It was indeed shocking to read the report on just how much waste the cosmetics industry generates. Even worse, “the biggest chunk of cosmetic waste mostly ends up in landfills,” stated Australia’s Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment notes.
The report says that the Global Cosmetic industry touched $662bn. We only made it possible, right?
I walked towards my dressing mirror and opened all the shelves one by one, and I noticed that I had three different varieties of foundation and concealers from separate brands. The worst part was two out of three were already expired since I had not used them for long. There were at least five different skincare lotions I had picked up from the counter under the “Buy a big one to get one small free” offer. It was proudly occupying space next to three moisturizers, four serums, and a pile of lipsticks. At least half of the products are already expired. Embarrassingly, none of these had any actual requirements. It was a sort of impulsive buy while crossing through the newly launched products in the cosmetic section or my gift vouchers.
Looking through my cabinet, that’s easy to believe that most of us consume many products because we own them anyways. I bought it without even checking for eco-friendly details. Harder to digest how much packaging adds up to waste and how many expiry bottles I will throw in the garbage bin.
What can we do as an individual to manage that waste? The customers pitch in and contribute, whereas the big brands and manufacturers are equally accountable for playing their part. It is rightly put by sustainability consultant Celeste Tesoriero who describes the beauty industry as “super far behind the times when we mention sustainability .” He further adds that the level of waste is “astronomical .” Unfortunately, the onus is on us as customers that it shouldn’t be.”
Does that mean we should wait until more constructive programs are developed? All we can do is initiate the process by having a mindful approach. We can bring some simple and small changes in our habits to tackle the problem at the individual level.
Learn to use Natural remedies for skincare
Stay away from chemically loaded, harsh cosmetics. Go for natural solutions like henna, amla, aloe Veera, neem leaves, hibiscus, turmeric, and other plant-based gels to take care of skin and hair. You can curb the need to buy expensive face scrubs, masks, conditioners, etc.
Check the expiration dates and highlight them on the containers.
We are aware that all makeup and skincare products come with quick expiration dates compared to toiletries. The countdown starts as soon as the product is opened. If you have many similar products already in use, you will not use them more often. Invariably it will only occupy space to get expired. Therefore, to avoid throwing the barely used products, be aware of the dates. Check the available stock before buying the new ones. Generally, eye products like kajal and mascaras have a shelf life of up to three to six months. In contrast, skin base products like concealers, gels, powders, and foundations last between 12 and 18 months; moreover, lipsticks are good to go for full two years.
Necessary information regarding the products is printed either on outer packaging or on the container itself, including the manufacturing and expiration dates. An open jar symbol, a number, and the letter ‘M’ signify the product’s time duration. A leaping bunny symbol depicts the product being certified cruelty free.
We can still wear fashionable clothes five years later; however, this is not applicable in beauty, where things go bad within a year. I would repeat here bigger may not always be the best bet.
Yet another expert Dr. Deshan Sebaratnam, a renowned dermatologist and senior lecturer at UNSW, gives us insight into expiration dates by saying they are “less about mass consumerism and more about skin safety.” He warns us against the risk of bugs that are born on dead skin products, subsequently leading to harmful skin reactions, allergies, or rashes.
Be mindful and donate the leftover products.
You know you are not able to consume all of it before it gets bad. Please do not wait to give your ‘about to expire’ products to your maid or house help on special occasions or gift wrap them for housewarming/birthday parties to pat yourself later. Do charities instead. Several charity houses pass products on to needy people or theatre groups where they will use these products quickly. Facebook Marketplace and eBay are ideal platforms for selling new and partially used products. You can make up for the costs.
Try buying samples first to check their new brand/product. You can always decide whether to invest in big packs or not.
Be sensible while disposing of expired products.
Even the most conscious and sensible beauty minimalists occasionally have to deal with expired products. That is not a primary concern here. More important is to dispose of the leftovers so that it doesn’t pollute the water or soil.
Experts recommend dropping off expired products at your nearest council waste center. In India, we do not have such facilities in many areas; therefore, the next best option would be to throw products into the bin in landfills.
Some of the consumers wash the unused products down the sink. We should avoid that due to the risk of these beauty and skincare products having considerable amounts of chemicals, microbeads, or microplastics that may be safe for use but can cause serious harm to waterways and pipes, etc damaging household plumbing.
Recycle is the key
Go for beauty brands giving refill options or using a minimal layer or environmental-friendly packaging. Some stores ask to return empty products. If so, kindly return—alternatively, we should dispose of empty products made of soft plastics in REDcycle bins. TERA cycle bins also are used for recycling purposes.
I want to share a valuable piece of advice from Donnelly, “Consumers can play a significant role in pressuring companies to change their packaging into sustainable.
Be a savvy buyer. Buy less, use more.
First and foremost, the thing is to reduce consumption by buying less. Look for multi-use products like a daily moisturizer with SPF properties, a foundation with sun protection, and a lip balm with a glossy effect.
Declutter your beauty space at home. Buy more plant-based products. That may be a little expensive, but buying less will compensate the cost anyway.”
Show enthusiasm for products with glass or fiber packaging instead of layers of plastic. Companies and bands must rope in to make the performance of their products effective and not just depend on pretty, elaborate packaging. “It’s great to see recycling solutions. The priority should be looking at using fewer materials and minimal packaging to avoid consumption and waste.” says the expert.
“The next priority should be to take back packaging and better recycling. Simple replacements like using bars of soap over liquid hand and body washes can also make a big difference.
Bring sustainable products into the limelight.
The beauty industry has been receiving a lot of criticism due to its sustainability issues for valid reasons. We must normalize the practice of buying only ethical and sustainable beauty options. We shouldn’t restrict these products to a corner of any departmental store.
Ask the salesperson to show you the organic products so that they know you mean quality over branding.
Overall I would say that we have brought considerable changes in clothing habits while promoting sustainable fashion for the good of the planet so that we can do the same with our cosmetic choices too. It’s just a matter of time. As part of the global consumer community, my soul n spirit feels so positive about playing a vital role in effectively managing and reducing waste. I am already visualizing a society with a zero-waste environment. How cool that would be!