How Your Beauty Ingredients Affect the Environment

Finding the right beauty routine is more than figuring out which products live up to their promises, it’s also discovering which ingredients you feel good about using. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health estimate that by the time we walk out of the door in the morning, the average American is exposed to more than 100 chemicals from personal care products. This is largely because the beauty industry is self-regulated — meaning Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval isn’t necessary to prevent mislabeling or greenwashing. Compared to the 11 toxic chemicals banned in the United States, the European Union bans over 1,300 in cosmetics and other personal care products. 

Though the U.S. as a whole hasn’t caught up in regulating cosmetics, that’s where clean brands like Innersense Organic Beauty step in to take it in our own hands in providing safe cosmetics for all. Your health and the environmental impact of our ingredients is always top of mind and we commit to the highest standards of clean beauty. Innersense Organic Beauty is globally compliant and EU Certified. In honor of Earth Month, we’re shedding some light on the most common beauty ingredients that have a negative environmental effect. Learn more below about why there’s no time like now to make the switch to clean — for our bodies and our planet. 

Silicones

Silicones are often in conventional hair cleansers, conditions, styling products, and treatments that are designed to prevent frizz and add shine. Though they make your hair look and feel good in the moment, they could make hair appear duller and weaker in the long run, plus lead to buildup. Though silicone isn’t a toxic ingredient, producing it uses hydrocarbons derived from petroleum, it’s also not biodegradable — it washes down the drain and deposits into oceans where it can accumulate inside wildlife, taking decades to break down. 

Tip: Most ingredients that end with “-cone” or contain the prefix PEG are indicative of silicone ingredients. Common ingredients include dimethicone, cyclomethicone, and cyclohexasiloxane

Microplastics

Microplastics are any piece of tiny plastic under 5 mm. They can typically be found in exfoliating ingredients (like exfoliating face washes and scalp scrubs), but can also pop up in hair dye, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, and moisturizers to help emulsify the formula. Per the UN Environment Programme, 51 trillion microplastic particles are already floating around in our oceans. Since they don’t biodegrade, they stick to bacteria and waterborne toxins. They can look like food to sea animals and consumed by fish, insects, and other marine life. Recent studies have even found microplastics in the placenta of newborn babies

Tip: The ingredients ​ polyethylene (PE), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), nylon, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and polypropylene (PP) are indicative of microplastic in your products.

Parabens

Parabens are used as a non-irritating food-grade preservative to control microbial growth in cosmetic preparations. In other words, paraben extends a product’s shelf life. Though more research is needed about its toxicity, parabens have been shown in studies to act as endocrine disruptors, mimicking estrogen in the body; it’s also been linked to breast cancer. Additionally, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), low levels of parabens have the ability to kill coral during laboratory testing.   

Tip: Look for these common parabens on your conventional cosmetic ingredient labels — methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, and isobutylparaben.

Phthalates

These salts, or ester of phthalic acid, are used to add flexibility and dissolve other ingredients. Phthalates can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled through the everyday items that you touch and interact with. Studies have shown that one type of phthalate, benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), causes endocrine disrupting effects in fish as well as long-term adverse effects to birds and mammals as a result of food chain exposures.

Tip: Phthalates are commonly abbreviated on your conventional ingredient lists as: DEP, BBP, BBzP, DBP, and DEHP.

Polyquaterniums

Polyquaterniums are cationic polymers that are mainly used in shampoo and conditioner products as emollients to leave it feeling soft and moisturized. It also protects hair from getting flyaways and frizzy when the hair is dried. While there is limited research on these ingredients, they have been shown to have irritating effects in higher concentrations and because it is a polymer, even when used at low levels, like silicones, Polyquaterniums, have the ability to accumulate/ build up on the hair shaft. Additionally, some studies have linked polyquats to toxicity in aquatic life.

Sulfates/SLA/SLES

Sulfates are used in the manufacture of synthetic soaps, face washes, detergents, emollient creams, and shampoos (like sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate). When it comes to shampoos, it’s the ingredient that gives it that bubbly lather. As a surfactant, it attracts both oil and water so it’s a common ingredient incorporated into cleansers for its ability to easily wash away dirt from your hair. When those sulfates travel down your shower drain and eventually empty into local bodies of water, it can have toxic effects on aquatic plants and marine life. Furthermore, according to the World Wildlife Fund, many sulfates originate from palm oil, which destroy tropical rainforests that are usually home to endangered species like tigers, elephants, and orangutans. 

