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

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skin

When it comes to skincare and any kind of routine, we tend to stick with what we know. That usually means, how we were raised and what we picked up from friends or magazines growing up. But it consistently amazes me how many friends I have now as an adult in my twenties that have a less than ideal routine and then wonder why their skin isn’t looking its perkiest.

Diet, hydration and adequate sleep are of course your power trio when it comes to good skin. As is minimising stress levels. Your skin is a mirror of what’s going on inside. Dehydrated? Fine lines will become more visible. Eating too much sugar? This is a collagen killer; you know, that important protein that gives skin its bounce? Then there’s sleep. Lack of sleep causes the undereye blood vessels to dilate. This will give you those tired-looking dark circles that hardly scream, “Look at me, I’m a youthful, healthy human!”

No life is perfect and from time-to-time we don’t drink enough, eat too much junk food, get sick and party too hard. That’s a given and quite honestly, life would be boring without that variety. However, one thing you can do is have a consistent, thorough skincare routine. If you feel like you’re generally pretty healthy, but still finding your skin isn’t looking the greatest, try incorporating these into your day.

Skincare Routine

  1. Double-cleanse. If you wear make-up or sunscreen, or live in a very polluted city, you need to be double-cleansing. If you think about it, any layer(s) of product(s) that you apply to your face will be the first thing that a cleanser comes into contact with when you lather up at the end of the day. Massage it all in and break down the sunscreen/make-up/smog, wash it off and then think about what you’re left with. The answer is, skin that hasn’t been cleaned. Your fancy cleanser may have done a great job at breaking down your layers, but what are you doing to clean your skin itself? Your skin secretes oils and sweats and it’s important that you remove those at the end of the day to keep skin healthy. I personally use an oil cleanser as my first cleanse, massage in and emulsify with water. I then use either a cream or gentle foaming cleanser for my second cleanse. It’s worth mentioning that when it comes to budgeting for your skincare, try to spend less money on your first cleanser and more on your second as the second one is the one that’s actually going to be giving you the skincare benefits. You want the first to do its job of course, but if you’re going to invest in a pricier option for one of your cleansers, make it the one that will be cleaning and nourishing your skin directly.
  2. Wear sunscreen. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but prevention is key. The sun – that beautiful, glowing star – does wonders for our energy and gives us vitamin D, but it also causes cell damage and therefore aging. Wear an SPF that you like on your face every day and the future you will be glad that you did. I personally love the This Works In Transit Skin Defence SPF 30. I apply this right before my make-up. It absorbs quickly and is non-oily. Plus, although the packaging is a big chunk of plastic, you can see when you take it apart when its empty that it is cleverly designed. An inner,thin bag stores the product and pumps every last drop out for you so you don’t waste anything. Big thumbs up from me.
  3. Exfoliate. This makes a huge difference, whether you’re complaint is dullness, acne, scarring, hyperpigmentation or aging. Check out this post where I cover everything you’ll ever need to know about chemical exfoliants and why you should make acids your best friend. They sound scary, but forget whatever horrid connection you have in your mind with acid on skin and read up. They are great for cleansing the pores, dissolving dead skin cells and revealing more youthful skin underneath. You can also opt for physical exfoliants if you like a good scrub, but I pick chemical every time because they are less likely to irritate and more likely to give a noticeable improvement.
  4. Take time to remove eye make-up. We all know to remove our make-up before we go to bed, but most of us don’t pay particular attention to removing all the little bits of eyeliner and mascara that stubbornly cling to our eyelashes. Consistantly leaving a layer of make-up in this delicate eye area can lead to blepharitis. This is a common inflammatory condition caused by oil glands at the base of our eyelashes becomming clogged. It can cause redness and sensitivity. Eyes are the windows to the soul, so red and squinty simply won’t do! I have also found that sleeping with crusty eyelashes makes me more likely to mindlessly pick at them in the morning. This increases the chances of pulling them out – not a good look!
  5. Introduce a face oil. Everyone can benefit from using a face oil either daily or occasionally. Yes, even the oily skin types. I think there’s this huge misconception that if your skin is very oily throughout the day that adding oil into your routine will only make things worse. WRONG. Our skin often produces too much oil when it is dehydrated. Giving it oil intentionally hydrates it so that it doesn’t have to go into overdrive producing sebum. For a really great overview of facial oils, I recommend giving this a read. Sunday Riley do a comprehensive range, otherwise for a really affordable, vegan and cruelty-free option I recommend Viridian’s.

