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How Environmentally Damaging is the Cosmetics Industry?

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Environmental concerns are becoming more and more relevant with our changing climate. It's important to realise the potential damaging effects of every day products such as cosmetics on our environment.

Is the cosmetics industry environmentally damaging?

Just like every industry, the environment will be effected - and this usually is in a negative sense.

The life cycle of cosmetics

To better understand why come cosmetics may be environmentally damaging, it's important to look at the life cycle of a cosmetic product.

  1. Raw materials for cosmetics

  2. Formulation

  3. Packaged

  4. Distributed

  5. Purchased and used

  6. Disposal

Depending on the cosmetic, and it's brand - some steps can be more environmentally damaging than others.

Raw materials and ingredients:

Raw materials such as palm oil has been linked to deforestation if they haven't come from a sustainable source.

Some cosmetic formulations contain ingredients such as siloxanes which are speculated to have entered into aquatic food chains due to wash-off products.


The packaging of cosmetics usually involves some sort of plastic. Not only are these plastics usually from non-renewable sources, but they are also most likely not recycled and have to be burnt at landfill which produces harmful toxins.


Distribution of cosmetics is simply taking them from the warehouse to a retailer, or delivering it directly to the customer. The transportation of these cosmetics is most likely by van, boat or plane - which all tend to use fossil fuels and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.


Once the consumer has finished with the product, there are always boxes, tubs or other containers which need to be disposed off. Most cosmetic containers are plastic, so once again - all it does it build up on landfill.

Is the cosmetics industry all that bad?

No, there is great movement in making each step in a life cycle of a cosmetic more eco-friendly.

Brands have taken to minimising packaging, simplifying and altering their ingredients lists as well as choosing more sustainable suppliers.

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