From microbeads to silicones: 5 common beauty ingredients to be wary of using.

Thanks to our brand partner, Sukin

Your beauty routine shouldn’t cost the earth and nor does it have to.

But where the environment is concerned, your cleansers, shampoos, sunscreens and moisturisers don’t always just disappear once they go down the drain.

How your products are formulated and what ingredients they’re made from matter. This is especially true if your household chooses to divert its ‘greywater’ to use elsewhere, which mean using leftover water from your sinks, washing machine, shower and bath for other household uses, like watering the garden.

Even if you don’t, your skincare, body care and hair care can have a lasting impact, with certain ingredients polluting our waterways and endangering the wildlife that live in them.

The best thing we can do as consumers is to learn exactly what ingredients to avoid, and make eco-friendly switches to brands like Sukin, which put the environment front of mind.

Here are five common beauty ingredients to be wary of, and some simple changes you can make.

1. Microbeads.

The adverse effects of using microbeads are well-documented. Used in rinse-off products like cleansers and exfoliators, they’re made from small plastic particles that are less than 5mm. This also means that once they go down the drain they stick around and for a long time too.

Not only can the plastic microbeads absorb other organic pollutants (like pesticides and motor oil), these tiny beads are then eaten by fish (and yes, the kind we eat too) which in turn also absorb the toxins. It’s a vicious cycle.

What to use instead:

If you love the exfoliation, consider using a muslin cloth or flannel with your cleanser. They’re super effective at getting rid of leftover cleanser and their fibres trap in heat giving you a lovely steam as well.

Otherwise, if you prefer gritty exfoliators, go for a scrub made with natural ingredients like coffee grounds or fruit and nut particles. For example, Sukin use grounded rosehip seeds in their Rejuvenating Rosehip Facial Scrub, $13.95.


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2. Triclosan.

A common antibacterial and antifungal agent, you can find triclosan in many household and personal products like soaps, toothpaste and hand sanitisers. The ingredient has actually been banned by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but it’s still used in Australia. While it can irritate our eyes and skin, triclosan can also contaminate our waterways and marine life.

What to use instead:

Make sure your personal hygiene products are formulated without it. There are now lots of options for cleaner formulations of toothpastes, soaps, hand sanitisers and body washes. Sukin’s Cleansing Hand Wash in Lime & Coconut, $13.95 is a great alternative.

3. Oxybenzone in sunscreen.

While sunscreen is 100 per cent an essential in protecting your skin from UVA and UVB rays, your choice of sunscreen matters too. If you’re swimming in our beaches, a common sunscreen ingredient – oxybenzone – can be absorbed by our coral reefs, resulting in devastating effects on our fragile ocean life. Oxybenzone is used as a UV filter in a lot of chemical sunscreens. The nanoparticles in oxybenzone can disrupt corals’ reproduction and growth cycles, ultimately leading to bleaching, and the loss of habitats they support.

This is why some parts of the world have outright banned the sale of products with oxybenzone, including Hawaii and the Pacific nation of Palau.

What to use instead:

Switch to a sunscreen that’s formulated with reef-safe ingredients, like Sukin’s SPF 30 Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen, $24.95. It’s available in three shades – Untinted, Light / Medium and Medium / Dark, non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog your pores).


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4. Propylene Glycol.

A common moisturiser and carrier for fragrance oils, Propylene Glycol is a synthetic petroleum substance that’s derived from non-renewable sources. Propylene Glycol could also adversely affect aquatic waterways when released into our waterways, and scientists believe that when the substance breaks down it may consume oxygen needed by marine organisms. Despite this, the research isn’t conclusive.

What to use instead:

Look for moisturisers that are formulated without Propylene Glycol. Other naturally sourced humectants – the stuff that draws the hydration into your skin – include glycerin, honey, aloe vera gel, baobab and rosewater.

5. Silicones.

Another ingredient made from non-renewable sources, silicones are found in products like hair conditioner, moisturiser even mascara. Not only can they be guilty of blocking your pores, the cheap filler is also made from non-renewable sources and are bio-accumulative. This means the particles don’t degrade and will build-up in the environment.

What to use instead:

Natural extracts, oils and plant proteins offer just as superior moisturising and conditioning properties. When it comes to haircare, plant-based ingredients like shea butter and coconut and sesame oils (like those found in Sukin’s Hydrating conditioner, $14.95) also work to nourish and smooth hair.

There are many other ingredients to look out for, but this is a good place to start. If you’re curious to find out more, Sukin’s ‘no list’ is a helpful guide to what’s not environmentally friendly for your skincare. Every little change helps.

What switches have you made to improve your beauty practices to help the environment? Tell us in a comment below.

Feature image: Getty.


Australian skincare company Sukin do everything they can to ensure our environment is protected. From partnering with Reef Aid to ensure the Great Barrier Reef has a future, to fully offsetting their carbon footprint. Discover the world of natural, and read more about their sustainability efforts at the  Sukin Journal.

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