Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Disposable Wipes - a costly convenience?

As a make-up artist, face wipes and wet wipes are a staple in my kit. They are quick and convenient to remove make-up after a job and are great for mopping up spillages and helping to keep the kit clean. With a huge amount of skincare brands offering their own facial wipes, they are also a favourite for many women to use at night and on holiday. Wipes are also fast becoming a regular in handbags and such as an alternative to washing hands on the go.

I recently found a very interesting read, 'Behind the label' is a column in The Ecologist, written by the editor Pat Thomas, he looks at everyday household products and their ingredients. For one issue he focused on Wet Ones Ultra Soft with Camomile Extract which are one of the highest sellers in the UK for adult wipes. Thomas says the wipes are meant to be effective against E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria on the skin, but once an unwashed hand touches the inside of the packet the germs can start breeding inside the packet. To deal with this, eight of the 25 ingredients are preservatives and antibacterials which can cause skin irritation, sensitisation and dermatitis as well as breaking down the skin's own protective barrier. Propylene glycol is high on the ingredients list, this is found in many cosmetic products as it alters the structure of the skin therefore allowing better penetration of products, it is also a main ingredient in anti-freeze and as you can imagine is a known skin irritant! I had a look at the ingredients in a few of the different wipes I had in my kit and it wasn't good, with many of the long listings featuring the whole of the paraben family, as well as propylene glycol and a whole host of other unpronouncable chemicals.

On top of the fact that these wipes are not great for our skin, they are also not good for the environment. Thomas' column also said "Figures from North America suggest that if you were to load all the disposable wipes purchased there last year on to 18-wheel lorries, the convoy would number 9,000 trucks, stretch for 68 miles, and would be carrying 83,000 tonnes of used convenience cloths". That is a lot of cloths! They also take a long time to biodegrade so although a quick cleanse for us, not for the environment, who knows how long they will be in the ground after they have been used.

Now we are used to the convenience of wipes it would be hard to stop using them completely, luckily there are alternatives available. I have been using baby wipes from Nature Babycare, these wipes have minimal chemicals and are biodegradable too. Beaming Baby also have a good range of wipes including facial cleansing wipes. So we don't have to give up our wipes just yet, as long as we make good choices in the ones we use and don't use too many!

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