Over the years I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m not an advocate of face wipes; these ‘handy and convenient’ alternatives to a proper cleanse can cause all number of issues if they’re relied upon regularly, or used as your cleansing routine in its entirety. Often marketed as an easy and effective way to remove makeup and impurities, these little damp cloths tend only to remove the upper most layer of visible dirt while drenching your skin in drying chemicals and alcohol; they require a lot of pressure around delicate areas of the face to lift away mascara and lipstick, plus they can actually exacerbate the ageing process. (I wrote an article ‘The Shocking Stuff They Don’t Tell You About Face Wipes‘ here, if you want to read!) But possibly the most important thing to consider is that these wipes are increasingly bad for not only your face – but actually the environment too.
Being aware of the impact you leave on the world has never been more on-trend, so it’s no surprise we now feel guilt if we accept a plastic carrier bag or ask for a straw to sip our Diet Coke. Single use coffee cups have become laden with shame, and even leaving the tap running while you brush your teeth all of a sudden feels incredibly wasteful; sorting out your recycling into three different bins is just part of modern life, while questioning why so much excess packaging is used at your supermarket is the 21st-Century version of campaigning for lower car emissions. Whether it’s in response to documentaries such as Blue Planet and Cowspiracy, or just a more conscious awareness of the decisions we make, we’re all making steps towards being more environmentally friendly.
We may be increasingly aware of the decisions we can make to ensure our planet doesn’t fall to pieces, but rarely does that conversation involve one big problem: face wipes. It’s estimated that the wet-wipe market will be worth over $20bn by 2021 – so that’s billions of predominately plastic (thanks to the inclusion of non-biodegradable polyester) wipes being thrown into landfill, and worse, flushed down our toilets.
Unlike loo roll, the majority of face wipes don’t disintegrate in the sewage system; they are a huge contributing factor in blockages that cost water companies around £88 million a year (in the UK alone) to rectify. If they do make it through the system, they can end up in our seas and consumed by sea life – having a negative impact on the environment that’s similar to the microbeads that have been recently banned. It’s said they can linger for up to 500 years in the ecosystem, so they’re unfortunately just as bad as throwing out a plastic bottle.
In September 2017 a rock hard ‘fatberg’ longer than Tower Bridge, weighing 130 tons and made up mainly of face wipes, was found underneath the streets of London and had to be removed in order for the sewage system to work effectively. Dr Laura Foster, head of pollution at the Marine Conservation Society, also recently (and rather shockingly) said: “In the past decade we’ve seen a 700% rise in wipes washed up on beaches.” These convenient solutions may seem like a great idea at the time, but the long-term impact they can have is really rather worrying. So what can you do to help reduce the damage?
First up, if you can’t bear to tear yourself away from them and really do need to use face wipes as part of your daily routine, swap to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative. Right now I’m really loving these Beauty Kitchen Sustainable Beauty Wipes (£5.99) which are 100% compostable (meaning they’re more than just bio-degradable, but will actually break down in the garden compost) thanks to the fact they’re made from organic cotton. They’re vegan friendly and feature a sprinkling of ingredients including frankincense, blue chamomile, angelica root, cedarwood, lavender, aloe vera and magnolia to really help soothe skin while gently lifting away makeup; the cloths are super soft and almost sodden with liquid, unlike many which seem to loose all moisture a day after opening the pack!
For when you’re traveling, on-the-go, or simply don’t have the energy or time to undertake a proper cleanse, these provide a much better alternative to your usual disposable wipes. As someone who could probably count on her hands how many times she uses a face wipe in a year, these definitely get my stamp of approval and prove that face wipes don’t always have to be full of nasties and be left to cause damage to the environment.
The second thing you can do to make a difference is absolutely never ever throw your wipes away down the loo; they should be put in the bin (or even better, in your compost pile if you choose to buy sustainable alternatives like these) where they can’t damage marine life for contribute to the growing sewage blocking problem that’s costing the economy millions of pounds every year. But the best thing you can do? Switch to using a proper cleansing oil, balm or cream with a re-useable cloth – I promise that you won’t regret it.
Face wipes are rarely discussed from an environmental or ethical point of view, but they really do contribute to an increasingly large problem.
Face wipes really are bad for your skin, but they’re also really bad for the planet too. Make the switch.
The Beauty Kitchen Sustainable Beauty Wipes are available in two variants, priced £5.99 for a pack of 30, from Holland & Barrett and their online store.