September 24, 2019 | News | No Comments
2019 serves as the end of an exciting decade in the world of beauty—inclusivity, sustainability and environmental consciousness are no longer trendy buzzwords fuelled by marketing bucks, but the standard that consumers hold all brands up to. Over the course of the past ten years, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty won a spot on list of the best inventions in 2017, and Kat Von D’s eponymous beauty brand opted for a complete overhaul to weed out any animal-derived ingredients from their offerings.
While it may seem like the major decisions happen in boardrooms and warehouses, as an end consumer, you have the power to be the driver of change. While it isn’t realistically possible to actively advocate all causes in equal measure, it is also true that when it comes to saving the planet and its inhabitants, every last bit counts. The domino effect of taking your empty jars and bottles to the recycling bin instead of letting them end up in a landfill or signing an online petition to end animal testing, could together lead to significant changes. Scroll ahead for the names that are fighting the good fight to ensure that you make your way to clear skin with a clear conscience in tow.
You don’t have to be a placard-wielding animal rights activist to not want an innocent bunny testing the latest eyeshadow palette in a chemical lab, before it makes its way to your vanity case. Distilled down to its essence, cruelty-free makeup refers to a blanket ban on any form of testing of cosmetic products on animals, both pre- and post-market. Once the shady underbelly of the global cosmetics industry, the collective public awakening of the harmful, and potentially fatal, consequences of such tests has led to an industry-wide revolution, with indigenous brands as well as luxury players boycotting the practice. Before heading to the cash counter while shopping, spare a minute and check the product label for the Leaping Bunny symbol, which signifies a brand’s cruelty-free status. PETA, the world’s largest animal rights organisation, also offers a list of approved brands that support the cause.
So, when a brand claims that they are cruelty-free, how are the products being tested instead? Advancements in technology mean that brands are now pushing the envelope on a wide range of newer alternatives—from computer-derived analyses to laboratory-generated skin tissues and controlled user trials under medical supervision. The Body Shop has been further petitioning to stop the practice. Having garnered eight million signatures, the London-based brand has plans to advocate for a global ban on animal testing before the United Nations. The commitment to minimising any harmful effects on animals also means that luxury names, such as Marc Jacobs Beauty, refuse to maintain a presence in countries where animal testing is mandated by law.
This ethical awakening extends to animal-derived products as well, leading to a new subset of vegan beauty that rejects the use of any products obtained from animals. The celebrity-favourite Kat Von D opted for a major overhaul by adopting a completely vegan status—this included discontinuing certain products and reformulating others. Carmine, a crimson pigment obtained from insects, was axed from the Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Palette, and synthetic fibres were called upon to replace the animal bristles utilised in make-up brushes.
The term sustainability is bandied about with escalating frequency in the world of fashion, but what does it mean for your beauty kit? Simply put, the sustainable beauty movement seeks to ensure that no harm is done to the ecosystem during all stages of manufacturing, production and distribution. This accountability starts from the raw ingredients—indiscriminate use of palm oil remains one of the recurring culprits, accounting for the deforestation of 50 per cent of rainforests in Borneo. As a more suitable alternative to boycotting the product that provides livelihood to rural Asian farmers, industry heavyweights like L’Oréal and Estée Lauder are committed to responsible sourcing of palm oil. Likewise, Innisfree has been harvesting the skincare bounty of the pure island of Jeju, while ensuring that minimal impact is made on its fragile ecosystem with vigilant tree plantation drives.
Fair trade beauty
Needless to say, the care taken towards respecting the planet also extends to its inhabitants. The fair trade movement has been stepping out of the pantry and making its way to the beauty aisle by asking for fair wages and treatment to be meted to the communities involved in the production of beauty ingredients. Under the umbrella of this agreement, producers agree to impart fair wages and develop better working conditions for marginalised workers. The interests of the communities are further protected with an agreed-upon minimum price, which is paid even if the average market value falls below the rate. This maker-to-market model has found a champion in Lush Cosmetics, which seeks to work directly with suppliers to ensure fair working conditions. The Body Shop launched its own Community Trade practice in 1987 for sourcing ingredients, like shea butter from Ghana, at a premium price to empower local communities. Elsewhere, L’Occitane made an exception to its Provence-only ingredients list by working with a women-run factory in Burkino Faso, West Africa, for the production of shea butter.
We are living in a world where the global cosmetics industry produces 120 billion units of packaging each year, as reported by Zero Waste Week. The long overdue wake-up call has inspired brands to take a collective step towards greener practices by putting packaging waste under the scanner. Lush Cosmetics’s commitment to naked packaging has led to beauty innovations including deodorant bars, powder sunscreens and solid shower gels—all wrapped up and sold in reusable knot-wraps crafted from organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles. Meanwhile, Aether Beauty released the first zero waste eyeshadow palette crafted entirely out of recycled paper, water-based soy ink and a marked absence of landfill-clogging magnets or mirrors. Closer to home, M.A.C and The Body Shop have been inviting consumers to return empties to the stores for recycling. Indian labels such as Neemli Naturals and Just Herbs can be found extending their organic ethos by incorporating recycled paper into the packaging as well.
The year was 2017, and Rihanna had successfully shattered boundaries and sales records alike with the launch of her inclusive beauty line, Fenty Beauty, featuring as many as 40 foundation shades for all skin tones. Her eponymous offering quickly picked up US$100 million (approximately AU$148 million) in sales in the first 40 days, proving that inclusivity wasn’t just the buzzword du jour in beauty, but the standard that all brands would soon be held to. The good work continued with Estée Lauder appointing an in-house cultural relevance team to match pace with the culturally diverse market the brand’s subsidiaries cater to.
As consumers increasingly identify with a wide range of gender identities, make-up brands have subsequently been prompted to adopt a less binary approach. Genderless beauty seeks refuge from the conventional tags of ‘for men’ and ‘for women’ by blurring the lines between the two. Founded in January 2018, Fluide Makeup holds credit as one of the first queer beauty brands that values inclusion of all gender identities and expressions. The cruelty-free line-up includes highly pigmented liquid lipsticks and flamboyant glitters.
While the world of beauty has traditionally directed its marketing efforts to luring the lucrative 18-34 age bracket, the conversation around inclusivity invites all age groups to the table. A few months after signing James Charles as the first male Covergirl, the brand made headlines again by signing on 69-year-old Maye Musk as the face of the brand in 2017.
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This story was first published by Vogue.in.