Switching to products that don't test on animals and don't use toxic ingredients makes logical sense. Yet, like most people, I too hesitated to make a switch. Maybe it was laziness or habit. Maybe it was that I worried those products wouldn't be effective, that I'd waste money on them, that they might even smell funny.
In reality, the above is not true, I saved money, and they smell great! I'm still concerned about the packaging waste, but I recycle and do what I can. Every little thing counts, and this is a very little and very easy to way to show the Earth, your wallet, and your body some extra love. However... as I began researching some of the products for this post, ones I'd casually assumed were "eco" based on their names, the amount of green-washing I uncovered shocked me. (*cough* Burt's Bees is owned by Clorox *cough*.) I'm going to have to write a follow-up next week with 5 more vetted recs. For now, without further ado, here's what I discovered today.
The good, the bad, and the green-washed:
1. The Balm Cosmetics
A while back, around when I first started this blog, I was equally shocked to discover MAC, or Makeup Against Cruelty, actually DOES test on animals contrary to its actual name. Like why call yourselves that? Call yourselves literally anything else! That level of duplicity and cynicism really steamed my beans. Anyway, I wrote about that discovery here. But, in fact, MAC is not alone: ALL department store brands that sell in China are required by law to test on animals. It's an even more puzzling and unfortunate law when you consider the Chinese don't require this kind of testing of their own brands. China is a huge market, and so even companies with anti-cruelty as their name have folded to the pressure. However, there's no reason we have to put up with that. There are plenty of brands available that don't play fast and loose with their image but actually stand behind their message, and one of those is the Balm Cosmetics.
Here's more info at a glance: http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/does-thebalm-test-on-animals/
I'm wearing one of their gorgeous matte lipsticks in the shot below. I love ALL the available colors, but I wear the matte lipstain in the shade "committed" on a daily basis. It's so natural-looking and easy to apply. Far from having to sacrifice quality for my principles, the Balm Cosmetics is a life-changing daily go-to. #winwin
2. Coconut Oil
In the image above, I did use a little hairspray to keep my curl from falling out, because we shot my fair fashion outfit in the (ever-persistent, we now live in Seattle apparently??) rain. I very rarely use hairspray and have had the same bottle for years, because my main (and favorite) hair and skin product is plain, old coconut oil. I've actually been using coconut oil for years as well, although the bottles get used up considerably faster.
I've always had a tendency to dab oils on dry skin, and I first discovered the cooking variety, which is only different from the kind pictured above, because it comes in a glass jar. I loved that coconut oil didn't leave behind any of the kind of greasy residue that olive oil does. I found out later lots of women use plain coconut oil as a beauty product. However, I kept breaking the glass jars that the cooking kind comes in. Plastic isn't so great, I know, but I do recycle, and at least I don't have to throw out half-used, shattered glass jars, what with the fact that I am as clumsy as a rom-com heroine and always knocking things onto the bathroom floor.
3. Burt's Bees. Not.
Burt's Bees is problematic. As I coughed, it's actually owned by Clorox. Ew. But I like that the subsidiary company does donate money to bee-saving research, so I really wanted to include them on this list and photographed them with the other items. However, I couldn't, in good faith, write them up without properly researching them. Well, the Clorox ownership is only the start. They also use lanolin, a sheep byproduct, and other non-vegan, non-organic ingredients that make them far from being as genuinely earth-friendly as the name implies. As the site More Nature puts it:
Is Burt's Bees really natural? Strictly speaking, yes, Burt's Bees ingredients are still natural and don't include any of the really bad chapstick ingredients. However, questionable ingredients used in Burt's Bees chapstick like canola oil are starting to blur the line between natural and artificial. As you might expect, though, the Clorox buyout of Burt's Bees has affected the company's ingredients list. The price of Burt's Bees beeswax chapstick is only a few cents cheaper than MoreNature's 100% natural beeswax lip balm. Why not pay less than a dollar more for vegan, all natural beeswax lip balm made from 100% pure beeswax and organic coconut oil?
So let's redo #3!
3. Tom's of Maine... Nope! Again! Doh!
When I looked into this company, one of the first thing's that came up was this:
Tom’s of Maine has become a mainstream brand among health-conscious consumers. Unfortunately, it turns out that most of these consumers are unaware of who owns Tom’s of Main and what ingredients Tom’s products contain. This might be shocking to some but Tom’s of Maine isn’t owned by Tom and is not from Maine. In fact, it’s owned by a well-known corporate giant — Colgate-Palmolive of New York.
