Is makeup biodegradable?

In this article we will discuss if makeup is biodegradable? If it is, how exactly does it undergo the process of biodegradation? How is it impacting the environment? How is makeup responsible for causing and promoting plastic waste? How can we make makeup eco-friendly? And discussing brands which are promoting biodegradable and eco-friendly makeup. 

Is makeup biodegradable?

Yes, most of the makeup is biodegradable. If the makeup is made up of natural products it will biodegrade much faster however if it contains any synthetic materials or polymers the process of biodegeneration will become slower or may not happen in the first place for example in the case of polyolefins. These products become accumulated in the environment.

Recently scientists have come up with synthetic polymers which biodegrade much faster than the natural products for instance polyurethane. This polymer contains chemical bonds which can easily biodegrade in nature.

On the other hand cosmetics contain a lot of natural products which are stable in the environment and biodegrade extremely slowly. Some natural compounds for instance cellulose are used in cosmetics but they are modified to improve their compatibility and performance. 

These modifications end up slowly down the rate of biodegeration process.

What is biodegradable?

The term biodegradable means the characteristic of any material or substance which can be decomposed naturally by microbes and microorganisms and do not impact the environment negatively. 

A microbe or microorganisms are microscopic organisms found in the environment. They are present in the land, water and air. Most of the microorganisms found in the soil act as natural decomposers and decompose the organic substances found in the soil by secreting certain enzymes on them. Once decomposed these complex substances take the form of their chemical components and impact the soil effectively. 

What is biodegradable waste?

A biodegradable waste include substances and materials that can be degraded by natural factors such as: 

  • Temperature
  • Oxygen
  • UV radiation
  • Microorganisms

Biodegradable waste include food materials, waste from the kitchen and various other natural wastes such as animal feces or plants. 

Microbes along with temperature, oxygen and radiation break down these biodegradable substances into their simpler forms which eventually become a part of the soil. The process of biodegradation can be rapid or slow depending on the type of waste. The environmental risk posed by biodegradable waste is extremely less. 

What are the advantages of biodegradable products?

Biodegradable products have a lot of advantages. These are: 

  • They can easily be composted or recycled which removes the chances of landfills. 
  • Biodegradable products when degraded release less toxic gasses into the environment. 
  • The solid biodegradable products can be used as compost for the soil to increase its fertility. 
  • No energy is required to incarnate the biodegradable products as the process is carried out naturally by the microorganisms.
  • The quality of water and soil remains intact when biodegradable products are decomposed because no harmful toxins are released.  
  • They promote zero percent waste generation. During decomposition of biodegradable products new products are being generated at every stage and phase of the process.
  • They can increase the food production by being a viable fertilizer. This will yield a higher crop with no chemicals.
  • They are economically viable.

What type of makeup is harmful to the environment?

A makeup product which is not biodegradable and mostly consists of stable synthetic chemicals is harmful to the environment. Not only are these products detrimental to the environment, most of the makeup companies are using extremely toxic synthetic compounds which can cause severe health implications in and outside our bodies.

The synthetic makeup contains toluene, paraben, artificial fragrances, oxybenzone and other chemicals. Out of the chemicals most of them get accumulated inside our bodies and are proved to be carcinogenic.

Synthetic makeup products also contain heavy metals such as lead, aluminum, mercury, arsenic and cadmium which have a negative impact on the environment.

How is synthetic makeup impacting our environment?

Synthetic makeup contains several heavy metals which are deteriorating our environment. These chemical components do not break down naturally and end up accumulating in the environment. They become negatively effective once they are washed down from the sink.

Coal tar is derived from chemicals and is mainly used in making dark hair colors and lipsticks. Coal tar is also known as P-phenylenediamine. 

This chemical has a long term impact on the land and aquatic ecosystem. It mainly targets the plankton population in the ocean, affects fish behavior and causes the death of several organisms living underwater.

Some cosmetics contain BHA and BHT which impacts the aquatic ecosystems severely. These chemical compounds cause genetic mutations in the amphibians and deaths in fishes and shell-fish. These products are mainly found in lipsticks and moisturizers.

Dioxane is used in many makeup products such as cream based products and moisturizers and is carcinogenic in nature. It is an endocrine disruptive chemical and once washed down in the waterways ends up altering the behavior of fishes and impacts their mortality.  

Nail polishes contain a chemical known as Dibutyl phthalate or DBP. DBP is a plasticizer and is commonly used in the making of plastic pipes. When the nail polish is removed or discarded DBP gets accumulated in the environment. This chemical compound alters the biochemical, genetic and reproductive processes of fishes.

A ph adjuster known as Diethanolamine or DEA is used in different cosmetics products. It is used to reduce the acidity of chemicals used in a particular cosmetic. This DEA reacts with nitrates and form nitrosamines. These chemical compounds are highly carcinogenic to humans, plants and several other life forms.

How is makeup packaging impacting the environment?

