Choosing cosmetics is a complex proposition at the best of times. Before I buy something, I will always consider quite a few different factors - does it REALLY work the way it says it will? Will I actually use it? Do I REALLY like it? Can I afford it? This last question in particular can be a real make or break one for a lot of people, and honestly, I think that if you're in that sort of financial situation you can go ahead and have a pass on fussing about whether your choices are as ethical as they could be. If you have to wear lipstick to your minimum wage job or you'll get fired, and the only one you can afford it tested on animals? Then you just go ahead and buy whatever you have to, you'll get no shade or shame from me. Ethical considerations are essentially a middle class issue, something that only becomes relevant when you have some sort of disposable income that you can spend as you please. Luckily, I'm in a situation where I can afford (most of) what I want, so the other two points are the main factors for me.
|A slight exaggeration of my financial situation.|
Let's face it, there are no entirely ethical choices out there. There really aren't. There's no such thing as a perfect product, from a perfect company, that ticks every ethical consideration box absolutely, all the time. And when you're talking about large companies, trying to uncover the details of ethical practices can not only be enormously difficult, but complex and often contradictory.
Let's take Lush, as an example of a big, complicated company - it's an example that's been rattling around my head for a little while now after a conversation with friend about ethical choices, and since I went to a blogger event at the local store just last night it seems like a serendipitous time to get my thoughts out. I used to shop at Lush a lot, but then decided to step away for a while after becoming quite disillusioned, and have just recently started shopping there again. Ethical choices when it comes to cosmetics is hardly ever a black and white question, and the bigger the company the more complex it gets.
Lush have a huge number of ethical practices I really like, and that I can wholeheartedly get behind. Their efforts to reduce packaging in general, and recycle anything and everything they can is brilliant, and their commitment to sourcing ingredients in both a sustainable and fair way is amazing. They've even introduced biodegradable glitter in their products this year, in an effort to reduce the impact their products have on waterways, and they make a point of listing each and every ingredient that goes into their products (even if some of the effect claims are a little spurious), so you can look it up easily and quickly. These are all excellent, support worthy things, and I'm really glad they do them.
|Not only is it Fair Trade, this stuff is gooooooooooood.|
|Part of the Lush protest with performance artist Jacqueline Traide.|
This was the least triggering picture of it I could find.
For an example of how I navigate these choices on an everyday basis, let's look at my tendency to buy indie cosmetics over mainstream brands. The single biggest reason I like to buy a lot of my cosmetics from very small, independent brands is that they make their own products. I've had so many shitty, exploitative jobs over the years that I really, really hate the idea that I'm helping sustain that kind of business model. I want everyone to be able to make a living from something that makes them happy in my imaginary utopian future (you know the one, where racism and sexism and capitalism don't exist anymore), so I like to do what I can to support that in the here and now. When buying from independent creators, I know that the staff at least want to be doing what they're doing, even if they're not making what I would consider the level of pay they deserve from their business. It's important to me to know that I'm doing a tiny little bit to encourage people to take a chance, start their own business, and at least have a go at supporting themselves with something they love.
|Okay, so no-one really loves their job this much, but you get the idea.|
|Sketch by Don Moyer|
After these two big button issues are resolved, for me it comes down to preferences. I prefer buying cosmetics that are vegan, because it makes me feel icky to think about using animals for something as frivolous and unnecessary as cosmetics. But it's not a deal breaker - I'm not going to turn down a beautiful sparkly nail polish because it has guanine in it that is made from processed fish scales. I prefer to buy cosmetics that are largely natural ingredients, but I also understand that artificial ingredients are sometimes required to prevent infections, among other nasty side effects. If something with artificial ingredients works noticeably better than an all-natural counterpart, I'm going to with the better performer. If I notice something I like anyway is also organic, it makes me happier with my choice. But I don't deliberately seek out only organic products.
|I don't think this will ever be a real thing.|
Found at NextNature
Do you take any of these things into consideration when buying cosmetics? What tops your list of things to think about before you hand over your money? Do you think all these things are secondary to whether the product is pretty or not? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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