- Recyclable packaging
- Some ingredients have low aquatic toxicity
- Rapidly degradable propellants
Living Proof is a hair care brand based in the USA. The brand takes pride in using science to solve hair concerns. Unilever acquired the brand in 2017.
This product gets a few of the easy things right. Being an aerosol, the packaging is recyclable in kerbside recycling. The propellants used will be rapidly degraded in the atmosphere. Some of the ingredients have low aquatic toxicity. However, there are a number of ingredients that could or do have a significant environmental impact.
The company highlights octafluoropentyl methacrylate as the star ingredient in this product. This chemical is toxic to algae and a small amount can kill fish embryos. It is also a type of PFAS. These chemicals can be problematic in the environment because they rarely ultimately biodegrade.
Octafluoropentyl methacrylate will probably break down to form octafluoropentanol, which is another type of PFAS. As far as we know, octofluoropentanol will never break down in the environment. This makes it critical to understand the potential long-term effects of the chemical, but there is no test information available to evaluate this. Further, the long-term effect of PFAS are known to be difficult to predict.
The environmental impacts of other ingredients in this product are well known. Octoxynol-10 appears to be an ethoxylated alcohol that degrades to 4-tert-octylphenol in the environment. This chemical – 4-tert-octylphenol – is very toxic to aquatic organisms and is not readily biodegradable, making it a significant environmental pollutant. It is listed as a substance of very high concern in Europe. Companies wanting to use this chemical in Europe have to seek authorisation first due to the risk it poses.
UPDATE: I contacted the European Chemicals Agency to find out why I could not see any authorisations for the use of 4-tert-octylphenol ethoxylate on their website, even though this product seems to be on sale in Europe. They told me that obligations in relation to seeking authorisation of this chemical are currently being phased in, and do not come into full effect until 4 January 2021.
The phase in period is to help industry transition to the new regulation. However, releasing the chemical before that date will still have an environmental impact.
I also contacted Living Proof and asked them to confirm whether this product contains Octoxynol-10, and its chemical identity. They provided a link to their ingredients page, which lists Octoxynol-10 as an ingredient in this product, and referred the question on chemical identity to another team. As of April 2018, I am yet to receive a further response.
Another ingredient is cetrimonium chloride. Cetrimonium chloride is very toxic to aquatic life. It is also readily biodegradable and likely to get bound up with bits of dirt. Both of these characteristics mean that aquatic life are less likely to be exposed to it, but a small amount of the chemical could still get into waterways and cause toxic effects.
It is not clear what some of the other ingredients are. While some fragrance chemicals are in the ingredients list (for example, citronellyl methylcronate), “fragrance” is also listed. Labelling requirements for fragrances mean this could be anything. Because the company does not identify the fragrances as natural, it seems likely that they are synthetic chemicals which could be chemicals of high concern.
But does it work?
Considering how well a product works is a big factor in determining whether a product is a good one or not. A product that does not work is a waste.
This product is very popular with users – but so are many other products that have a much lower environmental impact. Search our reviews to find other products that could do the job without compromising the environment.
Image credit: Beauty blog of a kind