I love buying makeup. As a New Zealand export I particularly love buying makeup in America. The prices are cheaper, the selection more expansive, and the process often nothing short of exhilarating. Give me $50, 60 minutes and a CVS pharmacy, and I’m as psyched as a kid at a fairground.
I’m not alone. You can’t scroll down the first page of a beauty blog or fashion website without hitting a headline about drug store steals with which you can replicate every hot-off-the-runway makeup look. While fashion feeds you a curated selection of “essentials”, “staples” and “must-haves” that you’ll be handing down to your grandchildren’s grandchildren, provided you continue to follow Gwyneth Paltrow’s age-defying detox diet of one cigarette per Saturday and live to be 500 years old, makeup is disposable by nature. Jars run dry, and it only takes three months for your mascara to reach its use-by date. Even Forever 21 tights last longer.
But as Megan Mayhew Bergman pointed out in a lengthy opinion piece on Salon yesterday, there’s a darker side to Sephora’s neon-lit walls of Crayola lipsticks — particularly if you happen to be a bunny rabbit:
“I know my beauty products are largely unnecessary. Furthermore, they’re often made from toxic or unsustainable materials like palm oil. The wrappers, jars and tubes pile up in landfills and plastify the ocean. The micro-plastic exfoliation beads in soaps and scrubs wind up in otter stomachs. Chinese laboratories scald rabbit eyes with products and kill hundreds of thousands a year in testing.
Rationally, as a feminist and environmentalist, I don’t want to participate as much as I do. Even if I make an effort to buy responsibly made products, I still buy more than I should. Why is it so hard to let go?”
I personally find it easy to justify my makeup obsession on feminist grounds. If I were wearing makeup for men I just wouldn’t wear it at all. But on environmental and animal rights grounds it’s a lot more problematic.
Bergman agrees. “Psychology and gender roles aside,” she says, “I don’t feel good about all the products in my makeup bag.
Major companies like Mary Kay, L’Occitane, L’Oreal, Pantene, Max Factor and Johnson and Johnson all test products on animals, many of them because they want to expand into China’s market, and China actually requires products to be tested on animals. So by law, ointments and creams must be smeared into rabbit eyes to test for irritation and allergies, causing blindness, sores and bleeding.”
While wearing fur is increasingly seen as something to be ashamed about wearing, MAC compacts and mini Clinique moisturizers are handbag status symbols. Unlike fancifying your eggs and beef patties, spending more on makeup won’t ensure it’s guilt-free. Other companies that still test on animals include Garnier, Sally Hansen, Vaseline, Redken, Bobbi Brown and Smashbox. Even NARS, which proclaims to be cruelty-free, is owned by Shiseido, which is known to test on animals, just like MAC and Clinique fall under the Estée Lauder umbrella.
Predictably, Bergman has copped a lot of backlash for her non-apology. “Your social conscience reeks of insincerity and baloney,” says one commenter, while another points out that it would have taken less time to check online for a list of cruelty-free products than it would have to write the article. It’s true — while there are an unbelievable number of brands still testing on animals, you’re far from short on options if you choose to go cruelty-free. Obsessive Compulsive, Tarte are the ridic cheap e.l.f. are three of our favorites.
But it’s not the Bergman’s fault alone. Animal testing has become a hot topic over recent years, yet we’re still conditioned to believe that what’s out of sight is out of mind. While there are rules surrounding other areas where ethics and fashion overlap — don’t buy leather if you don’t buy fur, don’t wear fur unless it’s vintage, and never buy angora from Zara — you wouldn’t go knocking someone’s powder foundation compact out of their hand because it’s tested on animals. I won’t be binning all my existing beauty products when I get home tonight, and I probably haven’t bought my last MAC lipstick, but I will try to prevent my brain from going into its default zombie mode when lurking in the aisles of Duane Reade.
What’s your stance on makeup and animal testing? Do you know any people who hate on fur-wearers yet can’t overcome their Maybelline addiction?