Full disclosure: I’m a total sucker for natural beauty products. Is it natural and smells nice? Shut up and take my money! But the thing is, the more I try to transition to a greener, more natural/non-toxic beauty routine and try to be a more conscious consumer, the more I wonder: is “natural” even a registered label or are there any other labels I should keep an eye out instead?
While I’m not an expert and don’t plan on discussing natural vs. synthetic ingredients in beauty products, I’d like to address a few other labels that - now that I’ve read on it more - seem more important than “natural”:
While “natural” is all the rage right now, the problem is that there is no standard or certificate controlling the use of that term so companies can use it (way too) freely as long as they list at least a few natural ingredients (amongst all the synthetic ones). But to be certified organic, you need to be fully transparent and it involves a verification process of the quality and handling of ingredients. I think it’s fair to say we’re all up for environmental sustainability and everything that comes with it.
Cakaulevu Reef, Fiji. Photo: Stuart Chape.
While you might think that every so-called natural product is safe for the environment, that’s not the case, especially when it comes to sunscreen. Sunscreens with chemical filters like oxybenzone have been proven to cause coral bleaching, which basically means that our sunscreens are killing coral reefs. What can we do about it? Next time, rather than buying a regular sunscreen with a chemical filter, choose a mineral based sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide with non-nano particles that are too big to be ingested by corals. Reef-safe sunscreens are the way to go and one step towards caring for our oceans besides reducing our plastic waste. If you’d like to know more about corals and why they are in peril, there’s a great documentary on Netflix called Chasing Coral, in case you need a movie idea for your next Netflix & chill date.
Cruelty-free basically means not tested on animals and I’m sure you’ve seen that leaping bunny logo on some of the products before. Animal testing is one of the main things I don’t want to support as a consumer. I don’t want animals suffering so I can “safely” use a certain beauty product. If this is something you’d like to keep in mind when purchasing your cosmetics as well, there’s an app called Cruelty Cutter which lets you scan the barcode of the product and it tells you if it’s cruelty-free or not. You can also use Cruelty-Free International website to help you find products not tested on animals. And that brings me to my next point …
There are tons of ingredients commonly used in our beauty products that are actually derived from animals: collagen (protein from animal tissue), retinol (a potent source of vitamin A), lanolin (excretion from wool-bearing mammals) and carmine (red colourant derived from insects), to name just a few (if you’re interested in them all - here’s Peta’s list of all animal ingredients). Pretty gross, right? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any of that anywhere near my face and body.
Sustainable palm oil
Palm oil is a staple ingredient in so many beauty (and food) products it’s almost impossible to buy a product without it. The good news is, we don’t have to avoid it, we just need to search for products containing its sustainable version. Non-sustainable palm oil is causing deforestation and is (not so) slowly wiping out orangutans while also causing exploitation of workers and child labor ... pretty much everything we want to avoid so maybe it’s time to put our money where our mouth is and remind those big corporations that things need to change.
And why do all of these labels matter and how is it all connected to yoga? In the West, we normally focus on postures or asana part of yoga but based on the eight limbs of yoga (of which asana is one), one of the important parts of the practice is also ahimsa or non-harming - and it doesn’t only apply to fellow humans but also animals, plants and the environment in general.
Although it would be amazing if we could get cruelty-free, vegan, sustainable and certified organic everything, the thing is that a lot of those products are usually quite a lot more expensive than all the regular ones without these “fancy” labels.
So what do we do?
The important thing to remember is that we all do what we can and just because our beauty routine might not be the most environmentally-friendly or “green” or vegan, that doesn’t mean we’re not doing the best that we can and helping the environment (and our bodies) staying healthy in our own ways. And in the end, that’s what counts!
Dreamer, creator, lover, yogi.