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Are your skincare products killing marine life?

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

I don't know about you but my shower is like a sacred place to me. I can close myself in there, blast some almost too hot water, drop some eucalyptus essential oil on the floor and zen out for the next 20 minutes cleansing away the day and luxuriating in my favorite products (homemade scrub, shea butter, invigorating shampoos, etc). I just love the peace of it all and it's also where I get some of my best ideas and aha moments! One such revelation was not very pleasant though...what happens to the products I love to use that get washed down the drain?

There's no way around it: every single product we put on our bodies end up down the drain at some point and will eventually wind up in local waterways. While we do have sophisticated treatment plants in developed countries they aren't exactly designed to filter out micro-toxins created by our self-care routines. The results aren't pretty. Studies around the world have found micro-toxins accumulating in marine ecosystems causing adverse effects all the way up the food chain. Effects like micro-algae contamination, fish being exposed to toxic chemicals, and dying coral reefs cannot be understated as a critical factor to the declining health of our oceans. So what can we do?

To reduce the impact our products have on local marine life we have to eliminate harmful ingredients from our personal care routines. I can promise you that none of these ingredients will ever be used in any Glotanicals product and I encourage you to check your other products as well and switch to a cleaner alternative.

Avoid these ingredients harmful to marine life

1. Silicones

Very common in hair products but also found in skin creams & serums and makeup products, siloxanes (like cyclomethicone and cyclotetrasiloxane) are seeping into our environment at an alarming rate. In 2005, Norwegian Institute for Air Research and the Swedish Environmental Research Institute reported that high levels of siloxanes were found in samples taken from several locations in the Nordic countries. Detectable levels were also found within fish, raising alarm about the bioaccumulation of these chemicals.In 2015, the American Chemical Society reported that scientists had found traces of these compounds in soil, plants, phytoplankton, and krill all the way down in Antarctica.

2. BHA and BHT

A common preservative found in moisturizers and makeup products. In addition to being suspected hormone disruptors, they are both linked to potential environmental harm. BHA is listed as a chemical of potential concern by the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, because of its tendency to bioaccumulate and because it’s toxic to aquatic organisms. Studies have found that it causes genetic mutations in amphibians. BHT also has a moderate to high potential for bioaccumulation in aquatic species.

3. Triclosan

Used in most antibacterial products like hand soaps and sanitizers, deodorants, and laundry detergent, triclosan is linked to an increase in antibiotic resistant organisms, which have increased the risk that infections can be deadly.

In addition, when triclosan is washed down the sink, it can change the biochemistry of amphibians, fish, and aquatic plants. The European Union classifies this ingredient as having the potential to cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment. It doesn’t degrade quickly, tends to accumulate in the environment, and reacts with other chemicals in waterways to form dioxins, which are toxic.

4. Synthetic Fragrances

You may already know that fragrances are one of the most “sensitizing” ingredients in cosmetics, which mean they most often lead to reactions and irritation. They are made up of a cocktail of chemicals and manufacturers are not required to reveal them under “trade secret” laws.

Synthetic fragrances are commonly added to perfumes, shampoos, soaps, cleansers, creams, moisturizers, sunscreens, and more. According to a 2005 study, these ingredients are proving harmful to the marine environment. Wastewater treatment plants don’t break them down, which means they slip into the rivers and oceans via sewage discharge. National Geographic reported that they “compromise a cell defense mechanism that normally prevents toxins from entering cells.” That means that even if they don’t harm organisms on their own, they can reduce the organism’s ability to protect itself from other toxins.

5. Chemical Filter Sunscreens

Also known as:

  • EHMC (ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) 

  • OC (octocrylene)

  • BMDM (butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane)

  • OD-PABA (octyldimethyl-p -aminobenzoic acid)

  • Benzophenone derivatives

It's no secret that chemical sunscreens are enemy #1 to our beloved coral reefs. It's estimated that 6,000 and 14,000 metric tons of sunscreen lotions end up in coral reef areas each year. Studies around the world have reported that the chemicals in sunscreens like oxybenzone are toxic to coral and are directly contributing to the decline of reefs around the world. Recent studies on reefs in Australia, Hawaii, and the Caribbean have found high concentrations of oxybenzone around coral reefs, where it alters coral DNA and acts as an endocrine disruptor, causing baby coral “to encase itself in its own skeleton and die,”



Cosmetic Ingredients as Emerging Pollutants of Environmental and Health Concern. A Mini-Review Claudia Juliano and Giovanni Antonio Magrini

Cosmetics as a potential source of environmental contamination in the UK. Dhanirama D, Gronow J, Voulvoulis N.

“The Environmental Damages of Cosmetics,” Simple Luxe Living,

WNN Earth Watch, “Common cosmetics use can negatively impact the environment as well as the user,” Women’s News Network,

“Dirty Dozen Cosmetic Chemicals to Avoid,” David Suzuki Foundation,

“Synthetic Fragrances Harmful to Marine Life, Study Says,” National Geographic, July 11, 2005,

“Sunscreen contributing to decline of coral reefs, study shows,” The Guardian, October 21, 2015,

A. Downs, et al., “Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, February 2016; 70(2):265-288,

Norwegian Institute for Air Research, “Siloxanes: Soft, shiny-and dangerous?” Science Nordic, August 28, 2015,

Deirdre Lockwood, “Siloxanes Unexpectedly Observed in Antarctic Soil and Marine Life,” C&EN, February 25, 2015,

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