It’s finally Friday night, and after a long week, you get ready to go out. You stand before the mirror and begin to apply your favourite eye shadow, perfectly complimenting your complexion and making your eyes sultry and mysterious. Does your attention ever gloss over the blood and lament of children in India? I shouldn’t think so.
Maybe it’s been raining all day, you finally arrive home and head straight for the comfort of a warm shower. As the heat caresses your body, you open up your favourite body wash and its fresh fragrance seduces your nose…does your mind conjure up the image of guinea pigs being injected with chemicals? Probably not.
I used to work as a sales assistant for LUSH Oxford Street. Before my employment began, I was well acquainted with their campaigns to end animal cruelty, but little did I know, there were many more complex issues hiding behind the makeup of the international cosmetic industry. We all use cosmetics and this blog aims to give a holistic overview of some the considerations to be made on your next trip to Boots, as well as some helpful links and apps to guide you on ethical consumerism.
1. Mica and child labour.
Mica, a mineral used widely across various industries, is often added to makeup to give it shine and sparkle. Despite being discovered nearly a decade ago, illegal mining of mica from child labour in India is still finding its way onto our shelves. LUSH decided back in 2014 that they would switch to synthetic mica, and work to remove all of the natural mica contaminants in their products by January 1st 2018. Other big companies, such as L’Oréal and Revlon, signed “The Responsible Sourcing of Mica Initiative”, deciding that they didn’t want to stop investing in Indian mines and would work to secure natural mica suppliers under legal conditions.
Mica is not essential in makeup, and a simple google search will help you to find mica-free makeup. If you want to avoid products containing mica it is listed as ‘Potassium Aluminium Silicate’, ‘Mica’ or ‘CI 77019’. Another option is to support companies that have signed the initiative for improvement, but I would suggest only trusting companies that provide transparency with regards to their progress. Whilst L’Oréal’s website announces that 97% of their mica comes from ethical suppliers, they have failed to update their progress for over 3 years and have made no comments about whether or not their goal to source 100% ethical mica by 2016 was made.
How much packaging am I using? Ways to reduce the amount of packaging used in your products include buying bulk amounts, only plastic that can be recycled or going naked! By this I mean taking advantage of new packaging-free products like solid shampoo or perfume! LUSH offers free products as a reward for returning their empty pots and Odylique use recyclable and reusable glass jars. If you have the time, take a look at the blog “going zero waste” which has great suggestions on how to combat this issue.
If you are like me and you love glitter, please make the switch to biodegradable glitter from sources like EcoStardust. Glitter is often made from plastic and is contributing to the microplastic fatalities of aquatic animals! Lastly, on the plastic-front, we have microbeads, which can be found in facewash, toothpaste, body wash and much more. Thankfully, the UK government issued a microbead ban earlier this year, however, if you want exfoliation, opt for salt-based products and avoid these microplastics when abroad.
3. Sustainable agriculture
Many cosmetic products contain toxic chemicals which are both harmful to your skin and the environment. Brands like Odylique practice great sustainable policies by which they source locally where possible, all of their natural ingredients are from organic Fairtrade farms and have boycotted palm and palm kernel oil suppliers.
For those of you haven’t heard, like mica, unethical palm oil has secured its contribution across the supply chain of multiple corporations, and is responsible for mass deforestation of our rainforests, destroying important carbon sinks and diminishing biodiversity. Unfortunately, even organic palm oil is responsible for these afflictions and can be listed in products as ‘Palm oil’, ‘Elaeis guineensis Oil’, ‘Sodium Palmate’ and in some emulsifiers; all of which are commonly found in soap.
I also want to highlight the importance of local sourcing where possible. We live in a world of imported commodities, and the price of this is not just being charged to your credit card but also to planet earth. So, if you can, try and support local businesses or checkout companies with a carbon neutral initiative.
4. Animal rights
Cosmetic animal testing and selling produce tested on animals was banned in the UK in 1998, and other EU countries by 2013. However, popular cosmetic companies in the UK still test their products on animals in other countries and buying their produce is supporting this business model. Up until recently, it was mandatory by law to test all cosmetics on animals made or sold in China, but due to long-term speculation and campaigning changes are slowly being made. All cosmetics that are to be sold in Chinese stores are tested on animals, but products made in china for exportation or sold online are no longer required to do so. Now that there are ways of selling the produce in China without animal testing there really is no excuse. I think many people will agree with modern developments and knowledge of ingredients, it is no longer necessary or ethical to test cosmetics on animals. If you want to actualize cruelty-free cosmetics in your life, there are lots of brands committed to this movement that you can support, including Neal’s Yard and Green People. Is animal suffering really worth a tube of lipstick?
Ok, so with money in the equation, some of the aforementioned brands are not exactly the cheapest, but don’t fret. I have put links to lots of reasonably priced websites with good ethics below. I highly recommend buying solid shampoos, conditioners, perfumes, and more, as they last a long time and are good value for money. Also, I would like to highlight buying bulk amounts of product like shower gel if you don’t want to switch to bars of soap. Another suggestion I would make is using less product if possible, if you need advice on how to do this please see my tips at www.affordablygreen.org. You can also get creative and make your own products, which can be a fun way to bond with friends. I am sorry to say that ethical cosmetics will rarely be as cheap as Superdrug own-brand, so practice using less. Be smart about your purchases and remember if you’re not paying the price…someone else is.
Apps to get:
an app that allows you to scan barcodes and find out more about the supply chain!
Affordably green cosmetics:
https://www.greenpeople.co.uk/ (not the cheapest but the are currently giving away free gifts)
Link to tips on less harmful use
Link to ethical consumer ratings:
https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/health-beauty (an extensive list of guides on the ethical companies for different products and a list of ones to avoid)
Going zero waste blog:
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