Grass Roots welcomes guest Blogger Shelley
It started out with fashion.
Conscious small business owners across the globe started stocking their boutiques with ethically sourced fashion, saying no more to clothes that contribute to the decimation of our planet or that were made in what’s commonly known as “sweat shops”. Factories where work is done in poor conditions for well below minimum wage.
They called out big corporations for their lack of care and educated the rest of us about why buying ethically matters.
We began purchasing our clothes from these businesses in a bid to support the cause. We even decided we’d pay more for the same dress, if we knew it was made by someone who’d been paid fairly, in proper working conditions. You can read about a few labels doing this here.
Lilya. One of the labels flying the ethical flag.
Then came makeup. We all started ensuring our makeup was cruelty free (that is, not tested on animals). We were at a point where we could don an entire outfit and pretty ourselves up, comfortable in the knowledge that no one was suffering for our Friday night look.
But there’s one thing that’s managed to slide under the radar in the makeup industry, that we need to be aware of. Ethically sourced ingredients for our makeup.
We knew no animals were getting hurt in the process and thought we’d done our bit. Unfortunately, there’s still a long way to go to in ensuring our makeup isn’t having a major negative impact on our environment and the lives of those who are vulnerable. Forests are still being destroyed and people are still suffering so makeup brands can sell us their products.
One of the biggest contributors having a negative impact on our environment, apart from excess plastic packaging, is palm oil. While palm oil is used in many makeup products like eyeliner and lipstick, it’s also used in everything from food to cleaning products.
Its popularity has skyrocketed, and with it, demand. In a 2016 blog, Good on You stated that 50 million tons of palm oil is produced every year. This has led to mass deforestation, had an impact on climate change and left 90% of orangutan habitats destroyed.
We need to keep these gorgeous creatures safe. Image: CBC Kids
A not-for-profit organisation, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil(RSPO), has led the way in encouraging sustainable palm oil production to try and ensure all farming is done with minimal to no effect on the environment or animals alike. There’s still a long way to go though, with their stats showing only 19% of the world’s palm oil certified by them as sustainable. While they work on increasing this percentage, be sure to check your makeup, and avoid products with non-certified palm oil in them.
Another major issue facing the makeup industry is the sourcing of a very common ingredient, mica. You’d be hard pressed to find at least one product in your kit that doesn’t have it as an ingredient, so manufacturers need a good stash of it. But it comes at a hefty price.
It goes a little something like this. India is one of the biggest producers of mica in the world. They also have some of the worst working conditions for their mica miners in the world and abhorent child labour practices to boot.
According to an article from The Guardian, two states, Jharkhand and Bihar, supply 25% of the world’s production. But to get that supply, they use an estimated 20,000 children at the mines, with 90% of those mines being illegal set ups. And it’s not much better for the legitimate workers either, who aren’t supplied with the necessary safety equipment to do their job. Breathing in mica over long periods can have a major impact on worker’s health, leading to scarring on the lungs and respiratory issues. And given these workers come from some of the poorest areas in India, this adds to an already unbearably hard life.
Now; the cosmetic world cottoned on to this a while back and some brands decided they’d eradicate all traces of natural mica from their supply chain, so they weren’t contributing to the problem. But they couldn’t.
Stephanie Boyd is the PR Manager of Lush Cosmetics, a company best known for its ethical standards. She explains to The Guardian that the best the company could offer is that they haven’t KNOWINGLY purchased any minerals containing mica since 2014. And that’s because mica is a part of a more complex mix of minerals making tracking it’s source next to impossible.
Some big brands like L’Oreal and Estee Lauder are now trying to fight the problem on the ground, setting up “child-friendly” villages. In short, because they can’t trace the source of the mica, they’re working with the National Resources Stewardship Council and others to send the children of these villages to school instead of them having to mine, as well as improving infrastructure and living conditions for communities. And while child labour still currently exists, they hope to help the government and local communities stamp out the horrendous practice through education and financial aid.
A campaign by aeta.org.au is shining a light on child labour in mica mines.
Unfortunately, as consumers, there’s not much we can do regarding boycotting cosmetic brands if they use mica, as they themselves can’t provide us with reliable information about the sourcing of it, despite their best efforts. But what we can do is raise awareness of the issues.
When you’re shopping with friends for makeup and they are searching for cruelty free makeup, give them a pat on the back, but educate them about these other issues facing the makeup world. Share a post or article on your socials, just let people know what’s going on.
If we keep these issues in the spotlight, we are well on our way to catching up to our fashion counterparts. Well on our way to destroying child labour and saving orangutan’s habitats.
It’s a one step at a time approach, and with each step, we will see a shift in people’s thoughts. We will understand that, cruelty free just isn’t enough.
Shelley is a local makeup artist who has a passion for educating others on all things makeup. For makeup tips and tricks visit If Looks Could Kill Makeup Artistry.