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  • Omar

The underbelly of the makeup industry.

Remember the thrill of your first lipstick, the magic of transforming into a bolder, brighter version of yourself? The makeup industry thrives on that feeling, painting a picture of empowerment and self-expression with every carefully curated Instagram feed and glossy magazine spread. But behind the carefully constructed facade lies a truth far less glamorous: the industry's staggering environmental footprint. I've become increasingly alarmed by the parallels between the fashion industry's "fast fashion" model and the beauty industry's "disposable beauty" trend. Both prioritise fleeting trends and planned obsolescence, leaving behind a trail of waste and environmental degradation that casts a long shadow over our pursuit of beauty.


Imagine that first lipstick, not gracing your lips, but choking a sea turtle. That's the chilling reality. Every year, the makeup industry churns out a staggering 120 billion units of packaging – enough to circle the Earth, according to Euromonitor International. Think of it: lipsticks, mascara wands, eyeshadow compacts, all destined for landfills and oceans. A 2021 study published in Environmental Science & Technology found microplastics from cosmetics in a shocking 90% of analysed water samples. Every product we toss, every mascara wand we discard, contributes to the plastic pollution plaguing our planet. It's not just an eyesore; it's a silent epidemic harming ecosystems and wildlife.


And the damage doesn't stop there. Water scarcity is a growing global concern, yet the beauty industry seems oblivious. A 2020 report by the Environmental Working Group revealed it guzzles a staggering 10.4 million tons of water annually – enough to fill over 4 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Think of the communities struggling with drought while our makeup habits guzzle their resources. Each swipe of blush, each flick of eyeliner, contributes to a carbon footprint larger than life. A 2019 study by Quantis International estimated it's equivalent to that of 21 million gasoline-powered cars. Our desire for the latest lip color comes at the cost of a warming planet, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth.


But the cost isn't just environmental. Microplastics, parabens, heavy metals – these hidden dangers lurk within many products, seeping into our water systems and harming wildlife. A 2022 study in Environmental Science & Pollution Research found microplastics from cosmetics accumulating in marine organisms, raising concerns about the potential impact on human health. The mascara we weep for our lashes might be weeping for us too.


The industry isn't entirely blind to the growing backlash. "Sustainable packaging," "eco-friendly initiatives" – these buzzwords get thrown around, but often amount to greenwashing. A 2023 report by Changing Markets Foundation found that 99% of major beauty brands lack robust sustainability commitments. It's like slapping a bandaid on a gaping wound, a performative gesture that does little to address the core issues.


But amidst the devastation, hope glimmers. Independent brands like Merit Beauty are proving that sustainable beauty is possible with refillable packaging and ethically sourced ingredients. Consumers, too, are waking up. A 2022 McKinsey & Company study found that 70% of global consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. The tide is turning, albeit slowly.


So, what can we do? We can ditch the fleeting trends and invest in quality, multi-use products. Let's support brands like Merit Beauty with transparent practices and clean ingredients. We can be the change, demanding beauty that doesn't come at the cost of our planet. Our makeup choices hold the power to rewrite the narrative, painting a future where beauty and sustainability go hand in hand.


Remember, true beauty shouldn't leave the Earth weeping. Let's choose to be beautiful in a way that heals, not harms, and pave the way for a more conscious and compassionate beauty industry. Because the most transformative power lies not in a lipstick shade, but in the choices we make. We can choose brands that align with our values, embrace minimalism, and advocate for change. Together, we can ensure that the future of beauty is not just glamorous, but also responsible, leaving a legacy of empowerment that extends far beyond our vanity cabinets and onto the canvas of our planet.


The mascara may weep, but it doesn't have to be tears of despair. Let's rewrite the story, choosing a beautiful future where our pursuit of self-expression doesn't come at the expense of our environment. The power, like the most transformative shade, lies in your hands.

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