Everyday Ethical: Where to get eco-friendly makeup [ep.14]

May 21, 2019

Knowing where to get eco-friendly makeup can feel impossible in 2019, when excessive beauty collections are all over the ‘gram! But, don’t worry, I’m here to tell you everything you need to know about sustainable and ethical makeup.

Find “Where to get eco-friendly makeup” on iTunes, Spotify or stream above!

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Where to get eco-friendly makeup: Episode transcript

Hello and welcome to everyday ethical, a podcast about all of the small ways that we can be more sustainable, without the pressure to be perfect.

I’m your host Bethany Austin and I’m an ethical lifestyle blogger who talks about everything from slow styling to cruelty-free cleaning.

Today we’re going to be talking about a topic that I get asked about all the time: Making the switch to more ethical and sustainable beauty products. Or, more specifically, makeup! With so many different makeup brands now on the market, it can feel more than little bit overwhelming finding the lippie colour you want, let alone also tackling whether or not it aligns with your personal values.

But don’t worry, I’ve made the mistakes for you and I’m here to guide you through everything that you might want to consider when it comes to making your makeup more ethical.

Let’s dive in.

[Intro music plays]

Now, disclaimer, I am not nor will I ever be a makeup expert. I pretty much exclusively wear mascara, a little bit of boring brown in my eyelid crease and maybe a red lipstick if I’m pushing the boat out. I don’t know anything about contouring, baking, doing my eyebrows effectively, setting my concealer or any of the jazz. I am properly lazy when it comes to doing my face and will usually do the bare minimum.

However, that being said, I still do use makeup and so it has had to become something that I consider since starting this ethical living journey of mine.

Truth be told, I used to be the kinda gal that would buy as much makeup as possible for as little money as possible, usually only caring if a beauty youtuber recommended it, and definitely not thinking about where it had come from, what packaging it was in or whether it was cruelty-free. I think I thought that if a beauty guru recommend it, and I bought it, I would suddenly become that guru. And that I’d suddenly be able to actually doing a cut crease without having a full on meltdown.

Spoiler alert: I still always did the same brown smokey eye, but had a lot less storage space in my drawers!

At the beginning of this year, I actually set myself an eco target related to makeup, which you’ll have heard about if you follow me on Instagram (link in the show notes, as always). Since it was one of those things that I just kept buying but never using, I knew I needed to do something. So resolved to only own enough makeup to fit in one makeup bag. And since it started out pretty full, if I wanted to buy more, I would also need to get rid of something else.

It was all really an attempt at becoming a bit more conscious about my consumption habits to create less waste. So far I haven’t bought any new makeup, though I have been gifted a few things and luckily they still all fit within my one bag! So I’m good!

Of course, a huge part of my ethical journey has also been switching to completely cruelty-free. Plus, I’ve also been thinking about the packaging my makeup comes in a lot more recently, which is deffo something I’ll touch upon in this episode.

So, that’s my little ethical makeup story and most of the changes that I’ve focused on making.

Now let’s move on to all of the ethical and eco considerations that you might want to think about when it comes to caking your face, from animal testing to how ingredients are sourced. As always, I’m going to spell out all of your options so that you can decide what matters to you and how much of a change you’re able to make right now, and then at the end of the episode we can set some targets for making your makeup more sustainable.

The first thing, and probably the one that you all saw coming, to consider is whether your makeup and your cosmetics more widely are cruelty-free! As in, are they tested on animals? Now, Within the whole of the EU, animal testing for cosmetics has been illegal since 2013 under EU Regulation 1223/2009.  However, the UK has actually had laws against it since 1998. We were actually quite ahead of the game to be honest!

However, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you can just forget about it and buy whatever the hell you want. This is mainly because of the China issue. Over there, it is required by law in certain circumstances that animal testing be done on cosmetic products.

That’s law. Not something that companies, including non-Chinese companies that import in, can opt out of.

