Cosmetics can be a lot of fun, but unfortunately, there’s a dark side to that glitter eye shadow. As consumers, the only insight we get into our cosmetics are how they appear, already packaged, on a store shelf. However, what we don’t see is what has to happen to make these products possible. Unfortunately, there are a number of steps along the way from factory to store that in one way or another impacts animals.

From cosmetic ingredient testing to chemicals used in products and their packaging, here are a few different ways cosmetics can potentially harm animals (and humans).

Animal Testing Concerns

Despite the fact that testing the safety of chemicals used in cosmetics is not even required by the Federal Drug Administration, 100 million animals are subjected to cruel and painful tests every year.

Animals commonly used for testing include mice, rabbits, rats, and guinea pigs. All of which have harsh experiments performed on them with no pain relief. When tests are complete, these animals are typically “disposed” of … all for the sake of proving that chemicals and compounds that have been safely applied for years are okay for human use.

Some countries, like Europe, have banned animal testing for cosmetics – proving that this can be effectively and safely done. Plus, there are animal-free tests available that are better for all living creatures and cheaper, making animal testing cruel and unnecessary. While a number of companies in the U.S. have phased out animal testing from their production process, there are still many that do not. To learn how to discern if your favorite products are tested on animals, click here.

Toxic Beauty

While the bright colors of an eyeshadow palette or the deep reds of a lipstick may be enticing, they might also be hiding some truly terrifying chemicals.  The dangerous toxins used as ingredients in many beauty products include carcinogens, pesticides, and plasticizers that are also used to keep concrete soft, to name just a few.

Many cosmetics also contain chemicals called parabens. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Parabens can mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. They have been detected in human breast cancer tissues, suggesting a possible association between parabens in cosmetics and cancer. Parabens may also interfere with male reproductive functions.”

Not exactly as alluring now, is it? What is more troubling is the fact that these chemicals don’t just disappear when you are finished using your beauty products. Everything we discard has the potential to leach its way into the natural environment, whether it goes down the drain or dumped into a landfill. Sadly, the majority of the chemicals in beauty products that are harmful to us are also harmful to animals.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has flagged pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) as “emerging contaminants of concern” for fish. In the early 2000s, the EPA started studying the presence of PPCPs in groundwater and surface water. Proceeding studies of fish found that concentrations of parabens and other PPCP chemicals can cause endocrine system disruption in fish. This can lead to reproductive and behavioral disorders, a compromised immune system, neurological problems, and even cancer. Not to mention, when other animals consume fish that are poisoned with these chemicals, they also suffer from the ramifications. Effectively, a high concentration of harmful beauty care product chemicals could damage an entire ecosystem.

Plastic Packaging

In addition to the scary chemicals that could be inside your cosmetics, the plastic packaging may also be a problem.  One huge problem with plastics is their disposal. Currently, 8.8 million tons of plastic are finding their way into the ocean every year, threatening animals’ homes and hurting ecosystems.  Plastics never truly disintegrates, but rather, photo-degrades into smaller and smaller particles, this mess of plastic soup in our oceans is leading animals to ingest these tiny toxic bits and sometimes suffocate on them. Tragically, around 700 marine species are in danger of extinction due to plastic pollution!

While cosmetic wrappers and tubes might not seem like a huge portion of the plastics you use every day, they do have an impact. According to Ecolife, “The average woman uses 12 products daily in the U.S.” When you multiply those 12 products across the 112 million women in the country, that equates to an enormous amount of potential plastic waste.

The impact of cosmetic plastics extends beyond what happens once they reach the oceans, according to The Ecology Center polyvinylchloride, a common plastic used for cosmetic packaging,  can cause cancer, birth defects, liver problems, and more. Not what you want when you’re trying to find the perfect pink lip gloss.

Clean Up Your Beauty Routine

By now, you’re probably looking for ways to avoid all of these nasty side effects of cosmetics and the good news is there are many ways to do so! The first step is to rethink how you shop for beauty products – and maybe even consider not shopping for products at all and going the DIY route.

If DIY is not your style, there are a number of mobile apps that can help you shop smarter. Beagle Freedom Project launched an app called Cruelty-Cutter that will tell you which products were tested on animals. Think Dirty Shop Clean, is an app that provides all the easy information you need to tell if there are harmful chemicals in your beauty products, just by scanning their bar code. figure out what exactly is in your products without hours of research.  The Environmental Working Group also has a thorough database of products that you can search to determine the cleanest products.

There are also plenty of companies that avoid plastics by using glass and metal packaging, like Lush (bonus, they’re also cruelty-free). There are lots of smaller companies, too, that can be found on sites like Etsy, who focus on reusable glass packaging and sustainable, safe products.If you can’t replace everything at once, be sure to start with products you regularly use like moisturizer.

If you’re looking for DIY options, head over to our DIY Beauty category and learn how to make simple versions of all your beauty essentials. By shopping smarter or choosing to DIY your products you can protect animals – and yourself – from harm while still looking fabulous. Sounds like a win-win to us!

Lead image source: Lelou/Flickr