Ethical Consumption: Choosing sustainable cosmetics

Sustainable living can very well include a wide variety of products that is used on a daily basis. The cosmetic industry has been under a lot of fire lately due to the chemicals that they use in their products. Annie Leonard's Story of Cosmetics is an eye-opening short clip of the amount of chemicals we regularly douse ourselves with. These have been linked with cancers, reproductive disorders and environmental pollution. In the effort to created green products, cosmetic companies focus on various aspects of environmental awareness. Body Shop focuses on ethical sourcing and community upliftment, others focus on environmental awareness like Yves Rocher which has planted more than 5 million trees.

Packaging has always been a controversial issue in the industry and many companies are doing their bit like my personal favourite, Lush which offers 65% of its products with no packaging at all. Lush also hand-makes their cosmetics with little or no preservatives and have been involved in various social causes and have proactively banned palm oil in their products. They are also one of the few companies that offer deodorant without aluminium and other harmful ingredients. Aveda uses PET bottles made of 100% post-consumer content.

Burt's Bees is also another company ensuring that their products remain as eco-friendly as possible. They do not use petroleum products in their range and substitute that with bees wax. Physicians Formula has two great ranges of green products. Their Organic Wear Makeup is free of harsh-chemicals, parabens and synthetic preservatives. These come packed in eco-friendly packaging and they also have a range that comes in sustainable bamboo packaging. Bare Escentuals was one of the first companies to come out with all organic, mineral-based makeup products.

St. Ives has introduced paraben and phthalate-free lotions, shampoos and shower gels. Parabens and phthalates along with sodium laureth sulfate are some of the most controversial ingredients used in cosmetic products today. They are found in almost all products and cause harm to human and environmental health. The Body Shop has newly introduced a Rainforest range of products that contain none of these harmful chemicals. Avalon Organics and Aveda also have a great range of paraben-free products.

There are many organizations working towards to increasing health and environmental awareness of the issue. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is one of them and they say to avoid the following chemicals in cosmetics whenever possible: Butyl acetate, Butylated hydroxytoluene, Coal tar, Cocamide DEA/lauramide DEA, Diazolidinyl urea, Ethyl acetate, Formaldehyde, Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl), Petrolatum, Phthalates, Propylene glycol, Sodium laureth/sodium laurel sulfate, Talc, Toluene and Triethanolamine.

The list of sustainable options in cosmetics grows endlessly but it is important to be wary of green-washing and only trust brands that have been certified by various organizations like EcoCert, USDA organic which are recognized in over 80 countries. I also find it very useful to swing by your local farmer's market as many people there do offer home-made cosmetic products.

When it comes to the use of cosmetic products, less is more and if all else fails... there is always home remedies.