Tip: The two main types of sulfates used in conventional shampoos are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. 

1,4-Dioxane/Ethoxylates/Phenoxyethanol

1,4-dioxane isn’t a standalone ingredient used in cosmetics per se, but rather a contaminant. These are ethoxylates and a result of the ethoxylation process and are a known carcinogen that contaminates cosmetics products during the manufacturing process. Companies have to take extra precautions to remove this contaminant, but because it is costly and slows down the production process, many companies opt not to take measures to remove them. When dioxane is introduced into our aquatic ecosystem and our environment, it increases fish and insect mortality. In NYC, this chemical is banned due to it’s cancer-causing effects when it accumulates in ground water.

Ethylene oxide is one of 187 pollutants that Congress classified as “hazardous air pollutants,” also called “air toxics,” says the EPA. Phenoxyethanol is a synthetic preservative found in conventional shampoo, hair dye, hairspray, conditioner, and other cosmetics. It has shown to have a deadly effect on insects and a harming effect on marine life

Tip: Since 1,4-dioxane isn’t an ingredient, you won’t find it on ingredient labels. To avoid exposure, you can purchase cosmetics certified under the USDA National Organic Program or avoid products that contain SLS, PEG, or chemicals that include xynol, ceteareth, and oleth per the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. 

Tip: Though most conventional products have concentrations of phenoxyethanol that’s lower than 0.6% and claim that the ingredient is safe under 2%, we choose to avoid it entirely in Innersense Organic Beauty products. 

Synthetic Fragrances

Aside from being a common source of allergic reactions or chemical sensitivities to your beauty products, it turns out synthetic fragrances could also be adding to climate change. Studies show that the amount of chemical vapors emitted into the air from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in scented products is about the same as the amount of petroleum burned as fuel. 

Tip: According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, when you find “fragrance” on an ingredient list, it’s a catch-all term that can mean just about anything in an effort to hide potentially toxic ingredients. Also, remember that not all products that have a scent are bad for you! You’ll find “perfume of natural oils” in Innersense Organic Beauty products. It is an EU complaint and denotes a combination of natural oils designed by Mother Nature. 

Our Clean Promise

We believe clean beauty should be safe for the people and the planet. We consider both human and environmental health in our carefully crafted formulations. Here’s a refresher on the specific ways we commit to sustainable, clean hair care:

  • Our natural ingredients are grown organically and sustainably without chemicals. Ethically harvested and sourced from trusted, transparent plantations, orchards and farms from around the world
  • Our products are formulated through conscious chemistry; cold-pressed, distilled or otherwise processed without synthetics to preserve purity
  • Our entire collection is free of phthalates, ethoxylates, sulfates, silicones, 1,4 dioxane, parabens, petro compounds, propylene and butylene glycol, PEG, MEA, TEA, MIA, EDTA artificial dyes or synthetic fragrances
  • Our products have high concentrations of key ingredients, which means less water
  • They’re gluten-free, cruelty-free, and non-GMO

We partner with 1% for the Planet to contribute one percent of annual sales to environmental causes and as a Certified B Corp, we meet the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance. While we’re particularly amped during Earth Month to promote better ways to treat our planet, it’s a philosophy that’s embedded into our DNA throughout the entire year. Whether you’re new to Innersense Organic Beauty or long-time believers of clean and safe cosmetics, it’s time for all of us to do our part by using eco-friendly beauty products.

3 Comments

  • leoslove2win says:

    Love this! I tell everyone that soon there will be safe clean products at our corner store!! The market is out there! The cost might seem more expensive but you only need a small amount that goes a long way better for you and the environment it’s more cost effective because it will last 3 times longer which is cheaper!

  • These are the cleanes, most effective products for my hair I have ever used. Plus my hair is more manageable thane ever.

  • These are the cleanest, most effective products that I have ever used. Plus my hair is much more manageable and easier to style.

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