Beauty and The Bad

How dirty can cosmetics be to the environment and to you? Here is some info I have to dish the dirt…

I used to buy new cosmetics products every month, or even every week if there was something new and shiny on the market. A new lipstick or nail polish would add a perk to my week and make me feel good. Once I moved in to my mid-twenties I started to realise that I wasn’t doing my cosmetic routine for myself, but for others – to fit in to society and to feel attractive. I soon noticed that I would much rather just pop on a bit of mascara and lip balm each morning and put the 15 minutes saved into something more beneficial to me, like sleep! Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy getting dolled up for big occasion or putting in an extra effort for a night on the town, but I don’t look at it the same way I used to. I don’t see anything wrong with using cosmetics to give more confidence, as long as their is a healthy relationship with it. For instance, my sister can spend up to 45 minutes on her make-up every day but she loves creating a look to match her style and looks on it as an art form. But she will still go outside the house without any make up on too.

I do have a regimental skin care routine at morning and night as I like to take care of my skin. In the last 2 years I have invested a little more time and money in to choosing the right products me. The elements that have become more important to me are the ingredients used, sourcing, production, and what impact it has on the environment.

The main things I consider when choosing my cosmetics are:

Cosmetic Production

Animal Testing – Most people will know that inhumane animal testing tastes place in the cosmetics industry as it is quite often a hot topic within the news. Since 2013 a new EU law was implemented which made the selling of animal-tested cosmetics illegal in Europe. However this has not solved the issue completely, as some testing is still allowed on chemicals which are seen as potentially harmful to the workers on the cosmetic production lines, so there is still some more work to be done here. PETA do great work all over the world to try to prevent harm coming to all animals – you can find a list of all companies that do not use animal testing on their website.

Labour conditions – While poor working conditions and child labour is commonly associated with the fashion industry, it is also a topic of concern within the cosmetics industry. I remember reading an article from the Guardian in 2016 which said that children as young as 10 years spent their days sourcing mica from Indian mins. Mica gives that nice glittery shimmer to the product, something added just a as ‘cosmetic’ to the cosmetics. Buying local, ethical (such as Neal’s Yard if you live in the UK) companies can allow you to know the source of the ingredients and where the products are physically produced, greatly reducing your chance of buying products containing illegally sourced ingredients.


Cosmetic Environmental Impact

Packaging – Although cosmetics are not usually single-use products, it is possible to source brands using packaging that is more environmentally friendly and sustainable than plastic. About 90% of containers of the products I use are glass bottles and tins.  As I travel quite a bit and glass can be too heavy to carry, I do use some smaller durable plastic containers for transporting small amounts with me – not perfect but I keep it to a minimum and reuse them over and over again.

Micro Beads – Something which hasn’t got much coverage in the last couple of years is the use of microbeads in products. Neal’s Yard, along with other organisations petitioned tirelessly to get a UK ban on the use of microbeads in cosmetic and personal care products. The long promised production and sales ban came in to effect in Jan 2018, following a US ban in 2015.

Thousands of tonnes of these tiny plastic particles find their way in the the products such as toothpaste, body scrubs and shampoo, and subsequently into the water system – into the ocean for the fish to eat – and back on to some of our dinner tables. While the ban minimises the use greatly, it is not a complete ban, as their use is still legal in some limited products such as sun creams.

Oxybenzone – Also in suncreams can be the toxic chemicals which are harmful to the environment, in particular to the ocean. It is not something we conditioned to think about but since I read of this in early 2018 I started to source suncreams with less/no damaging ingredients. It is better for the fish, coral, and you! Green People do a lovely range of suncare products, although I haven’t used them yet myself.

Cosmetic Ingredients 

Natural  – While not all natural substances are safe or good for the skin, a good brand will only use natural products that benefit the skin. The ones best for you will depend on your skin type – a good beauty or health store will be able to anaylse your skin for you.

Organic – Pesticides and synthetic fertilisers a can make it in to many cosmetics products, not just our food and clothing. These mainly come from ingredients such as Almond oil, Cocoa butter and some essential oils from fruits. While there are international standards set on regulating this industry, it is is not guaranteed that you are not putting chemicals that are harmful to humans on your skin and down the drain., so choosing organic is a safer option.

TIP: One of the quickest and simplest things you can do to have a positive impact is to ditch the facial cleaning wipes – the are made from plastic and are pretty much indestructible! Go get yourself a nice facial wash and a good ‘ol face cloth 😉



I buy all of my make-up from the award-winning UK family owned brand PHB Ethical Beauty  – my favourite products are the Bontanical BB Cream and the All in One Natural Mascara. PHB products are natural, handmade, vegan, ethical, and affordable (what more could you ask for?!)

For the past 18 months I have been using Neal’s Yard cleanser, toner, moisturiser, face mask, exfoliater and body balm – I love the products and the brand’s ethos! This is another great brand with UK origins that are all about natural, organic ingredients. Their products are handmade in Dorest using ethically sourced essential oils, herbs, and botanicals. They have been carbon neutral since 2008 – pretty impressive! You can read more about their ethical and sustainability commitments here.

In terms of what I use in the shower, such as Lush shampoo bars, I covered that in my Clean Cleaning post here.

There are of course plenty of other ethical and sustainable cosmetic brands, the list below was published in late 2018 by the UK Ethical Consumer magazine.

No.1 is Lucy Bee, a brand which I love and actually use for cooking ingredients such as coconut oil and cacao powder. Lucy launched a coconut based cosmetics range in late 2018 and it is getting rave reviews. I might have try some of them out when I am due for replacements 🙂


REN is brand which doesn’t appear on this list but it may not have been reviewed as it is a US brand. I have heard great things about them and have considered purchasing some things in the past (but my loyalty to Neal’s Yard took hold :))

When you are choosing which brands to buy from, remember that while you will pay more than the high street brands, they are of higher quality, last for ages and are SO much better for your skin and the environment. Remember, good skin care is a long term investment 😉


P.S. I don’t go anywhere without a stick of Burt’s Bees’s lip balm!


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