How to Care for Your Skin While Caring for the Planet | By Jennifer Chwalek

Last Updated: January 13, 2022By

The beauty industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry that is growing at record pace. As a dermatologist, I am asked about skincare every day. I am always amazed by how much skincare we invest in that we do not use. Patients bring bags of products to show me only to tell me they tried it a few times and then discarded it because it did not create a miracle outcome, or even worse, it irritated and aggravated their skin. At these times, I feel dismayed by the amount of waste we create.

It is no secret that the beauty industry is one of the worst generators of waste. This issue has worsened with the surge of advertising on social media tempting us to buy more. According to the EPA, a third of landfills are attributable to the beauty industry. Single-use plastics found in packaging can take hundreds of years to breakdown in landfills, and packaging often uses mixed materials which are not easily recyclable. Improper sourcing of ingredients can lead to deforestation, while poor production practices increase carbon emissions. The use of non-biodegradable ingredients, like microplastic beads, glitters and dyes accumulate in soil and waterways potentially creating toxic byproducts which poison wildlife.

The good news is that more businesses are taking responsibility and making sustainable manufacturing a priority. They are creating biodegradable packaging and even package-less products, as well as recycling programs to help limit our carbon footprint.


Consider a consultation with a specialist if you are trying to treat a specific concern. You are more likely to see a faster improvement instead of trying different products which may not be appropriate for your skin or condition. If you have sensitive skin, ask for samples to see if your skin will tolerate the product before investing in it.

Simplify your beauty routine. More is not better! Using multiple products just increases your chances for allergic reactions and irritation. Also, layering products may reduce their efficacy.

Before you shop, consider why you are buying it and whether you need it. Make it a habit to buy only what you need. Do not buy larger containers unless you will use it. Many companies have created test samples or travel size containers which allow you to sample a product before you commit to buying more.

Research and support companies who are committed to no animal testing and sustainability.

Educate yourself about what is and is not recyclable. Find ways to reuse and recycle. Credo Beauty, Return to Origins and TerraCycle have recycling programs, some of which give reward points for containers you bring back to recycle. We live in a time when it is so easy to have things shipped to us, but this creates more packaging. Consider buying it directly whenever you can.

Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2021-22 issue.

Jennifer Chwalek, M.D. is a NYC-based dermatologist and yoga instructor. She began her yoga journey over a decade ago and since has studied meditation, Ayurveda and other energy therapies with some of the most respected practitioners. Her mission is to help others feel more beautiful in their skin while healing their body image and self-worth issues. She is particularly interested in how lifestyle factors interact with genes to affect health and skin aging.

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