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Green Living: Makeup Makeover

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Green Living
Makeup Makeover
Changes that go far beyond cosmetic.

Neil Fletcher & Matthew Ward/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

The extract from the early purple orchid, a magenta flower whose petals spill down its stately stalk, holds exciting potential for cosmetics, from anti-aging cream to lipstick. But until L’Oréal began cultivating the species in-house in 2008, the makeup giant nixed it as an ingredient. Using the wild plant as the source of the extract threatened the species’ long-term survival, so it failed a key component of L’Oréal’s eco-assessment.

“We want [our ingredients] to be of renewable origin,” says spokesperson Pam Alabaster. “We want them to require reduced energy and be more environmentally friendly.” L’Oréal—parent to The Body Shop and more than 20 other beauty-care brands—has resolved to cut its emissions, waste, and water consumption in half by 2015. Spurred partly by consumer demand, other mainstream companies, including Estée Lauder and Procter and Gamble (owner of CoverGirl and Olay), are reducing package waste and incorporating benign raw materials into their products.

A driving force may be regulations proposed in recent years that would, for the first time, give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the ability to regulate personal care products. While such rules haven’t been passed yet, if they are, companies might have to register with the FDA, which would make the product data and safety studies publicly available. One of the only comparable existing resources is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, with 64,000 products.

“[Americans are] using an average of nine products a day, with 126 ingredients,” says the EWG’s Jane Houlihan. “Many of those we rinse down the drain.” As more companies consider their products’ safety and environmental impact, the “natural look” may come to mean “friendly” to nature.
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