The global cosmetics industry is estimated to use about 10,000 chemicals known as POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) in its formulations. Due to their resistance to environmental degradation, they accumulate in the ecosystems of rivers and oceans leaving a trail of disturbance that extends as far as the very top of these chains - humans, says Frederico Brandini, director at the Oceanographic Institute at University of São Paulo (USP).
He believes actual figures might be a lot higher if medical and pharmaceutical industries are included in the equation.
A recent study from Plymouth University (UK) showed that polyethylene microbeads used in body scrubs, toothpaste and other cosmetics can have a significant impact on marine wildlife. The research also pointed out that the use of these products results in the dumping of over 80 tons of plastic microbeads in the oceans every year, a claim that led the European cosmetics industry to commit to phasing out microbeads by 2020.
The U.S. and Canada are also assessing restriction policies on POPs, further highlighting the global trend among cosmetics makers to find biodegradable alternatives to harmful chemicals.
According to the Brazilian Cosmetology Association (ABC), Brazil has yet to officially pronounce itself on this matter, but consumers seem to have made up their minds. The most recent Biodiversity Barometer research published by the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) revealed that 92% of Brazilian respondents expect manufacturers to create and adopt policies to protect the biodiversity.
Natural and organic ingredients
This landscape further benefits cosmetics that use natural and organic ingredients in its formulations, which contribute to ridding not only consumers, but the environment as a whole, of harmful chemicals.
Founded in 2010 by entrepreneur Soraia Zonta, Bioart creates makeup and skincare products made of organic, allergen-free ingredients. The company’s starting point was exploring special clays.
One of the arguments that guide consumer choice towards organics is the concern for the planet, says Zonta. “All the chemicals from synthetic shampoos and soaps eventually end up in the oceans, where they become invisible pollutants.”
Some of the organic ingredients used in Bioart’s products are pure essential oils for fragrances, colored clays employed as pigments in makeup products and olive oil-derived ingredients used as substitutes for silicones.
Zonta says the Brazilian biodiversity is the company’s primary source of inspiration. She mentions the use of crystals sourced from Brazil nut shells, micronized clays, quartz crystals and resveratrol (extracted from grapes), as well as essential oils made of guava, wild rosemary, sweet orange and pitanga.
She admits that natural and organic certifications increase costs, but are paramount in asserting the quality and claims of products. “Organic-certified raw materials are a lot more expensive because there are continuous fees to maintain regular validation audits.” The need to import some ingredients also raises production costs, which is suggestive of fertile grounds for organic raw materials manufacturers to grow in Brazil.