Clouds of smoke rise above mounds of burning rags and garbage, engulfing the area in unbearable smog and stench. Splendid cars carrying well-groomed passengers pass by the mess. How would the passengers take notice of this open dumpsite? The windowpanes are rolled up and appear to be hazy with the vapour created by artificial air-cooling systems within the cars. The comfort takes us to a world where no smog, no stench can ever reach us, or so we wish.
Environment is such an essential component of all beauty and health regimes that it is bound to have an impact on us, either directly or indirectly, and yet there seems to be so little concern among fashion and beauty enthusiasts with regards to the ever-increasing man-made degradation of the environment. A noted Senegalese conservationist once said: in the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.
The area described in the opening vignette is conventionally considered as 'posh.' Powerful elites in these areas turn a blind eye to the open dumpsites located in certain alleys, such as Road-137 in Gulshan-1 near popular food establishments. If several studies are to be believed, around 60 per cent of waste is dumped on roadsides and open spaces, leading to serious ramifications, namely the rapid spread of diseases such as malaria, respiratory diseases and skin infections.
Global Environmental Performance Index 2014 ranks Bangladesh as the ninth-most polluted country in the world, which must be a source of alarm for the beauty-conscious population. Although opportunistic fashion and beauty companies would like us to believe otherwise, the truth is that no concealer or anti-aging formulation will be able to miraculously overturn the long-term detrimental effects of such pervasive pollution.
In more specific terms of urban air quality, Bangladesh ranks at the bottom fourth among 91 countries, according to a report by the World Health Organization. Not only are we inhaling air of such poor quality, adversely affecting the beauty from within, we are also distressing our skin and hair with carbon pollutants and sweltering temperatures, wreaking havoc on our appearances.
Clogged pores, acne, uneven complexion, wrinkles, skin allergies, eczema, frizzy hair, split ends, and respiratory diseases, are results of air pollution. If you think washing your face regularly and drinking sufficient water are sustainable remedies to these problems, you might want to know more about the status of water resource management in Bangladesh.
According to the United Nations, 80 per cent of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated directly into the water bodies. Household waste, industrial effluents and agricultural contaminants choke the country's waterways.
Studies reveal that out of the 310 rivers in Bangladesh, 175 are in miserable conditions, while 65 are almost 'dead.' When the residents of Dhaka city are not grappling with water scarcity, they are faced with putrid yellow, contaminated, or highly-chlorinated tap water that causes scalp irritation, baldness, and dryness. Despite this ghastly condition, water pollution continues unabated.
Pollution is creeping into internal systems through adulteration of all kinds. According to several researchers, between 70 to 90 per cent of food is adulterated. Ironically, unscrupulous manufacturers are using beauty products such as soaps to produce 'ghee' and the likes. Food adulteration on such a massive scale causes a myriad of health problems such as cancer, diabetes, skin diseases, respiratory and cardiac complications, infertility, miscarriage, stunted growth in children, and depression. If food adulteration is not curbed, we will be slowly poisoned to death.
To make matters worse, adulteration has entered the cosmetics industry too. Cosmetics containing carcinogenic ingredients and toxic metals, such as mercury, flood the shopping malls ahead of Eid or other festive occasions. These counterfeit products are responsible for a range of skin and hair ailments, such as skin discolouration, skin cancer, hair loss, skin rash, and scalp irritation. Consumers often dismiss the matter thinking the product did not 'suit' their skin types, when in reality the problem lies in the product itself.
Pollution combined with today's stressful lifestyle results in premature aging of the skin. People in Bangladesh who love their skin and hair cannot afford to remain misinformed and silent about the ongoing and emerging environmental issues in the country. There is a deep correlation between beauty and environment, and it is wise to acknowledge this link sooner than later.
While we gush about our favourite beauty brands, it will be favourable for us to be environmentally conscious in order to be truly fashionable and beautiful.