As more and more of us take steps to reduce our carbon footprint, we are continually finding new ways to make our skincare eco-friendlier — from clean beauty products to biodegradable packaging, the cosmetics industry has often been at the forefront of the sustainability movement.
Yet one common, everyday product many of us have overlooked is single-use cotton, which is present in ear swabs and makeup removal pads. According to WWF, the quantity of water required to produce one kilogram of cotton — the amount in a basic white T-Shirt — is the same amount of water one person would drink over the course of three years. In the case of T-shirts, though, they tend to be used for several years before making their way to the Goodwill bin or being reused as rags.
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Single-use cotton pads, however, are a different story. Millions of cotton pads end up in landfills every day. Yet the environmental impact is not only the result of waste. Large quantities of pesticides are used to grow cotton. These end up depleting soil quality and making their way into the water systems, affecting both animals and humans living in the areas where cotton is grown. WWF Textiles and Cotton Lead, Laila Petrie recommends replacing “disposable beauty products with reusable ones where possible to cut down on waste and to look for alternatives made from recycled materials.”
One new alternative is Hydrapuffs, which are made from 80% pulp and 20% rayon, a renewable cellulosic plant made from biodegradable fibers. Not only are Hudrapuffs more environmentally friendly, but they are also more efficient. They deliver 50% more product onto the skin, meaning makeup isn't being unnecessarily absorbed and wasted, which in the end has an impact on our wallet.
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The founder of Jinmee, the maker of Hydrapuffs, Karen Hong, says, “Removing cotton pads from your skincare routine is essential if you want to minimize the impact your beauty routine has on our planet. Regular cotton pads don't biodegrade due to the bleaching and mixing processes used to create them. The beauty industry has progressed so much now, there’s no need for cotton! Plus, by removing cotton pads from your routine, you're also reducing the amount of plastic packaging waste you produce, which is an added bonus.”
Petrie says another alternative to cotton pads is muslin cloths, which although made from cotton, can be reused often, thereby reducing waste. Petrie suggests purchasing muslin cloths from brands that show a strong commitment to the environment by using organic or recycled source materials. Muslin cloths are also hygienic since they dry quickly, which prevents bacteria from developing.
Another option is using organic reusable bamboo fiber cotton pads, which are made of multiple layers of bamboo fiber and organic cotton and can be washed. Bamboo fiber is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal as well as environmentally friendly since it grows ten times faster than regular trees — up to four feet in 24 hours — surpassing the growth rate of other woody plants. Bamboo is natural, renewable and carbon neutral.