My Jerry McGuire Moment in Makeup
Earlier in 2017, I dumped 25% of my professional and personal makeup out into a shoebox and proudly told my Instagram followers that I would be changing out those items for "cruelty-free" options in the near future. I suppose it was a natural return to core values I've held since I was a kid. Even before I became a laid-back, green-living, health conscious, Los Angeles stereotype-- I was a vegan, straightedge, crafty, "riot-grrrl" from D.C. It's funny to me that a lifestyle that was once seen effectively as nothing more than "counter-cuture" remains a way of life that today we just see as common good sense.
Somewhere along the way though, I got lost. When I was 23, shortly after moving to Los Angeles in 2008, I broke veganism and started eating meat again. I can't remember exactly the reason why, though I suspect it had something to do with not wanting to be "the pain-in-the-ass-vegan-girl" as I was trying to gain friendships and business relationships, often relying on the generosity of strangers for meals, rides, and the like. I had graduated The Makeup Designory in Burbank, CA and was embarking on a new adventure of my beauty career. The school had provided me with their namesake makeup kit, which I knew was just "stepping stones" into what a professional kit would become.
Makeup Forever was the hot brand of the moment, boasting HD friendly products just as the RED Camera gained popularity in the motion picture and commercial world. Actors and artist alike began adjusting age-old application techniques and began searching for undetectable powders, skin-finish foundations, and matte lipsticks (too much shine could end up looking oil-slicky, or garish) So, of course I jumped on the bandwagon. I got the entire collection of HD full coverage foundations and a few Jane Iredale liquid mineral foundations for my more "conscientious" clients. Over the years, the demand for long-wear performance makeup grew and grew exponentially and my love for the mineral lines fell off. The launch of Lime Crimes Velvetines in 2012 revolutionized the lip game and suddenly everyone and their mother was a "Lip-Art" guru on Instagram, slathering on pop-colored super-matte shades in provocative photos and shortly after moving into fifteen seconds-or-less-videos. In a desperate attempt to keep up with the changing of the tide, and establish myself as a professional artist, the last thing on my mind was "Where is this product coming from, and what are the ecological or ethical repercussions of this purchase?"
But as with most things in life, it all came full circle when I decided to take a break from film and special effects makeup artistry and go back to my first love of editorial hair, makeup, and photography. Unlike with film, where the primary objective of makeup is to enhance, but never distract from a scene (film "beauty" makeup often defined by matte finishes, soft liners, and generally neutral tones) Editorial makeup often times commands drama (textures, sheens, colors, lashes, and gloss... though, not always together or in that order.) It was then that I truly started to dig deeper into the chemistry, production and marketing of the brands I was using. My whole world opened up in a way. The same principles I had applied to say, shopping at Whole Foods and ingredient-checking as a vegan punk, I was now applying to makeup. My experience as an FX artist taught me to be aware of products containing ingredients which might reject, enhance or neutralize the effects of one another. Ingredients weren't the only thing I started noticing. PETA, Leaping Bunny and "Not Tested On Animals and "Cruelty-Free" labels were printed on some (but not all) of my beloved cremes and powders. I started wondering what the difference was, and started googling. One of the best sites I have found is CrueltyFreeKitty.com . It explained everything to me in simple terms, with well cited and researched links and info. Suddenly it occurred to me that I hadn't been as "woke" as I thought I was, I was paying attention to everything except the thing I spent the most time actually doing. I felt irresponsible, and needed to up my pro-game. My desperation to be accepted into the makeup artist community had blinded me. I had to go back to the beginning. You could say I kinda had a Jerry McGuire moment.
Cue the shoebox-- The first items to go were anything Makeup Forever, MAC, Bobbie Brown and a number of haircare products as well. (I literally cried.) You see, even though these companies claim they do not themselves test on animals, their sales to mainland China directly link them to non-cruelty free practices. Chinese government requires testing on imported cosmetics, so sales to this area of the world is like turning a blind eye to the testing and torture of living creatures. Clearly, this cannot stand.
I also came upon a little app called "Think Dirty", which lists product ingredients and their toxicity levels along with great comparative alternate products. Though I love Cruelty Free Kitty, and Think Dirty- I do find some of their standards somewhat restrictive for a professional artist. Smashbox, who became certified cruelty free after they pulled out of the Chinese market in 2017 was still slammed on some CF sites for not having pulled out earlier, and stated that buying from CF brands with parent companies that sell to China ( such as Estee Lauder, L'Oreal, Unilever, Proctor and Gamble, and many more...) is a weak move that ultimately won't change anything.
I could not disagree more. I think there is a reason Smashbox decided to go CF --and that reason is it gives the brand an edge over non-CF brands. Today, Smashbox has replaced 100% of my Makeup Forever products and I value it as one of my "high performance" brands. It is my belief that companies like Estee Lauder value the bottom line above all else, and visible sale increases after a strategic move such as pulling out of a major market can only encourage them to continue the practice with all new product lines going forward. This is why occasionally you'll still see me still using brands like Stila (who also pulled out of China in recent years), Smashbox, and Urban Decay in addition to newfound kit staples like Jane Iredale, RMS, Tarte, Sonia Kashuk, and Japonesque. I applaud the brands who are making smart and kind business choices, and don't see a reason why I shouldn't reward them with my business. Some people disagree, and choose to turn the other cheek on brands owned by huge conglomerate companies with conflicting M.O's. As with any movement, there will always be extremists, elitists, and and those who are just simply doing their best. In the end, I believe it all counts.
The most touching thing was the amount of artists who applauded my decision and wrote to me in support following my initial post. Many who made a similar choice offered the following advice:
-Change out your products slowly, as you can afford them.
-If your brushes are still good (and not CF) DO NOT throw them away. That is just wasteful. Use them until they need replacing.
-If you are a professional artist, realize that doing something is always better than doing nothing-- research as much as you can, support and promote as many CF brands as possible and spread knowledge. Don't beat yourself up if you can't find a good CF dupe right away. Thankfully, many Special FX makeup brands are cruelty free by default, but some specialty items like contact lenses, adhesives, and lashes might be harder to come by. Go slow, your kit will get there.
-There are so many cruelty-free labels out there, but the only ones you can truly trust are these: