Beauty editor Frankie Rozwadowska goes green for Earth Day
Cosmetics with a conscience.
N ext week sees the celebration of Earth Day – when the world will come together to highlight the importance of protecting our planet – addressing issues from climate change to promoting a greener future for generations to come.
You may think you’ve got being green sussed. We all reuse plastic bags and turn the lights off when we leave a room, right? But how environmentally friendly is your beauty regime? And how green can it be? Pretty vivid, actually. Selecting your beauty products wisely is no longer just cosmetic – it makes a difference to the state of our planet, too.
From watching out for harmful chemicals (that don’t do your skin much good either) to buying brands that embrace all things eco – Kiehl’s Rare Earth Collection, for example, was created in honour of Earth Day and to support the Emirates Environmental Group (a percentage of all sales will be donated to it and its planet perfecting work) – it’s never been easier to do your bit. Take it from us, your quest to get gorgeous whilst going green starts here.
We all worry about what we put in our bodies, so it makes sense we should worry about what we put on them. Products are packed with an endless list of things we can’t pronounce that are most certainly not the work of Mother Nature. From sulphates in shampoos to carcinogens in sun creams, chemicals can lead to seriously damaging problems for the planet, but also affect our skin. Just as eating a clean, natural diet keeps us happy and healthy, using natural and organic products keeps skin smiling sans nasties. Simple. And with over 60 per cent of what we put on our skin being absorbed straight into the blood stream (the skin is our largest organ, after all) this is something of great importance.
Dr Lamees Hamdan, creator of luxury, natural skincare brand Shiffa Dubai, agrees. “Our bodies are extremely effective in dealing with pollutants, but in this day and the sea they become a persistent pollutant to marine life. According to studies by the 5 Gyres Institute (which works to reduce plastics production), they are ingested by wildlife and damage sea organisms with their toxicity. So who’s taking action? New York is set to become the first US state to ban microbeads from products completely, with the likes of Proctor & Gamble, The Body Shop, L’Oréal and Johnson & Johnson vowing to end plastic bead production. There’s even an app Beat The Microbead that tells you which products contain the microbeads simply by scanning the barcode on the product with your smart phone. Should a green symbol appear, you’re good to go – that brand uses natural exfoliants. See an orange glow and you know the company is phasing them out. But a red hue indicates a microbead nightmare to be put straight back on the shelf (for more info go to www.beatthemicrobead.org).
Rest assured Ren’s Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser (Dh150, Harvey Nichols, The Dubai Mall) contains no nasties, just uplifting, detoxifying extracts of juniper and peppermint oil and natural beads made from jojoba wax. We love.
Products are packed with an endless list of things that are certainly not the work of Mother Nature
age, where we have pollution in the air we breathe, additives and chemicals in the food we eat and the water we drink, we are exhausting our bodies’ own defence mechanisms. That is why I believe at least the products we use on our face and body should not add to this chemical onslaught.”
On that note, here are some key chemical culprits to watch out for.
When you’re next in search of a facial or body scrub, opt for one that will slough off dead skin without the use of plastic. That’s right – many of us have been pummelling plastic into our skin in the hope of a smoother complexion, completely unawares.
Not only are these microbeads (any one product can contain upwards of 1,000) harsh on the skin, they’re not biodegradable. So when they swirl around your sink, into your pipes and out to
Bubbles and lathers
Nothing quite beats the rich, luscious lather of a bubble bath or a deliciously frothy shampoo. But there’s bad news. When a product foams it’s a sure sign of sulphates – salts, acid derivatives, and peroxides. Sulphates are found in most of our bathroom cabinets –
face washes, shower gels and bubble baths and even mouthwashes (that should never foam up) contain them. In fact, they’re the most commonly used chemicals in beauty products across the board, with Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) being the top two. Look at the ingredient list on any product mentioned and we guarantee most, if not all, will contain these two top players. You’ll find them in most of your domestic cleaning products too, so essentially you’re using floor cleaner on your face.
Sulphates do contain low-level carcinogens (substances involved in the forming of cancers) and are known irritants to our skin, eyes and respiratory tracts. As we only use small amounts of sulphate-containing products, the levels are deemed safe for consumer use, but let’s face it – over time harsh chemicals aren’t going to do your hair or skin any good.