Recently there was a bit of excitement about China apparently banning animal testing, but it’s just not true, I’m afraid. I have written a whole blog post about the recent law changes which I’ll link in the show notes but to put it simply: China have made it so that it is not legally necessary to do post-market animal testing on all products. That doesn’t mean that animal testing doesn’t happen though: It may still be done in “post-market” tests, though not required, and it is still necessary in non-routine situations such as a customer complaint.

So, yeah, China still does animal testing in a few situations, meaning that when a company agrees to sell their products in China, they are agreeing to potentially have their products be tested on animals.

This is why so many brands aren’t classed as “cruelty-free” even if their own country has laws against such testing.

On top of that, you might want to consider parent companies. Whilst one brand might be cruelty-free, their larger owner might test on animals – and that is where your cash ultimately ends up.

From a consumer point of view, this means that we have to do a bit more research into both whether a brand sells in China and their parent company. I personally love using the Logical Harmony Cruelty-Free Brands List. That way I can quickly and easily find if a brand is cruelty-free, taking into account both of those issues. I’ll pop a link to it in the show notes because, trust me, it is an invaluable, but a completely free resource, that every cruelty-free honey needs in their life.

Plus, of course, you can also look out for the leaping bunny certification whilst out and about to know if you can buy a product.

The cruelty free leaping bunny logo

Just being that little bit more aware can be a huge step in the right direction in terms of knowing that your makeup causes as little harm as possible.

In the same vein as CF makeup, vegan makeup is also a big issue worth discussing. In order to know that no animal has been harmed in the creation of your makeup, you need to think about animal products, as well as animal testing. And clearly, this is something that a lot of people are waking up to, with a 175% increase in vegan cosmetics since 2013.

You might be surprised to know just how many animal products are used in cosmetics. And I mean a lot of them are preeeety gross. Lanolin, for example, is the skin excretion from wool-covered animals and is often found in lipsticks. Squalene is a substance taken from the livers of sharks and added to some eye makeup. And good old gelatine and tallow are also commonly used in all types of cosmetics.

To avoid putting that on your face, and, more disgustingly, on your mouth, you can simply look for vegan cosmetics. As I said, they’re on the rise, but look for the vegan society trademark if you want to be sure. I’ll pop a picture of their certification logo in the show notes so that you can remember it for the future.

Places like Lush, Elf and even B. Beauty, which is the bargain range from Superdrug, sell vegan makeup products. So it really is becoming easier and easier.

Another thing to consider when it comes to shopping more sustainably for your makeup is the packaging used and being as low waste as possible.

Now, not too long ago getting low-waste makeup was near on impossible but there are actually some amazing brands out there that are making plastic-free ranges and even makeup that comes in paper bags and can be decanted into your own containers. For example, if you just search “zero waste makeup” on Etsy, you’ll get a whole load of options for those in tins which are infinitely better than plastic and refillable options.

If you’re looking for some more mainstream options though, Lush, Tropic and Elate all have cruelty-free refillable makeup systems. So, Lush has completely packaging free foundation and concealer sticks, as well as refillable lipsticks, alongside their naked skincare range. Tropic has recently relaunched their makeup lines and they kindly gifted me one of their refillable and completely customizable palettes. All of the pans are recyclable and less waste is created because you design something that you will actually bloody use! Finally, Elate create palettes and pots made of bamboo which are refillable and they send out their makeup in sed paper packets which can be planted. How cute is that! As always, I’ll make sure that all of those brands and their products are linked in the show notes.  

Or you even dip into making your own makeup from scratch! Whilst this isn’t something I’ve got into yet, there are a load of recipes out there. If you want to be a total eco-warrior babe, just get on Pinterest, my friend.

Whilst we’re on the topic of packaging, I think it’s important to discuss plastic pollution more widely. It’s not just packaging that contributes to it, it’s what’s inside cosmetics too. Microbeads are one example of plastic in things like body scrubs but, luckily, those are now banned. However, glitter isn’t. And, for the most part, glitter is a non-biodegradable material that only adds to the pollution of our waterways. It’s something you don’t think about, isn’t it?

