How Your Beauty Products are Impacting the Environment

Personal care products and pollution. I have always said that if your oceans and rivers are polluted, you need to look at what you are putting on and around your body. We are dealing with many more inflammatory skin conditions, premature aging and hyper-pigmentation on the skin and body than ever before, mostly a result from urban pollution. Could your products be a culprit? Not to mention the damage your products could be causing the planet. The cosmetic industry is one of the least regulated in the country. The FDA does not require approval for most ingredients used in makeup and skincare products. That means companies are allowed to use almost any raw material they’d like in their products. Including harmful and toxic chemicals, and synthetics.

Ingredients (including harmful chemicals) can enter your bloodstream within seconds. Just imagine what those ingredients are doing to the environment.

Every morning and night when you wash your face or take a shower, you’re washing off any chemicals from the products you’ve used during the day. Those chemicals go down the drain and into the sewer system, and eventually into our rivers and oceans. Scum builds up more readily in your shower due to the chemicals. We notice a decrease in the level of residue when switching to green products.

Take a look at the products you’re currently using and take note of the ingredients. Are any of them potentially harmful chemicals? Notice how much packaging has been used as well. Not only for the tubes and containers you have, but the boxes and plastic they were packaged in before. Plastic has become a huge problem for our landfills and oceans. They don’t break down easily, so they can be around for hundreds of years. Fish, and other wildlife can confuse plastic for food, or become trapped.

There’s a chance you are using multiple harmful products daily. It could be your shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, shaving products, sunscreen, lotion, makeup, etc.

For more info on the dangers of these ingredient to your own body and health, read this blog.

While all chemicals have the potential to cause harm to the environment and animals, there are 10 common chemicals that have been found more often, or in larger quantities in oceans and aquatic animals. They’ve all been studied and found to cause harm to the ocean, coral reef, fish, and/or other animals.


BHA & BHT are popular preservatives, often found in products like moisturizers, perfume, and makeup. These chemicals have been known to kill fish and causes genetic mutations in amphibians.


P-phenylenediamine can be found in dark hair coloring or lipstick. It has been linked to the deaths of many aquatic animals.

Dibutyl phthalate or DBP

This chemical is often found in nail polish. It has been linked to the death of aquatic animals and plant plankton. It’s been shown to alter the behavior, growth, and cause developmental problems in fish.


Triclocan is used as a preservative and antibacterial agent in skin cleansers, toothpaste, deodorant, soaps, and more. It can change the biochemistry of fish, aquatic plants, and amphibians. It even has the potential to cause long-term effects. Triclocan can also interact with other chemicals in the water to form other toxic chemicals called dioxins.

Diethanolamine or DEA

DEA can be found in almost any cosmetic and skincare product, most commonly in moisturizers, sunscreens, soap and shampoo. It is extremely toxic to fish, amphibians, animal plankton and more.

Exfoliating microbeads

Exfoliating is damaging to your skin, but the little plastic beads in some exfoliants can be dangerous for aquatic animals as well. They’re gathering in lakes and oceans and transferring chemicals into the water system. These chemicals could also vaporize into the clouds and come back as rain. Fish and other wildlife mistake these tiny beads as food, and eat them, causing damage to their digestive tracts. Some of your products may contain microbeads without you realizing it. Check your toothpaste, sunscreen, lip gloss, shampoo and soap. A single product could contain around 350,000 beads. Product labels might also list them as micro-abrasives, polypropylene, or polyethylene.

Synthetic fragrance

Synthetic fragrances are found in many products, including shampoo, perfume, soap, cleansers, creams, cleaning products and more. Over 3,000 chemicals can be used as fragrances. Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore, can remain undisclosed, making it hard to know whether the fragrance formula contains toxic chemicals. Wastewater treatment plants don’t break down fragrances, so they’re able to go into rivers and oceans via sewage discharge.


Silicones are used in anti-aging products, creams, lotions, makeup, hair care products and more. High levels of this chemical have been found in Nordic countries within the fish. When fish consume materials like this, we in turn could potentially be consuming them as well, after eating the fish.


Oxybenzone is also known as Benzophenone-3. It is commonly found in sunscreens. So, when we swim, the chemicals are being easily transferred into the oceans. Showering sunscreen off can also lead it down the drain and into the rivers and oceans. Oxybenzone is toxic to coral and is a contributor to the decline of reefs around the world. High concentrations were found around coral reefs in Hawaii and the Caribbean. A very small amount can cause a lot of damage. Between 6,000-14,000 metric tons of sunscreen lotion ends up in coral reef areas each year. Be very careful about the sunscreen you use on your skin. Not only does it cause damage to the environment, but it could also be damaging to your health. Read this blog for more info.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

SLS is found in products that create suds or lather like shampoo, body wash, foundation, face wash, mouthwash, toothpaste, and more. The problem with SLS is that it is derived from Palm Oil, which you may already know is difficult to harvest. In order to do so, mass deforestation is occurring. Avoid SLS and SLES in all personal care products for your own health. When buying products containing Palm Oil, look for sustainable options, marked as 100% RSPO certified Palm Oil.  There are some wonderful companies growing sustainable palm forests specifically for harvesting palm oil in order to protect forests and natural habitats.

Be mindful and be aware of what you’re using on your face and body. Avoid chemicals at all costs, not just for your own health, but for the health of the environment. Avoid using synthetic wipes for babies, makeup remover, or other purposes. They don’t break down and can clog up landfill sites and sewage systems. When blockages occur in the sewage system, raw sewage overflows into the rivers and oceans. We often hear the stories of the effects of plastic, excess carbon dioxide emissions, etc. but we rarely hear about the effects our cosmetics could be having on the earth. What goes on your body, goes into the earth. And just think, if the rivers and oceans are polluted around you, so are you. Think about the chemicals that could be coming from you. Take care of the space you take up on this planet, make good decisions, be mindful clean and green.