Once these chemicals enter seas and oceans they are toxic to fish and aquatic animals too, building up inside their bodies as they can’t be broken down.
So say bye to bad news bubbles and try the Davines Authentic Cleansing Nectar, which gently cleanses and hydrates both skin and hair with 98 per cent natural ingredients for a wonderful, wildlife-friendly wash. (Dh115 from The Purple Sanctuary).
We are constantly being told to wear sunscreen, slathering on the highest of SPFs to ward off premature ageing and protect against the risk of sunburn and the onset of skin cancer.
So sun creams must be the longterm saviours for our skin, right? Well, actually, that’s not the case. More than half of sunscreens contain oxybenzone, which is added to absorb ultraviolet light. But this chemical is also linked to hormone disruption and cellular damage shown to provoke cancer according to The Environmental Working Group and toxicology experts in their in-depth 2012 Sunscreen guide.
Add to this retinyl palmitate, a type of vitamin A, and you’re at even higher risk of creating cancer cells. (America’s National Toxicology Program is in the process of investigating this, determining what levels of Vitamin A are safe when exposed to sunlight.)
CNN recently reported on government-funded studies that have found “this particular type of vitamin A may increase risk of skin cancer when used on sunexposed skin”. These studies have only been conducted on mice so the effects on humans are yet to be determined. But to make The Environmental Working Group’s safe list, sunscreens must be free of oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, not have SPF above 50 and protect against UVA and UVB sunrays. On top of this, most products are petroleum-
Once these chemicals enter the oceans they are toxic to fish, building up inside their bodies
based and not biodegradable, which is cause for alarm when, according
to the Journal of Environmental Health
Perspectives, about 6,000 tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers and threaten coral reefs by bleaching and infecting the coral communities.
For all-round safe sun protection, go for The Organic Pharmacy’s Cellular Protection Sun Cream – a natural mineral sunscreen that protects skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays whilst nourishing with Aloe, Rose Hip and Shea Butter. (Dh225 from Sisters Beauty Lounge).
They may blast bacteria and keep germs at bay, but hand washes and liquid soaps contain the catastrophe-causing chemical Triclosan, an active anti-bacterial found in over 75 per
cent of liquid washes as well as hand gels and anti-bacterial wipes.
Originally used in hospitals, it was adopted into consumer cosmetics in the 1990s. Only now has it been recognised as a health hazard. Linked to liver toxicity and thyroid disruption, it has also been said to encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
It becomes dangerous when mixed with water as it reacts with chlorine content. The US Food and Druf Administration (FDA) has given manufacturers until 2016 to prove Triclosan is more beneficial than plain old soap and water (according to its 2013 research, it’s not) or products will be pulled from retail shelves.
It’s also highly toxic to aquatic life and algae, creating immense suffering for sea-life. But thanks to Mother Nature there are many natural alternatives to chemicalladen hand washes. Neal’s Yard Remedies use the zesty antibacterial properties of lemon essential oil in their Citrus Hand Wash to work magic on mitts without spoiling our seas (Dh110 at Neal’s Yard Remedies).
Brands that give back
The good news is many brands are now taking action when it comes to the environment, and not just with ingredients. One of the most popular ways is a new recycling push. Customers who return empty packaging for refills are rewarded with a beauty bonus. With 45 per cent of product packaging being dumped into landfills, it’s an easy and effective way to do your bit. MAC has launched Back To MAC, whereupon returning six empties you can pick a lipstick of your choice. Lush asks for five black pots back in return for a fresh face mask, and at Kiehl’s if you return a single empty this April you get a Number 1 Kiehl’s Lip Balm.
This is just the tip of the (albeit melting) iceberg. Now most major brands are joining the eco-revolution, recognising their responsibility to creating cosmetics that care. Some strive to source ingredients from sustainable, fair-trade farms around the world in support of both the environment and local communities. Davines use renewable energy to power its offices and Shiffa Dubai uses organic argan oil sourced from a women’s cooperative in Morocco, while The Body Shop has 25 Community Fair Trade suppliers around the world.
What you put on your body matters as much as what you put in it
Hand wash Dh110 Sun cream Dh225 Cleanser Dh115 exfoliator Dh150