The Guide > Personal Care > Beauty > Skin Care
Skin Care
Animal testing rests on a logical contradiction. It is 'because animals are like us' that experiments are useful, yet it is 'because animals are not like us' that makes it morally okay to experiment on animals.' - Prof. Charles R. Magel. In March 2009, Europe introduced a ban on animal testing of cosmetics, prohibiting the testing of cosmetics on animals in cases where non-animal alternatives are available, and the sale of animal tested cosmetics no matter where they are produced.
  • Have your say in the Australian campaign to ban animal testing of cosmetics, and find non-tested products. Choose Cruelty Free
  • Search PETA's database of companies that do and that don't test their products on animals. PETA
In Australia, cosmetics must comply with safety standards, but there is no international consensus. Some chemicals banned in Europe and the US are still considered safe by Australian authorities. These include DBP in nail polish, BHA in lipsticks, lead acetate in hair colour, and coal tar in anti-dandruff shampoos.

Other chemicals, although safe in small amounts, do build up over time and this intensive long-term exposure does seem to present unnecessary health risks. These include mineral oil, DEA/TEA/MEA, D&C colours, aluminium, talc, and synthetic fragrances.
  • Avoid known toxins. Decode the chemical nasties with the Chemical Maze app and book. Chemical Maze
  • Check out the Skin Deep cosmetics database with over 88,000 different products and a safety assessment of ingredients (US). Skin Deep
Microplastics (often labelled as 'polyethylene' on product labels) are used in some personal care products such as facial scrubs, cleansers and toothpaste. These particles are not retained by wastewater treatment so end up in the ocean. While microplastics aren't thought to be a health hazard to consumers, they are a threat to the marine environment.

As microplastics (plastic pieces of less than one millimetre diameter) are indistinguishable from plankton, the potential for ingestion by tiny crustaceans is wide. If these creatures ingest them and are eaten by other larger creatures and so on, microplastics can travel up the food chain. And because polyethylene is well known for absorbing toxins, these toxins could also end up in the seafood we eat like shellfish, white fish and tuna.

The three main sources of microplastic in marine environments are:
1) consumer products such as cosmetics,
2) breakdown of larger plastic material, and
3) the shedding of synthetic fibres from textiles by domestic clothes washing.

To reduce the amount of microplastic getting into our waterways:
  • Avoid clothing made from synthetic fibres
  • Keep plastics, such as plastic bags and bottles, out of waterways
Studies suggest nanotechnology ingredients in cosmetics pose serious health risks to the women wearing them. Nanoparticles are incredibly small ' measured in nanometres (nm), or one-billionth of a meter. They are found in cosmetics, moisturisers, and some sunscreens, and are used to increase products' penetration into the skin. Concerns have been raised that if nanoparticles are absorbed into living skin cells, they could increase the risk of skin cancer. Testing commissioned by Friends of the Earth, found nanoparticles in foundations and concealers sold by 10 top name brands ' including Christian Dior, Revlon, and Yves Saint Laurent. Only one of these, Christian Dior, labelled its use of nano ingredients. Companies are not legally required to test the safety of nanoparticles before using them in products, or to label their products as containing nano ingredients.
  • More on nanotechnology in sunscreens EWG
Palm oil is found in roughly 50 per cent of all packaged products on supermarket shelves including shampoos, baking oil, chocolate, cosmetics, chips, cookies, margarine and soaps.

Unfortunately, not only does palm oil promote heart disease, but the vast plantations that grow oil palm trees have contributed to the destruction of the rainforest of South East Asia and threaten the survival of animals such as the Orangutan in Borneo, the Sumatran tiger, and Asian rhinoceros. Additionally, burning after deforestation accounts for significant greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, it has recently been deemed a potential saviour as a renewable resource for use as a biofuel.
  • Palm oil may be in a product but labelled simply as 'vegetable oil'. An indicator however is if the nutritional panel lists saturated fat and it's higher than 50%, and yet there no animal fat listed as an ingredient, there is likely to be palm kernel oil, palm oil or coconut oil, as a component of 'vegetable oil' (most likely to be palm). See the various names for palm oil Palm Oil Investigations
  • For a list of branded products that do not contain palm oil, see the 'Helping you buy responsibly' section on the Borneo Orangutan Survival website. Borneo Orangutan Survival
Features: Organic, ethically sourced
Argan Life Australia supplies Moroccan Argan Oil that is organically certified and ethically sourced from an all-female co-operative in Morocco. Australian owned company.
Manufacturer: Argan Life Australia
Features: Vegan, cruelty-free, Australian owned and made
Clean Slate are an artisan skin care company based in Perth, WA. They have a focus on organic and local (Australian) ingredients where possible, and are accredited by Choose Cruelty Free.
Manufacturer: Clean Slate
Features: B Corporation, plastic free, vegan, cruelty free, palm oil free
Ethique is an ethical beauty business from New Zealand. They produce beauty products in concentrated bar form, rather than as a liquid in a plastic bottle.
Manufacturer: Ethique
Features: Australian owned and made, cruelty free, vegan, non-toxic
Happy Skincare is Australian owned and made, toxin-free and certified vegan and cruelty free by Choose Cruelty Free. Family-owned company based in Newcastle, NSW. Products available in health food stores around Australia.
Manufacturer: Happy Skincare
Features: 100% Australian owned & made, cruelty free, plant-based, non-toxic
Founded in 1989, Tri Nature's award winning range of eco-friendly cleaning and personal care products are Australian-owned and made, plant-based, accredited cruelty free, grey water safe and free of nasty chemicals.
Manufacturer: Tri Nature
Find farmers' markets, food coops, farm gate products at Local Harvest
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