It's also NOT aluminum-free but has trace amounts of aluminum in it.
I've been seeking out aluminum-free alternatives for years. Ever since my mother's bout with breast cancer. (She's doing great now! But she also no longer wears traditional deodorants.) Whole Foods carries a bunch of options. An eco-friendly option that works well for me is... wearing nothing. So long as I'm not eating meat, that usually works out okay. For those less willing to brave the consequences-- and there have definitely been some embarrassingly stinky miscalcuations--back to square 3.
3. Co-op or Health Food Store Non-Aluminum Deodorant
I found endless possibilities after a very short search. My mother uses something called Crystal from Whole Foods.
4. Holy Grail Beauty Co.... or Face Palm. I've Had It!
So far I've only tried the Holy Grail Beauty Co.'s Hibiscus and Pomegranate Clay Detoxifying Mask but I really loved it. I have a mask fetish and have tried everything from Lancôme to SK-II to the cheap stuff at CVS, and I thought this mask rated as highly as the nicest ones. Smelled great? Check. Visible result? Check. That's all I asked for.
Before that is. Before I made a commitment to caring.
Now I'd also like my masks to be cruelty-free, since it seems ridiculous to torture an animal for my own vanity. Amazon lists Holy Grail Beauty Co. as having a confusing (and troubling) 70% organic, natural, and cruelty-free rating. Since that's nonsense, more or less, I sought out more info, but their website is still being built, and, honey, you try and put "holy grail beauty products organic cruelty-free" into a search engine and see what happens.
(Basically, "holy grail beauty products" is a pretty damn popular phrase for rating beauty products in general. Nada came up. Nothing. Zilch.)
My fruitless search for more information did garner one positive result! I was so excited Ahava is on many cruelty-free lists! I worked on Kibbutz Ein Gedi, which is affiliated with Ahava. I'm not sure if they're part-owners? Something else to look into... But I do know the factory was close by to the kibbutz, and there were a lot of Ahava products floating around. I've tried all of them. They're wonderful. I'm not sure how affordable they are in the States, but after the fiasco with Burt's Bees and Tom's of Maine I was just happy to see a brand I recognized, have extensively tried, and can stand behind.
That's it for now! Next week, after I've had a chance to thoroughly scrub off all this green dye, I can hopefully recommend a few more 100% eco friendly brands, because 70% does not do it when we're talking about frivolous and fun products that this tired mommy uses to make herself feel nice.
What are your favorite eco products? Do you make your own? Tips would be appreciated! If this week taught me anything, it's that I am definitely no expert yet in this field. However, I do sincerely want to do better for all the reasons I listed above, but most of all for my children and all the children.
Fair Fashion Outfit Details:
Skirt from Greene Street Consignment in Chestnut Hill. Reusable shopping bag from Robertson's Flowers, also in Chestnut Hill.
I'm the first to understand, and sympathize with, the fatigue that follows trying to care. In fact, when you see the block of text below, you might feel fatigued even trying to wade through why I care. If you read the whole thing and comment, I promise I will buy you a present. I swear to God. (You can tell I'm a mother, ha. Anyway...)
Yes, I have two toddlers, one of who is still semi-in diapers. My life is often magical, but more often exhausting. I don't want to care, either. Not right now. Not about anything besides keeping my children clean and fed, an overwhelming task on the best of days. (There's a reason the book You Have to Fucking Eat is a bestseller.) I kept thinking caring is a lifestyle I could ill afford at the moment. Then, everything changed November 9. Actually, I wrote an essay before the election, imagining what it would feel like if Trump won. It was published here. It feels worse.
I need to care. I have to care. It's the only thing that's making me feel better and keeping despondency at bay.
However, caring, especially in a Trump/ semi-trained toddler presidency, is exhausting and complicated. I get it. It's hard to unravel the lies; they go so deep and so many public figures are implicated. In fact, when I was in the rough-draft-in-my-head imagining phase of writing this post, I was going to write something entirely different from this post you're reading now. I was going to write about how caring didn't have to be hard! You could enjoy pretty things like this Lady Danger lipstick by M.A.C. cosmetics and still care about the world, tra la la!
