In an attempt to be more conscious of my beauty consumption, I articulated a set of values that would guide future personal care purchases. Here I outline those values and elaborate upon my thinking. This new era really is, for me, an effort to change my habits around accumulation, and to ensure that the products I do spend money on are aligned with my personal values.
What I embrace
Diversity and Representation
Does a brand make products that everyone can use? Are their complexion shade ranges evenly distributed across different skin tones? Are there options in all categories for all skin tones? Do their marketing materials display a range of racial, ethnic, and gender identities?
Am I making an effort to purchase from BIPOC-founded and BIPOC-owned brands?
The term “cruelty free” itself can be misleading, since it doesn’t necessarily mean that products were created without any kind of cruelty. For example, plenty of non-vegan products can be labelled cruelty free. Some ingredients may be sourced via unethical labour standards. However, much like the term “clean,” I understand it to have an industry-specific meaning. In this case, “cruelty free” simply means free from animal testing. With that being said…
Are the brand’s products cruelty-free, meaning free from animal testing, including testing by third parties? Most cosmetics brands and their suppliers do not conduct any animal testing, and haven’t for many decades. However, many who only purchase cruelty-free products typically avoid brands sold in mainland China due to their mandatory pre-market animal testing for imported cosmetics. This law was recently lifted in China for non-special use cosmetics (such as skin care and cosmetics). Some sources I’ve read say that COVID-19 has delayed the lifting of this regulation. Some say it has been in effect since January 1st, 2021. I am still trying to understand what that means for eliminating cruelty free products from my routine, however for the time being I will continue to avoid brands that sell in mainland China.
Are brands thoughtful about their launches, or are they continually launching the same products over and over, just repackaged based on the latest pop culture trends?
This category is subjective, and I don’t mean for it to simply reject the mainstream. When I think of brands that churn out tons of launches or repackaged core items over and over, Colourpop and M.A.C. come to mind. Many brands have an equally robust launch calendar, but at least have a point of view.
I have to weigh the concept of slow beauty with the reality of cost and access. Unfortunately it’s not realistic to purchase all my personal care items from independent retailers with costly shipping charges or unpredictable duties if coming from the US.
I consider slow beauty something to strive for; to purchase where I can from independent brands who are truly doing something innovative and fresh.
What I reject
Does the brand use language that makes you worry about something in your routine? Do they present themselves as a quick fix or safe alternative to something you didn’t know was a problem? Are their claims unsupported by scientific research?
Obviously in this category, “clean” beauty comes to mind. As someone who works in the beauty industry, I know this is a contentious label. It’s an unregulated term that really doesn’t mean anything, and it creates a false dichotomy between what brands claim to be “clean” and the alternative, which becomes “dirty” by comparison.
However, since I’m aware of this, I don’t consider the term “clean” to be offensive in and of itself (I know many will disagree with me here). Brands are under so much pressure for consumers and retailers alike to be “clean” that I can’t fault them for slapping the label on. However, once a brand pushes the notion that the other products I use are toxic, or bad for me, I have to reject the unfounded demonization.
Do brands prey upon your insecurities and make you feel like something about your appearance needs to be corrected? Do totally normal things (like cellulite, acne, different body types, ageing) get painted as flaws?
Add to this, any kind of mean-girl language including bashing the competition. I obviously couldn’t possibly know about every incident that may occur, but when I see it in an ad, or an Instagram caption, it puts a bad taste in my mouth and I probably won’t purchase from the brand again.