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A One Health Approach to Skincare

Here we are in late spring / early summer! With the changing of seasons comes the changing of your skin’s needs. While a heavy-duty moisturizer is key for winter, a lightweight sunscreen is the star of summer skincare. However, regardless of the season, it’s important to ask yourself three key questions before choosing something from the shelf:

  1. Is it cruelty free?
  2. Is it sustainable?
  3. Is it safe / clean?

As a refresher, our conservation theme for 2022 is “One Health,” which explores connections between the health of people, wildlife, and the environment. These intersections are quite straightforward when it comes to skincare and beauty brands. Take sunscreen, for example. Sunscreen is absolutely vital to minimizing the risk of skin cancer (and early aging), but many common store brands contain ingredients (most notably oxybenzone and octinoxate) that are damaging to coral reefs. As another example, many beauty products use palm oil, which, when not harvested sustainably, poses an enormous threat to endangered species in affected areas, such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Malaysian sun bears, and wreathed hornbills.

As you can see, the products we use matter, affecting our own health, the health of the environment, and the health of wildlife. Luckily, there is a mountain of resources to help you make a responsible decision that is also catered towards your own budget and skincare needs. With the explosion of the skincare industry in the past couple years comes an ongoing dialogue and increasing push towards products that are not only kind to skin, but to animals and the environment. Here’s a breakdown of the three major parameters to consider:

Cruelty Free

While many popular drugstore brands still test on animals, more and more companies are becoming “leaping bunny certified.” You can find an updated list of cruelty-free brands organized by price point here. You might be surprised how affordable and accessible some are!


Many respected skincare brands have changed their packaging or production strategies to become more sustainable. Some have even gone zero waste. While there’s not as broad a database for sustainable skincare, you can check out this list of 20 Organic, Zero Waste Skincare Brands or this list of sustainably-focused brands for some good places to start looking.


Many ingredients that are not safe for wildlife, especially when discarded (synthetic fragrances, parabens, etc.), are also not safe for humans. Clean beauty products are made without ingredients shown or suspected to harm human (and animal) health. Luckily, it’s becoming more common to use only clean ingredients, and these products are very easy to find. Many specialty beauty stores even have specific search filters you can use to narrow results to only clean products.

Note that there are a number of companies that “greenwash” (make themselves seem more sustainable or safe than they actually are), so, as always, do your due diligence, research brands you’re interested in using, and make sure you’re reading each product’s full list of ingredients! The good news is there’s a sustainable, cruelty-free, and clean product out there for every skin type and budget, so making the switch doesn’t require sacrificing your specific needs or breaking the bank.



  1. Heath, G. (n.d.). What is Reef-Safe Sunscreen? Retrieved May 10, 2022, from rei.com
  2. Palm Oil. Zoo Atlanta. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from zooatlanta.org
  3. Leaping Bunny Standard. Leaping Bunny. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from leapingbunny.org
  4. Rose, S. (2022, March 8). 51 Cruelty-Free Skincare Brands For Every Budget. Cruelty-Free Kitty. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from crueltyfreekitty.com
  5. Kellogg, Kathryn. (2020, July 31). 20 Organic, Zero Waste Skincare Brands. Going Zero Waste. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from goingzerowaste.com
  6. Halberg, Morgan. The Sustainably-Focused Skincare Brands to Shop for Earth Day—And Always. (2022, April 21). Observer. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from observer.com
  7. Chemicals of Concern. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Retrieved May 10, 2022 from safecosmetics.org 

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