‘Cruelty-free & Vegan’ Isn’t Enough

Cruelty-free and Vegan

A few years ago, when I decided to no longer purchase cosmetics produced by brands that consent to animal testing where it’s required by law, I felt proud of my decision. Don’t get me wrong, I have every day since, too. But something I’ve grown to realise over the past couple years is that that alone isn’t enough for my ‘ethical purchasing consciousness’. I want every purchase I make to feel good. I want it to feel right. And despite the advantage of purchasing cruelty-free and vegan, I’ve realised that it isn’t enough. There are numerous other aspects to consider, such as quality of ingredients, packaging, ethics of production etc. These things have been niggling. I’m at the point now, where I simply can’t deny them.

The global cosmetics market is estimated to be worth around €181 billion. And I can’t see this figure decreasing any time soon. With influence thrown left, right and centre from Youtube, Bloggers, and Instagram as well as the more traditional television and magazine advertisements, we are bombarded. Those promoting cruelty-free and/or vegan brands totally get my praise. Many people still don’t realise that while we don’t test on animals here in the UK, many of the brands sold here are also sold in China where it’s required by law. (If you aren’t familiar already, Logical Harmony is where it’s at for determining the ethics of products before you purchase them.)

There are obviously some great things that come out of purchasing CF & V options. Firstly, you aren’t supporting the trade in China. Secondly, you’re choosing to support more compassionate consumption. Thirdly, you’re getting the ball rolling and increasing awareness. But I’ve realised that these aren’t the only ethics to be aware of in the consumption of beauty products. What about the formulation? Are you willing to use potentially harmful ingredients that can bioaccumulate in your body so long as it means that you aren’t supporting animal testing? Do you sacrifice yourself for the greater good? And what about landfill? Do the brands you support have an environmental policy? Is the packaging recyclable? Do they encourage you to bring it back to counter/store? Some brands who do support animal testing actually offer these. There are mixed priorities, clearly.

But the thing that I question is the ethical supply chain, or perhaps lack of, in many CF & V drugstore brands. It really can be summarised like this: 99% of the time the more you pay, the better quality you’re going to get. By ‘better quality’, I mean better ingredients with smarter formulas, more innovative packaging and probably happier staff who are producing those products for you.

It goes in the same category as ‘fast fashion’ for me. Granted, cosmetics won’t last you nearly as long as a piece of clothing if you look after it, but is it better to purchase every shade of a cheap drugstore blush for the same price as one high quality option from a niche brand? Depends on what your priorities are, I suppose.

The cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics market is still in the minority sector. That’s going to be the case for at least a few more years. But in the meantime, I encourage you to do your research on the brands you’re purchasing from. Go further than CF & V as your check boxes and ask questions like:

  • How am I going to recycle this packaging when the product is empty?
  • What ingredients are used in this formula?
  • Where is this product made and by whom?

There’s no one out there doing things perfectly. We’re either producing trash or driving around in pertroleum-fuelled cars or whatever else that’s harming the planet. It’s a constant quest for improvement. But I feel that as long as you’re on the path, that’s really what matters. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to encourage your favourite brands to go one step further in becoming more ethical in their production.

If money is the issue, before you feel the pressure to buy luxury brands in recyclable glass bottles that cost you your whole month’s salary for one product, consider DIY instead. Keep it simple. Invest in a jar of high quality organic coconut oil that is multi-purpose and can allow you to make some of your own products.

Be mindful and ask questions about everything you’re purchasing. Remember: what you spend your money on is what you’re investing energy in. Make sure those purchases align with your values.

Photo via Unsplash


Petroleum in our Skincare: It’s Utterly Useless and Best Avoided

petroleum in skincare

Let’s talk about petroleum. Not in terms of it’s role in fueling our transport or making our plastic packaging, but how it has become such a normal component of our cosmetics. It’s slippery self has slipped in and it’s really better that it slip on out again, in all honesty. Today I’m discussing a little bit about what it actually is and why there are better alternatives you can be using.

To commence with a product with which everyone in familiar: Vaseline. Your tub of vaseline starts its lifecycle amongst a thick sludge of crude oil beneath the sea bed or land. It’s drilled, collected and then undergoes a process known as ‘fractional distillation‘. This process splits the oil into groups based on hydrocarbon chain-length. There are the short-chain hydrocarbons that are the most volatile and these become our gaseous and liquid fuels. These are the most desirable. The heavier, long-chain hydrocarbons (the sludgier stuff) that are less volatile are actually considered waste products of the petroleum industry. However, they’re scooped up and used in everything from industrial lubricants such as motor oil to fertilisers, pesticides and many, MANY cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.

So, we’ve got our super obvious petroleum-based products like Vaseline, but this same ingredient is found in a whole host of topical skincare, bodycare and cosmetic products under names such as: petroleum jelly, mineral oil, paraffin, and petrolatum in various different wax to liquid oil proportions. I’ll use these terms interchangeably throughout the rest of this post.

Why it’s not worth a moment’s notice

Mineral oil is an emollient and applying it to a surface will prevent moisture from evaporating from that surface. Hence why it has a reputation for being great for dry skin. Dry skin doesn’t want any more moisture lost, so slathering on a layer of mineral oil surely does the job, right? Wrong. It acts as a barrier, but offers nothing to soothe the dry skin. It offers no kind of nourishment. Worse still, a recent article showed that long-term use of paraffin-based products actually makes us and our textiles more flammable. There have been several tragic deaths caused by heavy-usage of these kinds of topical treatments for conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

You can see the appeal though, can’t you? Petroleum jelly is dirty cheap, has a long shelf life, plus it seems like a great moisturiser, lubricant and cure-it-all for any kind of ailment. But that’s really all it is: an imposter. It appears in so many of our cosmetic products because it is an emollient and can hold moisture in. But that’s assuming you’ve already cleaned and moisturised the part of your body in question first, which we wouldn’t because we’re often buying the moisturiser containing the mineral oil with the promise that it will do the moisturising!

Any Alternatives?

The good news is that there are so many things that you can use instead of wasting your money on cheap, crappy, petroleum-based fillers. Coconut, olive, avocado, sweet almond or one of the many other natural plant oils do an excellent job at giving your skin or hair the nourishment it needs. There are also shea and cocoa butters as richer components to add to the mix.

There are a plethora of alternatives on the market. All you have to do is start reading the ingredients lists on the products you’re picking up off the shelves and you’ll soon come to recognise which brands are investing in quality over quantity. Or you can go one step further and simply make your own. Scour the internet until you find a recipe that you like. For the face, try here and body here. That should get the cogs turning.

FYI Tattoo Lovers

It’s been a long time since I eradicated petroleum-based products from my household and as you can imagine, I’ve never looked back. Bar one. My tattoo ointment. Like most people, I use either a specific tattoo balm (petroleum-based) or Bepanthen nappy rash cream (also petroleum-based). I just assumed that it was the one product that I’d have to suck it up and use. However, it was a revelation to meet an artist this year who recommended coconut oil. I’ve never experienced that recommendation before and he was so right. And of course it made sense; much like any other scabby cut that needs nourishment, why not feed my skin coconut oil?! Here I was not even following my own logic. It worked and it’s all I’ll use on my tattoos from now on. Thanks Merry!

You may well have no negative reactions and if you enjoy the petroleum-based products that you’re using, by all means go ahead. But I’d like to put it out there that you only have one body to love and nourish and keep looking its best. No matter how many layers you slather on, no amount of petroleum jelly will feed your skin the goodness it needs to regenerate and replenish.




Cold, Shiny Plastic


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