You don’t need a million products to have great skin. It starts with a healthy lifestyle and can be supported by care and consistency with high quality products that you do choose to use. Less is more. Quality over quantity.

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Brush

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

 

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This weekend I was at a very typically-British, country-esque farm event. This event included animal displays such as: prized, prancing ponies, brilliantly bold birds of prey, a select-few superior sheep and crafty canines. All of the above were being displayed (dragged) around an arena, looking glum and under the glare of proud owners. Other attractions at said event included a fairground, food hall, singing, dancing and an array of niche traders and specialists demonstrating their skills to interested on-lookers.

I had attended this event once previously and truly had a fantastic time. I enjoyed fawning over the animals, trying a bit of this and that in the food hall, slurping on homemade lemonade and chatting to the passionate organic farmers about their produce. There were plenty of stall to mooch around and I picked up a few gifts here and there, overall having a fantastic time.

This year rolled around and I couldn’t wait to attend once more. However, it wasn’t until I was in there that I realised how much had changed in me in the 366 days that had passed. I was noticing all these things that I simply hadn’t the year previous. On the one hand, it felt great to witness how much mental fitness I had accumulated in the past year, how much I had grown and changed my perspective on many things highly relevant to this event. On the other hand, I felt a deep sadness that I couldn’t just ‘have a good time’ as I had done the previous June.

The first thing that hit me was my intense connection with the animals.  This event was very much ‘by farmers, for farmers’ and was packed full of animals in cages or behind bars, being manipulated for man. There was nothing wild or free about it. I saw these animals as unfortunate products of consumerism and I felt deeply sad for them. I felt their lack of free-will pressing in my abdomen. I felt their lack of ‘play’ and their confinement and it sickened me, in all honesty.

I realise this perspective is one that will get me a lot of disdain from a lot of people. “But it’s my livelihood!” many will exclaim. The soul wants what the soul wants and you can’t argue with gut instinct and what feels innately true to you. And this is what is true to me.

I decided to commit to veganism about six months ago. My main goal was to decrease my demand on animal agriculture, with a wider vision of hoping this would be the chosen path of the masses before long. If all you can do is live by example, this was my way of following my beliefs and generating a domino effect. There have been ‘blips’ along the way. I have had days where I’ve not used my brain to conjure up a balanced meal and given up, frustrated and bought meat or fish. There was a day that a colleague baked the most aesthetically-pleasing, cream-lathered cake and I couldn’t resist trying a slice. I’m actually really proud of how I’ve treated myself after doing these things though. It would be easy for a person to beat themselves up, but instead I simply accept the choice I made because I know that overall I’ve done a spectacular job at reducing the demand that one person can have on the animal agriculture industries and I’m proud of that.

Instead of punishing myself, I see the repercussions of the dairy consumption in painful breakouts on my skin, re-affirming for me why I shouldn’t consume a hormone-rich product (of another species!) designed to turn a baby animal into a big one. And then with meat and fish, although I don’t notice physical consequences like the dairy-induced breakouts, I use the consumption as an opportunity to think about my energy and the kinds of foods that feel vibrationally uplifting. Meat and fish are not those things to me. So whilst I can indulge without physical consequences, I look at the food and I see cruelty that could have been avoided; a life that was taken unnecessarily. I live in a cushioned world where I have the luxury of being able to make a choice about what I eat. I can choose to avoid animal products if I wish to, for the greater good of my soul and expansion.

So as I wandered around this event, I felt a deep sadness for these animals being used for the entertainment of humans in a way that wasn’t awe-inspiring or a tool for education. It felt more like an egotistical expression of man’s need to be at the top of the food chain and have control over the entire kingdom. My idea of a healthy relationship with animals is seeing them in their natural habitats, respecting them and letting them be free to do what they desire.

My journey continued as I indulged in the highly-anticipated food hall, but only about 3-5% of the stalls offered vegan products. The air was thick with blood and cream and I felt sad that the direct offerings of the earth weren’t being celebrated by people who spend a great deal of time outdoors.

A lot can change in a year and I’m OK with the fact that I won’t ever be able to see that event in the way that I did the first time I attended. This revisit was an opportunity for me to see my growth and reflect on all that I have learned. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m on the right track for me and that feels good.
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