Just as skin won’t react well when plastic clothing is worn next to it for any length of time, neither can delicate facial skin thrive and improve by having plastic rubbed over it on a regular basis. Yet that’s what happens when skin care products made from plastic or that contain plastic are chafed over faces, night after night as part of a cleansing regime.
Plastic may be cheap to use and convenient, but it’s never been known as a nutritive ingredient that benefits skin. Plastic is … plastic. Skin needs bioavailable nutrients that it can easily absorb in order to improve and glow.
There’s been a huge fuss about damage to the environment since the discovery that plastic microbeads in wash off skin care products are polluting oceans and waterways and making their way into the food chain.
Yet no one has asked why something that is so alien to skin—is used in skin care.
The USA and UK governments have banned microbeads from the end of 2017. Hopefully you’ve already checked the ingredients lists on all your products.
And what about wipes, specifically baby wipes and makeup wipes. So many use wipes as if they are tissues—throwaway, mulchable paper that’s recyclable—but what if they’re not? What if they’re actually the plastic bags of the beauty industry?
An analysis commissioned by The Sunday Times Style magazine showed that wipes are almost completely made of plastic.
Dr Phil Greaves of Microtex, a technical textile consultancy, analysed a popular brand wipe for the magazine. He described it as a blend of fabrics including polyester, a form of plastic he described as “virtually indestructible.”
Now, scientists have found that these wet wipes, used for taking off make-up, freshening babies’ bottoms and other hygienic purposes are polluting rivers, lakes and the sea with tiny plastic fibres. These are now to be relabelled with prominent warnings not to flush them down lavatories.
One billion thrown away
Style magazine journalist Claire Coleman said she herself used wipes; “After a long, late night when I can’t be bothered, I ignore the scare stories about how they can give you spots and wrinkles and cause dryness and allergic reactions, and I swipe a couple from the pack by my bed, smear them over my face and chuck them in the bin. And I’m far from alone.”
She writes that 47% of Britons use wipes—the figure is similar to numbers of Australians using wet wipes—and this figure is tipped to rise sharply. By 2020 there will be one billion wipes used and thrown away.
The brands could use alternatives, but plastic is cheap. And that’s probably why at least 64% of the wipes sold in the UK contain polyester. And not just a little—the Microtex wipe analysis found that a staggering 73.7% of it was polyester. If that’s representative of other brands, we’re throwing out a devastating amount of plastic every year.
While you don’t have to use plastics to make a face wipe—some are made from cellulose or its derivatives such as viscose or rayon—Dr Greaves, who analysed the wipe, said even these may have had plastic used in the manufacturing process. The uncomfortable truth is that if wipes end up in our sewers, they could well be causing similar problems to microbeads.
Binning isn't better
Beauty and baby wipes are meant to be put in with the rubbish because the polyester and other plastics used to make them break down in sewers, with each wipe releasing millions of microscopic pieces of plastic that damage wildlife.
But binning them isn’t much better, says Claire Coleman. “It’s difficult to get clear data on how long it takes textiles to break down when composted or put in landfill, but currently best guesses suggest that, in an environment where it would take cotton between one and five months to decompose, wool would take one to five years, nylon 30 to 40 years, and polyester an estimated 500 years.
Bad for the environment, certainly. Yet again though, no mention is made of the negatives of rubbing skin with these plastic textiles.
Not only that—apart from makeup wipes being made mostly of plastic—it’s what they’re soaked in that’s particularly bad for skin. The instructions for using wipes advise ‘wipe, no need to wash off.’ But surely even wiping skin with the below non-skin-friendly ingredients will dry it out and set it up for early ageing, acne, breakouts and sensitivity—let alone leaving this stuff on your face overnight.
What’s in wipes - A market leading wipes brand ingredient list:
Ingredients: Aqua, Cetearyl Isononanoate, Panthenol, Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Glycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, Disodium EDTA, Ceteareth-12, 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol, Propylparaben, Sodium Citrate, Pantolactone, Citric Acid
Using a wipe to quickly smudge off makeup late at night may be convenient but skin surely cringes when plastic soaked in these sorts of concoctions is rubbed over it.
The typical wipes ingredients listed above simply aren’t nutritive and beneficial to skin. They’re the opposite; they introduce ageing elements into skin and cause dryness and irritation. There must be a connection between the fact that so many people use wipes to clean their faces at night - and that dermatologists’ waiting rooms are overflowing with patients complaining of rosacea, various irritations and acne problems.
There is another way. We recommend this quick and efficient, gentle and nourishing makeup cleansing routine — enabling you to cleanse efficiently and at the same time, delight your skin with nutrients.
- Precleanse: with wet hands massage two or three pumps of Rosewood or Sage Face Oil over face and neck, also over and around eyes and on eyelashes.
- Cleanse skin with Plant Gel Cleanser or Sundew Cleansing Milk
- Exfoliate and cleanse pores with One Step Exfoliating Cleanser
*If time-poor or tired, combine steps 2 and 3.