Production > Hair & Makeup

Hair and Make-up Products

Buy safer products

Cosmetic products are weakly regulated and many contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to both human health and the environment. Many products contain pollutants that can cause allergic reactions, damage to the nervous system, hormone disruption, cancer, or other health risks when they are absorbed or ingested.

Read labels carefully before purchasing cosmetic products and avoid products with toxic ingredients where possible.  Encourage theatre or production personnel who make purchases to use the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Safe Cosmetics for guidance on ingredients to avoid. Encourage staff to look up products they plan to use on the EWG Database, which has tested cosmetic products for various toxic chemicals. You can search the database by product, ingredient, company, or safer alternatives.  The Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia’s Guide to Less Toxic Products also provides information about safer cosmetics and hair styling products.  Use previews to experiment with greener make-up and hair products.

Safer cosmetics

Consider the following tips when purchasing cosmetic products:

  • Look for products that are phthalate-free.
  • Don’t trust the term “natural,” which is unregulated and does not meet any specific environmental or health criteria.
  • Look for products that are signatories of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a pledge to produce safer products and provide ingredient transparency.
  • Look for cruelty-free makeup and hair care products, meaning they contain no ingredients currently being tested on animals.
  • “Fragrance” is a catch-all term than can include hundreds of chemicals.  Skip products that use the general term “fragrance.” Opt for products that list individual fragrance ingredients instead.  Avoid these common fragrance ingredients where possible:
    • DMDM hydantoin
    • Diazolidinyl urea
    • Imidazolidinyl urea
    • Ceteareth
    • Polyethylene glycol (PEG)
    • Avoid nail products containing:
      • Formaldehyde or formalin in polish, hardeners or other nail products
      • Toluene
      • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
      • Avoid lipsticks containing:
        • Lead
        • Parabens
        • Retinyl palmitate (vitamin A palmitate)
        • Retinol

Consult the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia’s Guide to Less Toxic Products for safer cosmetic product alternatives. For an in-depth list of chemicals to avoid, visit EWG’s Top Tips for Safer Products.

Safer hair products

Use non-aerosol hairspray where possible. Aerosol sprays can contain toxic propellants.

Consult the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia’s Guide to Less Toxic Products for safer hair styling alternatives.

In general, avoid hair products containing the following ingredients:

  • “Fragrance”
  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG), ceteareths and polyethylene (PE)
  • Parabens (propyl, isopropyl, butyl, isobutyl)
  • DMDM hydantoin

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Packaging and Disposal

When possible, purchase hair and makeup products in containers that can be refilled, and look for products with recyclable or compostable packaging.

Work with your show’s Green Captain to set up collection programs for used makeup containers and other reusable or recyclable items from your department. Place recycling bins near hair and make-up stations to collect used containers, caps, and accessories that can be recycled or reused.  Also check with your venue’s waste hauler to find out what materials can be recycled within the building’s recycling program.

Many companies offer take-back programs for used containers.  For example:

  • M•A•C’s Back to M•A•C program accepts primary packaging from 6 M•A•C products in exchange for a free lipstick.
  • Origins’ Return to Origins Recycling Program accepts any empty cosmetic containers of recycling regardless of brand.
  • Kiehl’s Recycle and Be Rewarded program accepts empty Kiehl’s packaging in exchange for complimentary or discounted products.
  • Aveda’s Full Circle Recycling Program accepts any used Aveda packaging or accessories that cannot be recycled in curbside programs.
  • Garnier’s Beauty Brigade program in partnership with Terracycle provides prepaid shipping labels for shipping used hair care, skin care, and cosmetics packaging.

Make sure to properly dispose of unused cosmetic and hair products by checking with your municipality for the best way to dispose of these products. Some products are considered hazardous waste, especially flammable items like hair spray and other aerosols, nail polish, and nail polish remover. Do not dump personal care products down the drain.

Additional resources