Makeup packaging is affecting the environment negatively. Over the years the cosmetic companies are striving hard to make their makeup products aesthetically pleasing. 

This is mainly done by modifying the packaging of various makeup products. The packaging of these makeup products is primarily made up of plastic and is non-biodegradable.

The plastic packaging is only adding to consumer waste. According to research almost 120 billion cosmetic packaging products are produced annually and most of them are for one time use only. Empty containers of various makeup products are extremely small to be recycled. Almost 80% of the purchased cosmetics are not actively used and end up in landfills.   

What is eco-friendly makeup?

An eco-friendly makeup is a type of makeup which does not impact the environment negatively and is trying to mitigate the detrimental impact the cosmetic industry has on the environment. 

The eco-friendly term can be used for a product, company, process or system. Anything which is playing a part in reducing the carbon emissions, using renewable energy sources and is avoiding animal product and animal testing.

Eco-friendly makeup companies are trying their best to reduce waste as much as they can by using organic ingredients such as:

  • Safflower Oil
  • Aloe Juice
  • Ylang Ylang Oil
  • White, Black, and Green Tea Leaf
  • Lilli Pilli Oil
  • Vitamin A (Carrot Seed Oil)
  • Plum Seed Oil
  • Almond Oil
  • Jojoba Oil
  • Chamomile Oil

Eco-friendly makeup companies try to avoid the use of petrochemicals, animal products, parabens, harmful fillers, genetically modified ingredients, gluten, polysorbates and fragrances as much as possible.

They use biodegradable formulas, so once the products have washed down they can naturally decompose and not harm the environment. These biodegradable formulas do not contain any sort of microplastics and use packaging which is made up of recyclable and compostable materials.

The eco-friendly makeup is cruelty free and helps in reducing carbon emissions by avoiding animal products and animal ingredients. These make up companies also use refillable containers to store their products so they can be easily recycled.  

What are some eco-friendly makeup brands?

There are several eco-friendly makeup brands in the market. Ever since there has been a rise in environmental awareness and protection several makeup companies have originated which are producing biodegradable makeup and packaging. these include:

  • Antonym cosmetics: they produce cruelty free makeup products and the only non-vegan ingredient that is used in their lipsticks is beeswax. They also do not use parabens and fragrances in their products.
  • Rms: RMS cosmetics use toxic-free and organic ingredients. Their cream products come in recycled glass jars and their packaging is also made from recycled products.
  • Axiology: this cosmetic company uses organic oils, cruelty free ingredients in their cosmetics and do not contain any artificial fragrances. They also sell their products in recycled packaging and everything is certified.
  • Tata harper: this company produces makeup which is extremely formulated and is packaged in recyclable glass. The glass bottles are made from plastic resins that come from renewable sugarcane. The ingredients are vegan and cruelty free.


The makeup industry is rising with a boom and it is essential to come with makeup products that are natural and biodegradable. In the past we have come across several makeup products which contain synthetic chemicals which were non-biodegradable and were posing a health risk to humans, animals and plants. With the rising environmental awareness makeup companies have become more conscious about their products and the implications they have on the environment. For this reason they are opting for natural ingredients and recycled packaging so once their products have been discarded the toxins do not leach into soil and water.

Frequently asked questions, “is makeup biodegradable?”

What type of chemicals are biodegradable in hairstyling products?

Liquid polymers used in hairstyling products are biodegradable in water. Polyurethane-based liquid polymers can be used in hairstyling products and are not hazardous to the environment because of their chemical structure. The bonds are biodegraded in the environment and are broken down by the organisms found in the ground.

Is palm oil used in makeup products sustainable?

Palm oil used in makeup products is not sustainable. The palm oil is retrieved by cutting down the trees and therefore this entire process promotes deforestation, disturbing the habitat of numerous wild animals. The companies will stop using palm oil if the usage and demand is stopped altogether.

How to prevent makeup from being hazardous to the environment?

Makeup can be prevented to become hazardous to the environment in a number of ways:

  • Avoid using makeup products which are synthetic in nature.
  • Avoid using makeup removal wipes.
  • Stop buying from makeup brands that are not environmentally minded.
  • Promote education and responsible purchasing practices.
  • Use eco-friendly makeup brands.

What are green cosmetics?

Green cosmetics is another terminology used for eco-friendly makeup products and brands. The term green cosmetics is used to promote the notion of the product being environmentally friendly. These cosmetics are natural and organic in nature and are biodegradable.

What are different types of eco-friendly packaging?

There are different types of eco-Friendly packaging specifically used for makeup products. These include, paper, leaf plates, bioplastics, mushroom, bamboo and cardboard.


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  • Cieslak, E. (2021, June  9). We Researched the Best Sustainable Makeup Brands—Here Are Our Top Picks. TreeHugger.  Retrieved from:
  • Thompson, W. What is eco-friendly makeup? Household Wonders. Retrieved from:

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