A little while ago now I wrote this post about my decision to only use cruelty-free beauty brands from that moment on. In a world where we’ve got China giving brands a massive demand for their products, but only on the condition that they are each tested on animals before retailing in the country, there was this ethical melt-down that happened a few years back; brands that had started in Europe and North America on pillars of excellence including no animal testing were re-evaluating their ethics all in the name of earning serious dollar in the East. That’s not cool; but I guess no surprise as business is often ruthless, regardless of how ‘beautiful’ the product being sold.

So I made this switch. It meant having to bid farewell to some old favourites, but I didn’t care – luckily there are plenty of incredible brands out there who put ethics before economy and for me that puts their products in a brighter light. One thing I must say though is that I’m still struggling with my moral stance on the sustainability of packaging, which is what this post is about today.

When I’m looking for a new product, I tend to mostly go for brands that I’ve done thorough research on first. It’s either that or looking for the leaping bunny symbol that indicates to the consumer that no animals were harmed in the making of that product. More than the issue of animal-testing though, I’m also highly interested in where the brands source their ingredients and therefore the quality, where the products are made, and how environmentally-friendly their policies are on waste. I would say there is a marginal correlation between brands refusing to retail in China and their ethical standpoint on the aforementioned points, but generally you’re looking at just the same amount of choice in good versus bad quality and care about the sustainability of packaging. This is an area that we need to move forward in – by bunny leaps and bounds, one could say.

So we’ve got the cruelty-free thing moving in a good direction. Like I said, there are loads of brands available to consumers who don’t want animals to suffer at the expense of putting mascara in their makeup bag. There could be more, but we’re moving in the right direction at least. The area we are lacking in – however – is the packaging. Black hard plastic (HDPE), the classic material used for that compact you’re holding is much harder to recycle than a standard PET. The result is that almost nowhere will take it to recycle and thus it ends up in landfill.

Why are we doing this? I understand that the marketing team of all these brands wants the product to be as aesthetically-pleasing as possible to the consumer. It’s unfortunate, but packaging is important to most consumers and that shiny metallic compact that looks chic in your handbag is going to consistently win more brownie points than a more environmentally-friendly alternative. This particularly applies to products in the more ‘luxury’ market. If you’re paying a good chunk of money for the product, you expect the packaging to be of a high calibre too.

But what if the demand changed? What if the consumer wanted a high quality product with protective, yet minimal and recyclable packaging? This would decrease the need for wasteful one-use plastics. The creative minds who enjoy packaging design could still do their thing, but this time bearing in mind the importance of the end of life for that packaging, whether it means making a material that can be transformed into something else when the make-up runs dry or something that is easily recyclable. If the consumer is paying a high price anyway, you have the luxury of getting creative with making the most environmentally-friendly, chic packaging you can! This is uncharted territory here!

That being said, when you’re buying paints for a canvas, it doesn’t matter what the tube looks like. The purpose of that paint is to make its way onto a blank canvas and transform it into a piece of art. Why shouldn’t makeup be considered the same? The packaging is what you see first, but the point of the makeup is to make its way onto your skin and transform you. I really think that we can learn to shift our perspective and priorities. All it takes is for one strong contender to take a leap and get some influential beauty bloggers on board. Big things can happen and I’m going to start pushing for it.


Photo: Flickr


I’ve decided to make the pledge to a life free from animal testing. For me, this starts with cosmetics.

cruelty free

Unfortunately there are an astonishing number of brands out there that test on animals. The EU banned animal testing for cosmetics in 2013 and other countries which also currently hold a ban include: Norway, India and Israel. But that’s it. Out of 196 countries in the world, only these places hold a ban. There are many other nations following suit, but as far as the law goes, our planet is overflowing with loopholes.

For anyone, like myself, who has worked in the cosmetics industry, there was a huge uproar back in 2013 when many brands that once stood firmly on the opposition for animal testing decided to retail in China, where it is required by law for cosmetics to be tested on animals. The beauty industry is worth a staggering amount in China and so if there are dollars to be made, unfortunately that now comes first to many big brands.

So the thing is, even if your moisturiser, mascara or whatever else is purchased in the EU where it may not have been tested on an animal, that brand could be supporting cruelty elsewhere. I just don’t think that’s good enough. And it infuriates me.

You may be shocked to hear that big brands including: the Estee Lauder group (Clinque, MAC, Origins etc.), the L’Oreal group (YSL, Kiehls, Maybelline etc), Benefit, Revlon, Avon, Aveeno, Almay, Stila, Clean & Clear, Vaseline, Pantene, TreSemme, Dior all retail in China and thus support animal testing. That’s not even an extensive list – do some research.

If you are testing a product on a rabbit/cat/dog/guinea pig, how can you compare the level of irritation or corrosion to what might occur in a human? We all have different chemical compositions and tissue structures, so what good is it clearing something on a guinea pig if you don’t know specifically how humans will be affected?

Do your research and you will find that there are plenty of alternatives to animal testing that are actually a) ethical and b) give a far more accurate picture of how human cells are affected.

So what alternatives are there?

  1. In vitro testing (lab stuff) – this is essentially testing in the laboratory using human tissue cultures. With revolutionary developments such as Harvard’s ‘organ-on-chip’ which is exactly what it sounds like: a simple micro-scale model of a human organ, we can see true impacts (if any) of the chemicals in questions and how they will actually affect our bodies. This method is particularly useful for drugs which are ingested and absorbed into the bloodstream.

When it comes to topical cosmetics, there are a plethora of 3D human skin models being used at present (with the most well-known probably being EpiDerm™). These are actual cultures of human skin being used in the laboratory to assess the effects of cosmetics or medicines applied to the skin’s surface. There was a brilliant paper published by Reus et al (Mutagenesis, 2013) which found that EpiDerm™ was a promising model for testing chemical compounds through a topical approach.

  1. In silico testing (computer models) – Like the tissue cultures used in the laboratory, there are in-depth, complex virtual models of the human epidermis which can be used to assess the potential toxicology of chemicals either ingested or applied onto the skin’s surface (see review of this subject in Raunio, Front Pharmacology, 2011). If the model is fed the correct data, in theory this is far superior to lab testing because multiple trials and variations of the ingredients list can be tested instantaneously.

Cosmetics are incredible: from skincare that makes you glow to the dazzling effects of theatrical make-up on Halloween, there is confidence that can be gained and fun that can be had through the cosmetic medium; but is it worth any price? My answer is a solid ‘no’ and only hope that this can encourage others to think twice next time they make a purchase.