Five things in your vanity that are harming the environment

Header image by Ana Gonzales

As makeup junkies and skincare fanatics, we clearly fixate a lot on things that make US beautiful that it’s easy to forget that our consumption patterns may affect the environment. The sad truth is that the little things, however insignificant they may seem, form into a collective problem that has irreversible effects on the planet.

We've previously listed environmentally-friendly beauty brands that create great products but if you want to lessen your contribution to "garbage islands", you may want to consider ridding your dressing table of these common culprits.

 Images via and

Images via and

Cotton buds

The harmful component: Your favorite tool for cleaning up small makeup mishaps often have a plastic stem that holds the buds and, you guessed it, these things aren't biodegradable.

The effect: They end up in landfills, sewers, and eventually the ocean, harming marine life and washing up disgusting trash on our beaches. Sure, maybe you just use them one at a time, but eventually you will finish up that pack of 100 and so will many others. Add that all up and you've got yourself a pile of little plastic stems larger than the blue whale.

The alternative: First, don’t flush buds down the drain. This seems obvious but apparently, a significant amount of people do this. Fix botched eyeliner with concealer, or at least choose buds with paper stems. They are less likely to escape the sewers and will biodegrade at some point. Simply check the label for “paper stems” and get these ones from Sanicare.

 Garbage image via Ashley Shelton

Garbage image via Ashley Shelton

All The Bottles

The harmful component: Whether it's empty or a dud, you might be throwing out a foundation bottle or tube of cleanser made of plastic that will outlast the apocalypse.

The effect: Not only do they last for centuries but chemicals added to plastics can potentially be absorbed by our bodies and affect our health. When plastics are buried in landfills, the chemicals can seep into the ground and make its way into our groundwater. Animals can also inadvertently eat or be poisoned by them. It’s suddenly not so cute to not care.

The alternative: Ask your makeup counter if they have a recycling program or opt for packaging that’s made of glass or cardboard. After use, repurpose them or find programs that can recycle the waste materials. The Body Shop is one company that takes pride in recycling!

 Garbage image via

Garbage image via


The harmful component: Your favorite exfoliator might contain microbeads, those small balls of plastic that might feel good on the skin but wreak havoc in the ocean. 

The effect: Microbeads are made of polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), or even nylon. They are so tiny that standard filters used by sewage treatment plans can’t catch them all. Never mind the idea of slathering your face with tiny bits of plastic; some toothpastes also use microbeads to polish your teeth. Yeah, that realization wiped the smiles off our faces, too.

The alternative: Fortunately, many cosmetics companies carry natural exfoliants that can be dissolved by water such as salt and coffee. Opt for something like Lush’s Ocean Salt Cleanser or simply use your leftover coffee grounds!

 Images via and Liz Lanuzo

Images via and Liz Lanuzo

Wet wipes

The harmful component: Apparently cleansing wipes contain plastic fibers, too, which when disposed are non-biodegradable.

The effect: Being lazy at night has more repercussions than clogged pores as wet wipes form fatbergs in the sea. They can also be mistaken as a yummy jellyfish by turtles who inevitably die from this tragic case of mistaken identity.

The alternative: Avoid wet wipes and opt for a gentle, washable towel with a touch of cleansing oil to remove your makeup. If you don't have access to water and wipes are your only option, follow our tip to just using one wipe for your entire face and throw it in the trash instead of flushing it down.

 Images via and Human Nature

Images via and Human Nature

Chemical Sunscreen

The harmful component: Sunscreens that contain parabens, cinnamate or octinoxate, benzophenone or oxybenzone and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor are in many of our sunscreen options.

The effect: Even at low concentrations, sunscreens can actually contribute to coral bleaching, which is all bad news for our diverse reefs and and economic dependence on fishing.

The alternative: Make sure to pack reef-safe sunscreen if you're hitting the beach because you should never be without some SPF. Human Nature has two variants that offer sun protection without compromising the safety of marine life, and they're less than P500 each, too!

If you find yourself wondering why some nature-safe or organic products are pricier, think of what you're saving in exchange. Think about contributing to a safe planet for our children. Suddenly, investing in the future doesn’t seem so expensive.