However, like I said, the second you really do care, you also realize how complicated caring is. When I began to research this post, the one I'd been imagining writing, the one whose title came to me so easily, which is always a thrill... titles are hard... well, I quickly came across one of those complicated, annoying facts. After doing only one quick Google search, I learned that M.A.C. is owned by Estée Lauder. I knew what that meant, because I'd read plenty about Estée Lauder on friends' Facebook posts, but I couldn't begin to remember all the different companies under their umbrella. There are a lot of them, including Origins, Bobbi Brown, Smashbox, Clinique, and Tory Burch. (Insert slightly bitter joke here about those companies being everything that keeps your basic WASP going in life but that I feel bad making. I used to live in Connecticut. It was as horrible and Stepford Wife-y as all those shows make it out to be, so forgive me.)
Anyway, if Estée Lauder owned M.A.C., this is what I knew without having to do any further research. I knew that meant M.A.C. sells its products in China, and that means M.A.C., an acronym that is short for Makeup Against (Animal) Cruelty is in fact very cruel to animals, because all foreign companies that sell their beauty products in China are required to test on animals.
You see? Complicated.
If you go to M.A.C.'s site, this is the equivocal rationalization they offer for a practice that turns their moniker into nothing but a pretty nonsense rhyme:
WORKING TOWARD A CRUELTY-FREE WORLD
M·A·C does not test on animals and we never ask others to test for us. If a regulatory body demands it for its safety assessment, an exception can be made. Today, M∙A∙C continues to be a leader in the movement to end animal testing globally. We are proud to partner with IIVS (INSTITUTE FOR IN VITRO SCIENCES) and together our mission is to expand the use and acceptance of non-animal testing methods worldwide. M·A·C is working toward a cruelty-free world.
What do you mean by “an exception can be made”?
Of all of the countries where M·A·C is sold around the world, China is the only country that we are aware of that tests on animals as part of its safety assessment. This means that before we are able to import any of our cosmetics into China, their government may conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients in their mandated laboratories.
I didn't know any of this when I purchased my lipstick, of course. I took their name at face value, which is not something any of us can do anymore, exhausting though it might be.
"M.A.C. makes being ecologically responsible easy and pretty," is the nonsense rhyme I'm ashamed to admit trilled through my uninformed brain, tra la la!
The truth, if you seek it out, is more difficult. It always is. I can almost see why Trump voters avoid it. The truth is always scary. I don't know why, but that's how it is. To quote The Princess Bride, "Life is pain. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something."
M.A.C. is definitely trying to sell us something. It's trying to sell us the idea that a company who's made its millions off our trust in its ethical practices doesn't need to live up to its name or our trust. They're like those people who call themselves vegetarians but eat meat.
So, what do we do now? It's not as if, considering the mass of other issues, we can expect people to march against China. We'd be burying our heads even more in the sand if we expected 45-- what the Resistance calls Trump in America-- to do anything, you know, president-y like diplomacy.
Do we exert pressure on Estée Lauder to stop selling their products in China? The problem there is I bet the Chinese market is bigger than the market at home.
I'm not sure. I'm sorry.
I can't offer definitive answers. The truth is a shitty, tricky business. But this is what I do know:
Joy is simple.
I can't imagine buying another M.A.C. product, not right now, not knowing what I know. It would feel like the opposite of joy. It would feel like that moment when you decide you're not going to care anymore, and I've been there before. I've lived in Connecticut. I've lived in the suburbs of the soul. Shutting your eyes to reality is no way to live.
But I won't throw out this lipstick, either. It wasn't tested on animals in the States, and that is some progress. Also, mostly, I won't throw it out, because I think that would be wasteful. Maybe that's my own rationalization for life, but it feels right. I'll use it. I'll enjoy it, but I'll be keeping my eye out for a replacement.
If you know of any ethical beauty lines, please comment below! I'm going to be starting a newsletter to share my research into companies that do not equivocate about their promises. If you're interested, please be sure to sign up for my newsletter.
More on sustainable and ecologically responsible beauty lines soon! Meanwhile, don't forget the acronym for Makeup Against Cruelty Except is (...ha....) M.A.C.E.
Wearing a Free People shirt. I like that they don't use animal products like cashmere or fur or leather, but I haven't researched them yet. Please don't tell me it's actually Enslaved Fellow Human Beings.
French-American dual citizen on a green journey, making a Paris out of Philly or a Philly out of Paris, depending on the day.