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Swap This for That – Beauty Edition

There’s a Malay phrase that I like: “sedikit sedikit, lama lama menjadi bukit,” which literally means, “little by little, with time, it becomes a hill.” That’s how I imagine our landfills to look like. One plastic trash after another, piling up, never biodegrading.


People tend to underestimate the power of the everyday decisions we make. Small actions all add up to make a big difference, just like how all our trash accumulates bit by bit. By exchanging certain items that we use for an alternative that is more sustainable, we could help protect the earth that little bit more. Every small action counts.

Here are some beauty goodies that are not as innocent as you thought, that you could substitute for other things that are more environmentally friendly.

Sheet masks

Sheet masks are the holy grail in beauty and my mask time is a sacred time where I can switch off and do nothing for 20 minutes in bed. But, sheet masks is highly polluting. The single-use plastic wrapping? The un-recyclable sheet mask itself?

You don’t have to compromise beauty for the environment. Simply switch them out for gel or cream face masks that come in bottles. There are so many options out there, including these face and body masks from Lush, which are ethical, 100% vegetarian AND their containers (dubbed the black pots) are made from recycled materials. What more, Lush rewards you when you trade in 5 used and cleaned pots with a full-sized Fresh Face Mask!


Sunscreen lotion

Studies have been done on the harmful effects the chemicals from sunscreen lotions pose on our marine ecosystem. Some of the major toxic effects it has on our corals include susceptibility to bleaching and gross deformity of baby corals. To protect our reefs, be more critical when you buy your sunscreen lotions. Opt for options without chemicals that do not harm marine life.

You may think that this is not applicable if you are not going to the beach, but when we shower, sunscreen may wash off and enter eventually our waterways. Swap before it’s too late.

Chemicals in sunscreens that can harm marine life include: Oxybenzone, Benzophenone-1, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor, 3-Benzylidene camphor, nano-Titanium dioxide, nano-Zinc oxide (source)

Plastic microbeads

Plastic microbeads are prevalent in many face wash and body scrub products, as they help to exfoliate the skin. These spheres may be too tiny for the naked eye to even see and measure, but – old news! – they are causing big problems to our oceans.

Waste water filter systems are generally not made to filter out microbeads, and these minute plastics are released into our water supply system, making their way into the bodies of marine animals who mistake them for food. In turn, this may cause problems for the food chain and potentially our food supply.

Before it’s too late, ditch microbeads for natural exfoliators that you can make easily at home. The key ingredients you need are sugar and salt.


Synthetic fragrances

Synthetic fragrances are prevalant in the beauty products that we use everyday. They are in perfumes, shampoos, cleansers, moisturisers and more! Sure, they add that nice tangy scent that makes your mood that little bit brighter in the morning, and the lavender makes you calmer before bed. Unfortunately, the chemicals that create these synthetic fragrances are a bane to the environment.

In general, the chemicals are not broken down at wastewater treatment plants, so they find their way into the rivers and oceans through sewage discharge. These toxic chemicals are an unnatural addition into our waters, causing water pollution and accumulates also in the bodies of our fishes. What more, studies have revealed that they may even reduce the organism’s ability to protect itself from other toxins.

There are many natural alternatives to synthetic fragrances in the market. Otherwise, choose other natural and unscented products.

Deodorant sprays

Aerosol and compressed gases that are found in deodorant sprays are highly air polluting and they threaten to deplete our ozone layer. Antimicrobial, antifungal agents that are present in deodorants such as triclosan also threatens our water bodies and aqua ecosystem. But besides the damages they cause to our environment, there are also other health reasons to stay away from deodorant sprays, including asthma.

It really shouldn’t cost the earth or your life to keep you smelling fresh. Instead of deodorant sprays, consider roll-ons or natural alternatives, such as those in paste or powder form.

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