Why you should avoid plastics for your health
Everyone seems to be talking about the dangers of plastics these days. Plastics are durable and cost effective, however, we are just now learning of the dangerous impact plastic may have on our health and environment. In Beauty Confidential book, I also touched base on some studies on plastics, the environment, and human health.
Many talk about how harmful chemicals can leach into our food, so it is important to be well informed about how widespread plastic packaging is affecting our food.
When it comes to cosmetics and personal care products, do not discount the danger of plastic chemicals.
- Skin absorbs what is applied and some ingredients go directly into our bodily system.
- Plastic containers do not keep the integrity of natural ingredients unless chemical preservatives are used. That is why manufacturers for essential oils and minimally processed oils choose glass over plastic.
- Unfortunately, cosmetic companies do not typically evaluate whether the plastic packaging they use contains manufactured pollutants. Nor do they determine the concentration of trace elements and radioactivity in the products. Whether and how these chemicals may leach from the plastic (1) and into cosmetics therefore, is unknown to us consumers.
- Amongst many harmful chemicals, DEHP is widely used as a plasticiser to impart flexibility in many consumer plastic products. An estimated 2 billion pounds of DEHP are produced annually worldwide, making DEHP one of the most widespread synthetic environmental chemicals (2).
As consumers, it is up to us to become informed about these chemicals. You may be asking yourself What do I do now? How can I avoid purchasing products with chemical laden plastic packaging? The answer is precycling.
“Precycling” refers to the simple act of reducing hard-to-recycle waste (which most cosmetic containers are) before it starts. Practical ways to precycle include choosing:
√ Products that already have recycling solutions in place
√ Products that are packaged in materials that are easy for you to recycle locally
Since recycling personal care and beauty product packaging is slightly less straightforward than tossing an aluminum can or plastic bottle into the blue bin; opting for a precycling solution ahead of time helps to ensure your packaging will never find its way to the landfill.
Why not research those cosmetic brands who use recyclable packaging and/or provide take-back programmes for empty containers? Examples of sustainable companies even offer freebies and other incentives for recycling, proving that reducing waste is always in style.
As explained earlier, plastic containers do not keep the integrity of natural ingredients, unless chemical preservatives and additives are used. For these reasons, we can safely say that most products in plastic containers must contain at least effective (which often means harmful) preservatives. Glass and ceramic containers on the other hand might give us a good indication that it contains the high level of naturally derived ingredients.
In homemade skincare products, there are some great glass jars and bottles that we can recycle, especially food containers. A Mason jar, used traditionally to preserve food, can be also used to preserve your products, especially creams and sugar scrubs when you use enough key ingredients such as honey, sugar, lemon juice, or citric acid.
Avoid reusing containers that were used for medicine, poison, and household cleaners. And always sterilize glass containers before use.
- (1) Agardy, Franklin J., Clark, James J., and Sullivan, Patrick. Environmental Science of Drinking Water. Burlington, MA, USA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2005
- (2) National Research Council Staff. Drinking Water and Health, Volume 6. Washington, DC, USA: National Academies Press, 1986