published in BBVA’s Open Mind, reproduced in El Espectador with permission from BBVA Colombia. Article from the book Work in the Data Age.

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