Beauty Products & Their Impact on Health and the Environment

Did you know that your beauty habits might be hurting the environment – and your health? From face scrubs to lipstick, personal care products and cosmetics are laced with dangerous ingredients that can cause pollution, kill plants and animals, and impact your health. 

As the public becomes more aware of the health and environmental dangers associated with the cosmetic industry, states and government agencies have stepped in to help regulate sales. Keep reading to learn more.


Also called “microspheres,” microbeads are tiny (less than 5mm in diameter) plastic balls used in personal care products like face scrubs and toothpaste. They are also used in biomedical research, fluid visualization and analysis, microscopy techniques, and of course exfoliation of the skin.

Microbeads are typically made of polyethylene, but are sometimes constructed of other petrochemical plastics like polystyrene and polypropylene. These tiny, seemingly harmless particles are having a giant impact on the environment – so much so that they are now regulated by the US government.

Microplastic Pollution

Microplastics_NOAA_photo-360x270Ever used a refreshing exfoliating face wash containing microbeads? When you rinse your face, these tiny plastics are washed down the drain. But the particles are so small that they are not caught in sewage treatment plants.

Instead, the microspheres wash into canals and rivers, causing plastic particle water pollution (like the image at left).

Able to stay in any given environment for up to 50 years, microbeads have reached concentrations big enough to pollute the Great Lakes, Lake Erie in particular. Microplastics also threaten marine biodiversity and the health of the world’s oceans.

Passed in late 2015, the Microbead-Free Waters Act was a giant step forward in reducing microplastic pollution. Illinois was the first state to begin regulating the manufacture and sale of products containing microspheres. Currently, every state except California continues to allow biodegradable microbeads.

Alternative Methods

You don’t have to give up your dream of smooth skin to save the environment. When purchasing facial scrub, check the ingredients. You can trust the following companies to use natural, biodegradable exfoliants like sea salt, crushed shells, sugar, sand, and ground bark:

  • Freeman
  • Ives
  • Burt’s Bees
  • Bioré

These big name brands, however, can’t seem to give up the plastic habit:

  • Neutrogena
  • Olay
  • Clean & Clear
  • Aveeno
  • Dove

If a cheap exfoliating scrub just isn’t doing it for you, check out microdermabrasion, a popular procedure available at spas and dermatology offices that purports to eliminate signs of aging, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and rejuvenate dull, sun-damaged skin.

A single treatment will cost between $75-$200, but the best home diamond microdermabrasion systems (, 2016) available for purchase can pay for themselves within 3 to 4 treatments.

You can think of microdermabrasion like power washing your face. The topmost layer of dry/dead skin cells is blasted off to reveal smoother, younger-looking skin beneath. There are two main types of microdermabrasion:

  • Crystal: Original method that involves blasting the face with tiny aluminum oxide crystals to effectively remove the topmost layer of the skin.
  • Diamond: Newer version that utilizes a diamond-tipped wand to “scratch” off the topmost layer of skin.

While both methods produce similar results, there is a higher price tag (plus increased risk of injury) associated with crystal microdermabrasion.

Environmental Risk

The production of cosmetics and personal care products has a disastrous effect on the environment. Main concerns are the “natural” label, packaging, and pollution.


go-green-makeupAdding a few natural substances to a product laden with other chemicals does not make it natural. But this is exactly what companies do.

As manufacturers take advantage of the “going green” sentiment as a way to increase sales, the demand for natural ingredients increases. Companies want these ingredients fast, cheap, and in huge quantities. This demand in turn increases the amount of mining and farming, which leads to more pesticides and questionable labor practices.

When unsustainable methods are used, non-renewable natural resources are depleted and ecosystems are disrupted. Be careful when you shop. Seek out smaller brands whose labels read “100% Natural.” These companies generally utilize sustainable practices that do minimal damage to the environment.


As you can imagine, there is a huge buildup of plastic bottles and tubs in our landfills. The plastics that house personal care products are extra strong so as not to be degraded by the chemicals they contain. It takes hundreds of years for this sort of container to break down.

Instead, purchase products sold in glass bottles or recycled jars that use minimal packaging.


The chemical substances used in makeup and other cosmetics do not break down. They accumulate in the world’s ecosystems, slowly poisoning the planet. When washed down our drains, personal care products get recycled into rivers, lakes, and public water systems. Here are a few of the cosmetic industry’s most damaging chemicals:

