How To Ethically Buy Makeup

There’s change afoot in the beauty industry. With more people buying beauty and grooming products than ever before, it’s no wonder buyers are beginning to question where the ingredients are sourced. Diversity in race, age and gender has been gaining traction and has lightning bolted in recent months to the top of many brands’ priorities.

But what many consumers don’t know is that more than an impassioned newspaper article or celebrity interview, they themselves are the most influential force on a brand’s business decisions. When it comes to a brand expanding their foundation shades beyond Caucasian skin tones, using diverse genders and ages in their marketing strategies, it’s the consumer’s wallet-wielding power. Brands can kiss their futures goodbye if nobody is buying what they’re selling. As such, your money is your ballot card.

So how can we use this power? How can we shop more ethically?


Problem 1: Lack of Foundation Shades

This is an easy one. Walk into any Boots, Superdrug, or high street shop and you’ll find that 90% of brands’ foundation tones don’t cater for shades beyond tanned Caucasian or light Asian. Reasoning that they only sell the most popular shades because of the lack of space just isn’t good enough, as brands like Sleek Makeup offer a wide shade selection in an often tiny section. Meagre shade ranges aren’t restricted to affordable brands either, and luxe names like Chanel, Clarins, and Dior with tremendous budgets have a similarly pitiful offering. Why? Because they don’t think the deeper shades will sell as well. From a business perspective, if this is true, it makes sense. From a moral perspective, however? It’s appalling that in 2017 there are still ethnicities that aren’t represented as deserving of beauty products because they aren’t considered ‘the majority’.

Solution: Brands need to wake up to the fact that we come in every colour.  They have a moral responsibility to represent all women – whether some shades sell better than others. So if you believe strongly about this, the solution is simple: Don’t buy from brands that don’t offer a wide shade range. End of.



Problem 2: Do They Test On Animals?

Checking animal testing is tricky. On the 11 March 2013, the EU published a regulation banning all animal testing within the Union – so technically no brands sold within the EU test on animals… in the EU. To sell in China, however, companies must still agree to test their products on animals. A company may be cruelty-free in the European Union, but still sell their products in China. More complicated still, one company may insist it is cruelty-free but be owned by a larger umbrella company that isn’t. Shiseido who sell their products in China owns Bare Minerals for example, who for years were proud to assure its consumers of their cruelty-free status.

Solution: Whether you’re vegan or a veggie-hater, it’s doubtful any sane person sits comfortably with the idea of animals subjected to a life of torture. Even if it’s for a lipstick that makes you less hungry or some gravity-defying breast cream that hoiks them higher than your head.  But if they, or their parent company, sell in China you’re buying animal-tested products. If you’re OK with that, that’s up to you. If you’re not, get Googling.



Problem 3: Ageism in Marketing and Advertising

Companies are finally looking up from Photoshop, and slowly taking an interest in who’s actually buying their products. However, ageism is still rife within the beauty industry. It’s a disgrace that women over 55 disappear from popular media. Convinced their ‘withering’ appearances no longer considered beautiful, they’re then touted skincare and makeup modelled by a 19-year-old! It took until last year for L’Oreal (who hired Helen Mirren and rehired Isabella Rossellini as faces of two of their companies) to realise that consumers they were targeting would appreciate buying from women who were a similar age.

Solution: If you don’t feel represented by a beauty company – whether that’s your age, or even your weight, race, gender or sexuality – don’t buy from them. They obviously haven’t realised how beautiful you are yet. Before they’ve opened your eyes, they don’t deserve your hard-earned cash.

The voracious need to reverse injustice in beauty, in the press and on social media, is great for awareness – but won’t instigate change. More than angry rants or the odd Tweet, money speaks. Beauty = big business. So if they stop making big money, they’ll have to start making big changes.

Though these are some of the bigger issues, we know there are loads more we could have talked about: the lack of diverse gender and sexuality depicted in media being a huge one.


Are there other issues you think we should have included? Let us know in the comments!


Social media engagement: @mimikdavies


Words: Mimi Davies




Hashtags: #beauty #ethics #equality #race #ageism #animaltesting

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