Beauty and the Environment: Part 2

Having written about skin care and the environment last week, the logical extension of that was to write about make-up products this week. While we use them in smaller quantities than say, slathering on moisturiser or sunscreen, they can still have significant impacts on human health and the welfare of animals. The frustrating part is the difficulty in finding any information on most of these things – to spend the time doing the research, you need to know that there’s a problem in the first place. And that’s something that the cosmetic companies do a spectacular job of hiding. My favourite example is the Body Shop’s current campaign – Stand up for Animals. Walk past any Body Shop store in Australia at the moment and you’ll probably see this poster:


The Body Shop is owned by L’Oreal! L’Oreal test on animals! The hypocrisy is astounding, their ability to utterly disregard the practices of their own parent company breathtaking. And as a result, huge numbers of consumers think that by buying from the Body Shop, they are buying products that are animal-friendly. I’ll admit that Body Shop themselves don’t test on animals…but it’s hardly the whole picture. Of course, they’re certainly not the only ones – avoiding products tested on animals can really restrict choice in the cosmetics aisle. Maybelline, Rimmel, L’Oreal, Lancome, Covergirl, Kiehl’s, Max Factor, Shiseido all test products on animals. Benefit, Clarins, Chanel, Guerlain use ingredients that have been tested on animals, even though they don’t do the testing themselves. There are some brands around that do decent, non-animal tested make up though – Bloom, Prestige, Natio, Lavera, Dr Hauschka and MiEssence are reasonably easily available in Australia. Myer stores now stock Inika, which is a lovely, slightly higher-end range of vegan, natural cosmetics. And Butter LONDON do an amazing range of cruelty free, formaldehyde, toluene and DBP free nail polish.

Which brings me to my next point – what is in your make up? Unless you have a chemistry degree, that’s not a question most people can answer. A lot of the links I shared last week have some great information. But there’s more worth knowing. Testing done in the US showed that 61% of the 33 lipsticks investigated contained lead. The worst culprits? Lipsticks manufactured by L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble and Revlon (and of course, their subsidiaries e.g. Maybelline, Covergirl etc.). Nail polishes are often incredibly toxic – formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, toluene can have severe long-term neurological effects (admittedly this is usually after more prolonged exposure) and pthalates are known endocrine disruptors. These ingredients are in nearly every single mainstream brand of nail polish.

I’m certainly not averse to wearing make-up. But I’m increasingly convinced of the importance of knowing where it’s come from and what’s in it.


9 thoughts on “Beauty and the Environment: Part 2

  1. The hypocrisy you described regarding The Body Shop and Loreal reminds me of something I saw on a video in the “Story of Stuff” series. You’ll have beauty product companies put the “pink ribbon” (breast cancer research) on their products – the ones that are made with carcinogens!

    It is so important to be educated about these issues. Thank you for raising our awareness.

    • Well, as far as I can tell, they’ll whack a pink ribbon on just about anything these days (my cynicism about that is a whole different story though!).

      It is frustrating though, that there is such a veil of hypocrisy over so much of what we consume. It makes it nigh on impossible to make an informed decision and is, I think, the reason why a lot of people just give up – it’s really just way too hard.

      • And it is disappointing how many politicians (at least on this part of the world) complain that requests for clearer labelling would “harm the economy” or “cost jobs” and blah blah blah. If these companies are fighting the requests for labelling, obviously they have something to hide.
        And the same goes for food. The idea that we don’t know what food is genetically modified or what animals come from “factory farms” is infuriating.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by!

      The Body Shop used to be such a great store and one that I had a lot of respect for. It’s sad to see them under the L’Oreal umbrella. I think the Body Shop themselves are still trying to do some good things, but I just can’t get past the overarching fact that they’re owned by L’Oreal.

  2. What Love beauty not cruelty said! There are lots of people who buy products at The body shop because they don’t test on animals but the money is just taking a detour and still ending up in l’Oreal’s pockets.

  3. I use Nude by Nature which isn’t tested on animals. And it’s actually really great make- up. I have a great spoof ad in my major project magazine on this issue. Remind me to show it to you when it’s printed xx

    • I’ve thought about trying that, but I’ve kind of stupidly let their infomercials turn me off! At some point I decided never to buy any product that was the subject of infomercials! You may have convinced me otherwise though :)

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