  • P-phenylenediamine is a dangerous chemical derived from coal tar.
    • Found in lipsticks and hair dye
    • Kills animal plankton and other aquatic species
  • BHA and BHT are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives.
    • Found in moisturizers and lipsticks
    • Kills fish and shellfish
    • Causes mutations in amphibians
  • Dioxane is an endocrine disruptive chemical that contaminates other ingredients. There are ways to remove this carcinogenic chemical, but companies typically avoid doing so due to time and cost.
    • Found in creamy products like shampoo and bubble bath
    • Kills insects and animal plankton
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is a plasticizer used in nail polish and PVC pipe.
    • Affects a variety of aquatic species
    • Causes mutations in amphibians
    • Alters fish behavior and reproductive cycle
    • In large amounts, can decimate an entire ecosystem
  • Triclocan is an antibacterial chemical found in deodorant, hand-sanitizers, and laundry detergent.
    • Alters biochemistry of amphibians, aquatic plants, and fish
    • Causes mutations in amphibians
    • Alters fish behavior and reproductive cycle
    • In large amounts, can decimate an entire ecosystem
  • Diethanolamine (DEA) is a ph adjuster found in nearly every personal care product.
    • Reacts with nitrates to create nitrosamines (which are highly carcinogenic to animals and humans)
    • Toxic to fish, amphibians, and other aquatic life

When these and other chemicals entire Earth’s water cycle, everything and everyone is affected. Chemicals from cosmetics have been found not only in rivers, oceans, and public water supplies, but in agricultural soil and household dust as well.

When exposed to these chemicals, livestock can suffer genetic, reproductive, and developmental problems as well as cancer.

As consumers, we can take steps to keep these harmful chemicals out of the environment. Wide ranging demand has already convinced some companies to remove dangerous substances from their products.

Consumers should consult online ingredients/products lists as well as educate themselves about sustainability and ingredients. Products like aloe vera and coconut oil are easily renewable.

Consider the type of products you buy. Do they use excess packaging? Look for simple paper wrapping, recyclable containers, and reusable glass to minimize waste.

With responsible habits and education, consumers have the power to minimize the pollution caused by the cosmetics industry.

Personal Health Risk

MATH_100512_hdrThere are a dizzying amount of ingredients on the back of products like sunscreen, shampoo, and makeup – many of which the average person hasn’t heard of or can’t pronounce.

Additional warnings about toxic ingredients would deter sales, so companies are happy to settle for a list of long words that few people will read. On top of that, the cosmetic industry is shockingly unregulated.

Our skin is like one big sponge, absorbing about 60% of what we put on it (children absorb even more). That’s why it’s so important to stick with organic products.

In addition to the list above, avoid these ingredients:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • MEA and TEA
  • Sunscreen chemicals
  • FD&C color
  • PEG
  • Phthalates
  • Dioxin
  • DMDM Hydantoin and Urea
  • Parabens
  • Propylene Glycol & Butylene Glycol
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate

These words even sound nasty! Combinations of the above chemicals have been linked to cancer, skin dermatitis, ADD, asthma, behavioral issues including autism, type II diabetes, birth defects, altered reproductive development, infertility, and other problems.


As I mentioned above, the power to protect the environment lies with the consumer. If you’re ready to make the switch and replace your personal care items with organic brands, we urge you to dispose of your current products at a hazardous waste facility.

You’ll be happy to learn that organic products can be thrown out or washed down the drain without threatening the environment – and they usually work better!


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So What is Microneedling?

Are scars and stretch marks holding you back? Restore a younger, smoother face with microneedling – a minimally invasive procedure that is far cheaper (and less painful) than laser treatments.

Microneedling is an anti-aging skincare process that utilizes a derma roller (more info below) to cause tiny injuries that activate your body’s wound healing response.

The process, sometimes referred to as CIT (collagen induction therapy), has been shown to fade wrinkles, acne scars, and stretch marks as well as result in new hair growth. Keep reading to learn more about this fantastic skincare tool.

What is a derma roller?

It might look like a miniature torture device, but the derma roller has in fact become one of today’s most innovative approaches to skincare (Jennifer Aniston loves it).

A derma roller is a handheld tool featuring a cylinder with hundreds of tiny needles that prick the skin when the device is rolled over the skin’s surface (typically the face). For obvious reasons, this process is referred to as microneedling.

How does it work?

c53c49b64e303a189026c31c00df7441Microneedling causes hundreds of little pinpricks (microscopic injuries) that stimulate your body to produce elastin and collagen, form new capillaries, and create new skin cells The body’s wound-healing process also includes the creation of new cartilaginous fibers to fix those damaged by the derma roller.

Microneedling results in thicker, smoother skin and has been shown to effectively reduce the appearance of acne scars. If the needles used are long enough to penetrate to the reticular dermis, your body will issue an inflammatory response that heals those areas and effectively smoothes and tightens up stretch marks.

With multiple treatments, most people see results in 4-6 weeks. When it comes to professional treatments, most specialists recommend 3 sessions.

Microneedling for hair loss

The benefits of microneedling have led it to become a popular hair loss treatment. The wound healing response triggered by the needling process results in new proteins and new hair follicles. Derma rolling can lead to significant improvement for men with alopecia and male-pattern baldness.

After needling, your skin is able to absorb 1,000x more than normal. This is beneficial when it comes to beauty products like creams and moisturizers. In this case, the process enables your scalp to fully absorb products like Rogaine, Minoxidil, and Copper Peptide.

Click here to learn more about medical techniques that utilize microneedles. 

Needle Length

The size of the needle should be determined by your specific cosmetic needs. For stretch marks and deep scars/wrinkles, choose a 0.5mm needle. Choose a 0.2mm or 0.25mm needle if you are using a derma roller to increase your skin’s ability to absorb skincare products.

