Updated: Jul 31
At Bird Body Essentials we see World Population Day as an opportunity to stop and take stock. As noted on July 11, the population is inching ever closer to eight billion people, a sum we are expected to reach later this year, just 11 years after reaching seven billion in 2011. It got us thinking about the environmental impacts such a rapidly growing population has on the globe.
With a larger population than ever before, the way we use our personal care products and synthetic ingredients has never been more impactful.
World Population Day recognised that in the past 11 years the world population will have increased by almost one billion people. Photo: Xavier Cabrera
At Bird Body Essentials we are very concerned about the impact single-use plastic and synthetic ingredients have on the environment. Particularly with the rapidly increasing population.
One hundred years ago, people's hygiene and personal care practices were very different to what they are today. Soap bars were the mainstay, if you could afford them. Prior to the 18th century hair was cleaned by as diverse means, as applying powders and perfumes, natural soaps and brushing, and later wearing wigs became popular, first to avoid patches created by syphilis infection and later to avoid lice. Later, when wearing natural hair became more popular, people would crack eggs over their head occasionally for an 'egg wash' – a protein condition really when you think about it.
Until the 20th century, talcum powder or perfume made from herbs was the most common deodorant. Charcoal or salt, and mint if you could get it, were often employed for cleaning teeth.
Personal hygiene has come a long way in the past 100 years. Unfortunately these simple practices have been replaced by the convenient alternatives of contemporary personal care products that we feel may be harmful to us and the environment.
In 1817 the French scientist Michel Chevreul first created Cetyl Alcohol by heating sperm whale fat and mixing it with caustic potash. Over the past 100 years this product, now made out of palm oil or coconut oil, is used extensively in shampoos, skin creams and the cosmetic industry among other applications.
Cetearyl Alcohol (a version of cetyl alcohol) is now a very versatile synthetic ingredient used in many personal care products today.
Other ingredients followed in its wake. It was around this time (in the 1930s) that the first detergent was developed by Proctor and Gamble. This revolutionized the way clothes were washed and later it moved into our kitchens as dishwashing liquid.
At the same time sodium laurel sulphate was developed in the late 1930s as a degreaser during World War II and it soon made its way into mainstream haircare, household and cleaning products where its foaming ability came to the fore.
From these early beginnings in the 1930's the synthetic ingredient market in the personal care and cosmetic industries have grown exponentially. Look at any of your personal care products, cosmetics or skin care and you may see some of these synthetic ingredients contained in them: butylene glycol, ethylhexyl palmitate, polysorbate 60, peg-150 stearate, steareth-20, ethylhexyl hydroxystearate, dimethicone, hexylene glycol, acrylates/c10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, triethanolamine, hexyl cinnamal, hydroxycitronellal, methylparaben, propylparaben.
At Bird Body Essentials we are concerned that while these ingredients are safe when used as specified, there is little research on the compound effect of using multiple synthetic ingredients repeatedly over a long period of time.
While these synthetic ingredients may be cheap and easy to manufacture and help with feel and stability of products, as the raw materials are changed to such an extent, we don't believe our bodies recognise them and the affect they may be having on our body is not well known.
Synthetic ingredients can be found in moisturisers, sunscreens, conditioners, hair dyes, foundation, toothpaste, mascara and many more products.
If we take the practice of washing our hair. Nowadays a significant portion of the world's population washes and conditions their hair with largely synthetic products contained in single-use plastic bottles on a regular basis. This personal care practice may not have been overly problematic in 1930, when the world's population was just two billion people.
In 2022 the huge amount of synthetic hair products washing down our drains and into the waterways is exacerbating environmental pollution. Also, single-use plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles are contributing to the one million plastic bottles purchased every minute worldwide.
Plastic bottles containing cosmetic and hair care contribute to the one million plastic bottled purchased every minute worldwide.
When you think of the other personal care products people buy on a regular basis such as moisturisers, deodorant, toothpaste and make-up, you can see how the cosmetic and personal care industries are exacerbating a single-use plastic crisis of global proportions.
At Bird Body Essentials we are proud of our natural, plastic-free shampoo and conditioner bars, each of which is the equivalent of up to three commercial shampoo or conditioner bottles. The 20,000 shampoo and conditioner bars we have sold in recent years has prevented approximately 60,000 single-use plastic bottles from going into landfill.
The Bird Body Essentials organic shampoo bar is made with macadamia nut oil, organic coconut oil and fresh rosemary leaves collected from our garden.
BBE shampoo and conditioner bars are single-use plastic and largely synthetic- ingredient free. (The conditioner bar does include a small amount of BTMS 50 and cetearyl alcohol.)
On top of that, our shampoo and conditioner bars have spared the environment approximately three tonne of synthetic ingredients that would have been included in the mainstream products we replaced. While that may not even be the tip of the proverbial plastic iceberg, it shows that change is possible.
Next time you purchase a bottle of shampoo and conditioner, stop and consider the impact your shopping choice may have on the environment.