Inside Plastic: How the Ingredients in Your Beauty Products Harm the Planet

Plastic. It’s probably one of the most used words in the sphere of sustainability over the past couple of years. We all know that single-use plastic cups, straws and water bottles are bad news for the environment, and generally the population have gracefully accepted sustainable alternatives that are better for themselves and for the planet. When it comes to plastic within beauty, there has again been a major focus on the packaging of products, the type of plastic used and whether it can be recycled. However, it’s not just the plastic on the outside of our cosmetic go-tos that is the only cause for concern; what is going on inside?

In January 2018 the news broke that microbeads in toiletries such as face wash, scrubs and even toothpaste had been banned in territories like the UK and Canada. These staple beauty items used to contain microplastics which added to the bulk or the exfoliation properties of the products, and not only would these microscopic remains end up in our water systems, but as they were designed to be used on the face, body and even in the mouth, the chances of these minuscule amounts of plastic entering our bodies was extremely high. According to Cosmetify, consumers are consciously making plastic-free choices and 65% of the British beauty community is deliberately hunting down products with minimal plastic wastage, such as swapping toothpastes or choosing eco-glitter; but it may be more present than you think. 

Plastic isn’t solely found in scrubs and wipes, but haircare also traditionally has a multitude of plastic-based ingredients that are designed to seal strands but can end up coating hair before being washed down the drain to our seas. Hair salons such as Tabitha James Kraan and Karine Jackson are passionate about plastic – specifically, about not using it in their salons and products.

Tabitha James Kraan created a range of organic haircare which is completely natural. It still nourishes whilst being toxic and plastic free. Our scalp is one of the most absorbent areas of our skin, so tipping toxins on our tresses will soak straight into our blood stream. Not only this, but if your hair cleansing or conditioning product contains plastic elements, all the excess that’s not hanging with our haemoglobin, will be dumped down the drain before swirling into our oceans and entering ecosystems. All in all; not good. Using a plastic-free, natural shampoo alternative like her Organic Hair Cleanser instead ensures the safety of your scalp and reduces the risk of plastic polluting your health.

Karine Jackson has long been a pioneer of the plastic-free movement, and she has recently gone as far as banning all single-use coffee cups and plastic bottles from her salon. All the staff use reusable drinkware and she recently hosted an event with Lucy Siegle, author of Turning the Tide on Plastic, to bring awareness to the single use plastic and plastic reduction movement. Not only are tangible singe-use plastic items banned from Karine’s salon, but Organic Colour Systems, (which is a line of vegan, cruelty free and non-toxic hair products) is used on clients, and not a single item in this range contains plastic. Good for us and great for the planet. 

It is wonderful to see salons committing to plastic-free choices, but making a switch at home to more eco-friendly and non-toxic alternatives can be as easy as a reshuffle in your bathroom cabinet. Plenty of brands are taking a fresh approach to plastic and are using more sustainable picks, both outside and inside their products and we have picked some our favourite vegan, plastic-free products below:



Using old coffee grounds from cafes around London, Upcircle believe that natural ingredients are the key to making skin healthier and more radiant, and if they can make products from ingredients that would have normally ended up in landfill, then all the better. Their whole range is 100% natural, with no plastics in sight (including the packaging, which is 99% plastic-free). We love their coffee face scrubs; the potent hit of coffee combined with essential oils gives the gentle facial exfoliator a real boost and leaves your skin looking soft, smooth and rejuvenated. 


A fact little-known to most lipstick lovers: this beauty staple can actually be packed with toxic nasties and even plastic particles. Considering how much lipstick the average woman ends up eating in her lifetime (it’s roughly 9lbs!) it’s important to keep tabs on your lipstick choices. Axiology are passionate about lipstick that is not only safe for those who wear it, but for the people who make it, ensuring its safe for animals and the planet too. That’s why they never test on animals, use only vegan ingredients, are palm oil free and synthetic fragrance free and are PETA-certified. Their products contain the fewest ingredients of any lipstick on the market and even their packaging is made from recycled materials. 


Codex blends ancient Irish herbal knowledge with modern science, to create a pure, yet potent vegan skincare line with all-natural ingredients. Partnering with local organic producers, the products are developed with high-tech methods and brings together researchers, foragers and scientists for skincare that is good for us and the planet with no added nasties. 



Made from 100% cotton and nothing else, Ohne are a fem-care brand with a difference. Scarily, companies don’t have to specify what they exactly put in their tampons and there is anything from mildly toxic ingredients to single use plastic packaging, which is damaging for our bodies and our planet. Ohne contains absolutely no synthetic fibres, fragrances, dyes or residues of pesticides or herbicides and are totally biodegradable (including all the packaging!).


Ben and Anna Deodorants

Ben & Anna Natural Soda deodorants are made with soda bicarbonate and arrowroot extract, alongside a mix of plant and seed oils, as well as essential oils which keep you dry, fresh and smelling great. They are also packaged in paper tubes which are completely recyclable. 


With plastic-stemmed cotton buds due to be banned in England in April 2020, now is a great time to discover eco-alternatives. It’s estimated that around 1.8 billion cotton buds are used each year and about 10% are flushed down toilets, which is detrimental to the ocean life and all the ecosystems that come into contact with them. With a few months until the ban is enforced, why not try  Hydrophil swabs today, made from bamboo and cotton, with not an ounce of plastic in sight. 


Dental hygiene can be one of the biggest uses of plastic that consumers use day-to-day. From particles within toothpaste, to toothbrushes and even the coating on floss, it can be a plastic-packed nightmare. Brushd aim to tackle this problem and have a range of toothpaste tablets that are great for your teeth and even better for the planet. They have been formulated with optimum oral health in mind and  the brushes themselves as well as the packaging are plastic-free.

Yes To 

Yes To Tomatoes Blemish Clearing Facial Wipes are a biodegradable alternative to the often plastic packed wipes commonly used. The paraben-free and cruelty-free formula protects skin from environmental radicals, and unclogs pores for a fresh, cleansed face, with no drying out or sensitivity.


Verdant Alchemy

Made in small batches in London, Verdant Alchemy are a natural bath and body brand that uses the powerful properties of plants combined with minerals to create powerful products that help alleviate stress. We love the mineral bath salts, with only natural ingredients (no plastic here!) – these products are high in magnesium and 21 other minerals that helps to balance your mind and body for deep rest and relaxation. 



Lush have brought out a range of totally ‘naked’ products, which can be stored in tins and enabling them to do away with any kind of packaging whatsoever. The storage tins can be used over and over, resulting in a total absence of single-use plastic. As well as these external plastic-free pioneering moves, a lot of the products themselves are totally natural and contain no nasties, chemicals or plastic.



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Header photo by Brittany Neale via Unsplash. Upcircle and Verdant Alchemy photos via respective brands. Lush photo by Jessica White.


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Lauren Wigley

A passionate vegan and serious animal lover, Lauren is a beauty fanatic with a passion for mindfulness and nature. Loving dog mum to Jack Russell Penny, she lives in London where she is constantly on the hunt for the latest in cruelty free beauty, yoga classes and tasty vegan snacks to share with the world via lifestyle blog

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