Treatment for hair loss typically involves shorter needles than those used for facial treatments. For men with shaved heads or very short hair, choose .25mm or 1.0mm needles (women with thinning hair should use a derma stamp instead of a derma roller).

Longer needles are available only for professional use.

The best part about needling is that you can do it in your own home. The process is virtually painless and does not cause permanent damage. And it’s not limited to the face – you can use a derma roller on almost any part of the body.


Some women are concerned with the prospect of poking hundreds of tiny holes in their skin. Not to worry, needling actually leaves your epidermis fully intact. The holes will close back up in a few short hours.

Depending on the length of needle used, microneedling may involve a short recovery time of between 1 and 2 days. Some redness and bleeding may occur during the process. Red marks may be visible for a day or two, and you cannot wear makeup for the 24 hours following the procedure.

Scientia Dermaroller

scientia-derma-roller-magniDid you know that your skin renews itself naturally every 40 days? With a little extra stimulation, changes can be fast and dramatic!

Meet the FDA-approved Scientia derma roller. Manufactured by UK-based firm Drug Aware Ltd., this tool is appropriate for all skin types and colors.


It’s 100% safe. Scientia is based on ancient acupuncture techniques and is available in three sizes:

  • Standard size: 1mm
    • Treats all conditions
    • Use up to 5x per week
  • Longer: 1.5mm
    • Treats deep stretch marks/ scars
    • Use no more than 3x per week
  • Shorter: 0.5mm
    • Treats light scars
    • Promotes hair growth
    • Increases skin’s ability to absorb creams, etc.
    • Use up to 5x per eek

The company likes to boast about Scientia’s cheap price. It’s just “50 cents per day when used for 6 months,” reads the website (this claim is based on one treatment per week).

Do not use this product if you have:

  • Open wounds/ acne lesions
  • Active herpes outbreaks
  • Acute infection
  • Inflammation
  • Rosacea

Consumer Opinion 

Scientia has performed well among derma roller reviews. Users agree it is very effective on scars and stretch marks. Some even noticed results after the first use. “Make sure you don’t press too hard,” writes one reviewer. “Otherwise, it shouldn’t hurt.”

Scientia was featured on CBS and the Rachael Ray Show. Although based in the UK, Drug Aware Ltd. ships to the US and other countries.

“After one month, I have noticed a 40% reduction in my stretch marks. WOW!” writes another happy reviewer.

Scientia doesn’t hurt, but it might tickle. Users agree it’s quick and easy to use (only takes a few minutes). “It’s like a mini facelift without the pain!” writes a 53-year-old reviewer.

Heaven’s Bliss Ice Derma roller ($16.78)

heaven's blissHeaven’s Bliss is a completely different type of roller. It utilizes ice instead of needles to produce different results. Produced by Heaven’s Bliss and manufactured in China, the ice roller is marketed to treat the following problems:

  • Stretch marks
  • Fine lines/wrinkles
  • Sun damage
  • Acne
  • Cellulite
  • Puffiness/dark circles
  • Inflammation/ pain/ redness

The ice roller can also maximize the benefits of facial procedures like scrubs, steamers, peels, serums, and waxing.

Experience relaxing, cooling bliss with this non-invasive treatment. Use Heaven’s Bliss to tighten and lift the skin. Use it before applying makeup to close pores and decrease outbreaks.

Heaven’s Bliss should be stored in the freezer and is available in two bright colors (luscious rose pink and emerald green). The ice roller promotes a glowing complexion by stimulating the body to produce collagen. It’s reusable, but not for multiple people.

Heaven’t bliss is perfect for aches and injuries including the following:

  • Sunburn
  • Fever
  • Sports injuries
  • Achy muscles
  • Arthritis
  • Tension

With Heaven’s Bliss, there’s no melting ice to worry about. The tool stays cold for 2 hours when removed from the freezer.

Consumer Opinion

Unhappy consumers complain that “rubbing an ice cube on your skin” will not produce anti-aging results. I am inclined to agree. However, this tool is quite effective in reducing under-eye puffiness. It’s also great for headaches, sunburn, and the other injuries I mentioned above.

“The first touch made me flinch because it’s REALLY cold,” writes a 5-star reviewer who uses the ice roller to cure migraines. “Perfect for reducing pain after peels and other procedures,” writes a massage therapist. “Less messy than ice cubes in a bag and easy to disinfect.”


Scientia’s product is the best derma roller for those new to microneedling. It’s a solid skincare tool that will produce results. If you struggle with deep scars, however, I would recommend a professional treatment with a longer needle. Because it’s so inexpensive, there’s really no reason not to try it. If it doesn’t work, you can move on to more invasive, expensive treatments.

The ice roller, on the other hand, is best viewed as a first aid tool and headache cure. While it will make you look refreshed by reducing redness and puffiness around the eyes, it will not erase acne, sun damage, or wrinkles.

Click here to learn more about how your beauty products might be harming the environment. 


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