But glitter – and I mean glitter not shimmer – is plastic. And even “biodegradable” glitter has been proven in many cases to not be that much better planet-wise, so I’d say to just avoid it wherever you can.

Now let’s talk about fair trade!

Whilst a lot of people think about food when they hear “fair trade”, there are a whole host of ingredients in cosmetics that need to be sourced and could, in theory, be done so unethically. This is particularly true for things like lip balms that contain different types of oils. Low wages and bad working conditions are exactly what Fairtrade certified brands are against, meaning that when you buy from them, you can know that your makeup doesn’t have an unethical supply chain.

To be honest, Fair Trade labels are less common in cosmetics isles than in food sections, but it’s still definitely something to look out for. If you have the choice between a product that isn’t fair trade and one that is, and you can afford to, maybe you can opt for the fairtrade one!

As far as sourcing goes, it’s also important to discuss the mica issue. It is a mineral that is used in a lot of consumer goods, but namely in makeup to give a pearly finish. Scarily, 25% of mica comes from the illegal collection which can mean that it is leading to the mistreatment, and potential death, of children workers.

There are two ways that you can be sure that your makeup hasn’t contributed to this. Firstly, you can just avoid the ingredient. Check the labels for it and avoid it. Secondly, you can check whether a company is a member of the Responsible Mica Initiative or if they’ve spoken anywhere about where their mica is sourced from. Transparent supply chains often mean less to hide.

Example of members of the responsible mica initiative are Burt’s Bees, Sephora Collection and The Body Shop. Plus, Lush have also spoken out against unethical sourcing of mica.

One final thing worth discussing is whether your makeup contains organic ingredients. As I’ve spoken about before, organic ingredients are way less harmful to the planet for several reasons.

According to Organic Org it’s organic produce is that grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, ionizing radiation and pesticides

Whilst they can be great in terms of being able to grow as much crop as possible, without it being eaten by bugs, the use of pesticides is not so great for the planet. As I’ve covered in previous episodes about eco food, pesticides are non-discriminatory, meaning that they harm both the bugs that eat a plant and those that don’t. That means that they could harm bees, which are a massively important part of the food chain. Ironic, right?  

Pesticides can also interfere with birds, through them being sprayed in the air whilst trying to cover fields, and bats who eat the bugs that are carrying high levels of the pesticides.  

More “natural” makeup products are often also organic, but make sure that you look out for organic certification from whatever country you’re in just to be sure. Much like with fairtrade products, it’s more common to find organic used in regards to food, but it’s still definitely a term worth looking out for if you’re trying to find the most ethical option.

Okay, so those are all of the things that you might want to think about when it comes to buying your makeup. Obviously, I’m not suggesting you dive right in a commit to only buying products that tick all of those boxes – though by all means go ahead! – but choosing even one to focus on is a really great step!

So now let’s talk about some goals you can set yourself for the next time you buy makeup, by recapping all of the important points from this episode. Your goal could be to

  1. Only buy cruelty-free and/or vegan products from now on
  2. To only buy from companies that use recyclable materials or offer refillable options
  3. To never buy products that contain glitter
  4. To never buy products that contain mica or mica that hasn’t been ethically sourced
  5. To buy organic makeup where possible
  6. To buy fairtrade cosmetics where possible
  7. You could simply become more aware of how much makeup you’re buying and, like me, commit to only having one bag of the stuff.

I’m definitely going to start looking out for mica now that I’ve learnt more about it, because honestly, I didn’t know about its ethical issues until I did the research for this episode. So that’s my goal.

If you’re going to set yourself any of those goals, or create your own, after listening to this episode, definitely let me know by tagging me on an Instagram story. I’m @bethanypaigeaustin, which will also be tagged in the show notes.

I hope that you’ve learned something new in this episode and have come away with a clearer idea of how to be more ethical whilst shopping for makeup. If you have, and you value the information you got in this episode, please do leave me a glowing review on iTunes to make sure that as many people as possible give it a listen!

Have a great rest of your day and I’ll speak to you soon!


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