The Truth About Bio-Degradable Glitter
In my former life as a beauty stylist, makeup artist and blogger, earning the trust of my clients and readers was key to my success, especially when it came to recommending products and being a trusted guide to all things beauty. In fact, one of my most read blogs was an investigation into the truth behind the world’s most expensive moisturizer (which didn’t make its parent company very pleased)! Since launching my own brand, I have gone from professional beauty junkie to CEO in a matter of just a few short years, and I can’t begin to describe just how humbling it’s been to adjust to being on the other side of the coin.
Now more than ever, consumers are interested in knowing the truth about the products they are using; whether or not it is sustainably sourced, its impact on animals, the environment, etc. We are in the era of the informed consumer and we love watching this industry advance for the better, though sometimes misinformation can muddy the waters. We thought it would be worthwhile to debunk some glittery myths. As Lemonhead.LA’s first official blog post, I think the most important topic to discuss is the question we are asked the most:
Well... this is actually a pretty complicated question to answer because...
"BIO-DEGRADABLE" HAS BECOME A MARKETING TERM.
I'm not going to begin to pretend that I'm Gods gift to environmentalism, but I try to do my part as best as I can (remember--transparency!). I don't use disposable face wipes daily, I try to stay away from products with excessive packaging, I recycle as much as I can, I get anxiety if a guest tosses a can in the garbage, (I wait until they leave to dig it out) the list goes on. My former assistant Amanda taught me to save the turtles so now I cut my straws before tossing them and full disclosure, I have a weird obsession about making sure to reuse takeout containers….you get it. I’m also quite proud to say that out of all the waste our office and manufacturing facility produces, over 80% of it is recyclable! We have up to 4 recycle bins that go out each week and just one trash can that is mostly food, bathroom, and makeup studio waste. ANYWAYS, I was instantly intrigued by the concept of bio-degradable glitter when I first heard about it in the fall of 2016. Since then, I've studied, sampled, tested and would love to share what I've learned with with all of you.
Creative viral marketing has inadvertently created a monster and has taken what was originally called “eco” or “bio” glitter (plant-based), and has changed the suffix to "degradable". Instantly people assumed bio-glitter meant bio-degradable and vise versa and the two terms have become interchangeable. While it’s true bio-glitter is bio-degradable for the most part, that doesn’t mean that glitter that isn’t eco or bio never degrades. Polymer & UV Degradation is something we have kept our eye on since 2016 and it’s generating a lot of buzz in the science community ever since researchers found an enzyme that breaks down plastics.
When we are asked "are your glitters bio-degradable?" we can't help but sigh as we know how intense social media backlash can be against these types of things. While the short answer is "yes", that’s really not a fair question because the term itself means different things to different people. We use high-performance cosmetic PET glitters as well as plant-based. Both can degrade or break down (not dissolve) in the same amount time but also require the same conditions in order to do so (moisture, agitation, micro-organisms and most importantly, UV light) which means that we should do our best to remove both types responsibly.
Once again, short answer is “yes” although it’s not that simple. PET stands for Polyethylene Terephthalate, or in layman's terms, polyester. PET is used in just about everything we use every day (including those pants you’re wearing) - but that doesn’t mean everything is created equal. While PET has gotten a devilish reputation with environmentalists (rightfully so in many aspects), that doesn’t mean that everything it is used for is damaging to the environment.
Skin Deep’s Cosmetic Database has over 1,500 cosmetics listed that include polyethylene and over 600 listed that include PET specifically. These include your favorite hair styling products, mascaras and lipsticks such as L’Oreal Color Riche that get washed down the drain daily.
To be honest, not a whole lot other than personal preference. We choose to use high performance luxury cosmetic PET glitter because it is more stable and provides better performance and than the plant based new-kid-on-the-block when tested in different conditions over long periods of time.
Currently there are only a handful of plant-based colors available and as more options become available, we will make them available to our customers. Many brands are, in our opinion, straight up lying in order to sell products. Many foreign glitter manufacturers are also lying to sell fake “bio-degradable” glitters to unsuspecting young start-ups.
True bio-glitter is based from plant cellulose derived from eucalyptus trees. There is only one manufacturer that has certification that they use eucalyptus that is responsibly sourced and that is the only plant-based manufacturer we work with.
I’ll admit I can get a bit triggered by being asked if our glitter is “bio-degradable” simply because most of the time the people asking have seen a 30 second facebook ad and have already decided they know everything about the subject and that we are ocean-killing villians! As a conscientious brand, it is important to address this topic directly to get ahead of the issue and educate consumers. We hope this blog promotes thoughtful conversation based on facts vs emotions.
Are we advocating to cover your bodies in glitter and go tubing down the LA river? Of course not. All glitter, eco or not, should be removed responsibly as possible, and TBH who would really want to deal the plumbing bill after a Kesha concert !?
Our favorite ways to remove glitter from your body are sticky lint rollers or for larger areas, exfoliating mitts like this one from Amazon, to lightly brush the dried glitter off your body. You’ll get 99% of it off, and be guilt free in the shower!
Listen, I could have made a shit load of cash peddling bio-degradable nonsense on our site ages ago but there's a reason I chose not to. Lemonhead.LA makes the highest quality luxury glitter products in the world. If something doesn't meet my standard or if it feels fake or insincere, I'm not going to take advantage of people. Are we perfect in every way? Hell no. But we do what we can to make sure we are true to our customers and most importantly to ourselves.
Because I can't resist spilling some tea, I'd like to leave you with a truth bomb of palpable hypocrisy. Every major retailer requires every one of their brands to put every single unit in it's own ziplock plastic bag. 500 unit order? 500 plastic bags that get thrown away in the trash when they arrive at their final destination. 10,000 unit order? That's 10,000 plastic bags that are being thrown away with every order (you think they recycle in the back of their stores? aww). That's the reality of major retail sales. We could make our glitter out of Tinkerbell's breast milk and serve it in a sustainable mushroom cap and it would still have to ship to stores in a plastic bag.
Long story short, there’s so much more in life to worry about than a little glitter. Be a good person, try to leave a lighter environmental footprint for future generations and buy things that make you happy.
Megan - Founder & CEO, LHLA
Note: Lemonhead.LA offers plant based glitters as a customizable option. At the time of publishing this blog, there has never been an official scientific test on cosmetic or plant-based glitter in the oceans.