They say beauty is only skin deep, but they also say first impressions matter. And while some women can easily pull off a no-makeup look, we can’t deny that some social settings require women to put on a few cosmetic products on their face. The beauty industry plays on this, which is why it’s worth around $445 billion net worth in sales, according to Forbes.
Lately, however, we can see a new trend forming. In New York Fashion Week 2018, it was high quality organic cosmetics and how it could achieve a luxurious and beautiful look. It’s a smart move, considering the buying practices of millennials who have at least $200 billion buying power in the United States alone. Organic beauty products, along with cruelty-free products, have become an important feature that drives millennials to buy, and it looks like it is here to stay.
Regular cosmetics contain chemicals and artificial ingredients that are absorbed by the skin, which, overtime, may damage your liver and kidneys. Take a look at the ingredients list of any of your beauty products. For most cosmetics in the market, you’ll find many ingredients you aren’t familiar with and substances you can’t pronounce. Organic cosmetics, however, are made from all-natural ingredients that can provide the health benefits and encourage organic farming practices.
Organic cosmetics prove that manufactured beauty can still be ethical, a unique selling point that seems to work with millennials. Many beauty brands that offer organic beauty while still providing a luxury aesthetic at accessible and affordable prices, as well as inclusivity.
There’s also the growing fear of people that’s making them turn to organic materials. When the European Union banned more than 1,300 chemicals from the beauty industry, the United States only banned approximately 30. Most brands that label themselves as organic have voluntarily removed all these chemicals from their formulas even if many of them are still allowed in the US. Parabens, for example, are a preservative that prevented bacteria and fungi from growing inside containers of water-based products. However, when a study suggested it might be linked to endocrine disruption and breast cancer, more people began to patronize products that claimed to be paraben-free.
Some examples of organic or vegan cosmetics include waterless foundations, since liquid-based foundations would need harsh preservatives to prevent microorganisms in the water; mineral-based powders that require little energy, soil, water, and environmentally -sustainable resources to create; vegan lipsticks that use plant-based oils instead of traditional squalene — that’s processed shark liver oil — and many more.
Many brands that choose to market themselves as organic may also call themselves cruelty free, though some non-organic brands may do so as well. A brand is considered cruelty-free if it does not test its product on animals. According to the Humane Society International, up to 200,000 animals around the world die every year because of cosmetics testing. They are tested for skin and eye irritation or are force-fed cosmetic products for weeks up to months at a time just to see the potential health hazards it will have on humans. Many people want to look good, but they’re not going to kill for it, which is why people look for cruelty-free labels to avoid patronizing businesses that harm animals for profit.
If you want to support cruelty-free practices but don’t know how, the best way to do it is by checking out websites such as Logical Harmony and Cruelty Free Kitty. They constantly update their lists of brands that are cruelty-free and brands that partake in animal testing.
However, in some cases, these websites may take time to update their list, so another way of finding out if a brand is cruelty-free is to check whether the brand sells in China. China is the last major country in the world requiring beauty products to test their goods on animals before they can sell it in their market. In the United States, the US bans low-quality and adulterated cosmetics, but it does not require animal testing to prove safety.
China has a $30 billion beauty market, so beauty brands interested in selling there have to either use animals for testing or pay the Chinese government to conduct tests for them. Brands such as The Body Shop, Urban Decay, and Burt’s Bees have stayed away from their market to remain cruelty-free.
Some brands and its supporters may argue that brands are cruelty-free in certain parts of the world. In the United Kingdom, for example, cosmetics brand MAC does not perform animal testing since the act is banned there, but it performs animal testing in China. But I would disagree: the very fact that a part of their business requires the harm of animals, no matter where in the world it is, prevents the brand from being totally cruelty-free.
A third way of determining if a brand is cruelty-free is through their FAQs. In an era where more people consider this as a buying factor, more businesses will want to advertise whether or not they are cruelty-free. If they do not cite this, it may imply that they are testing on animals. If they claim to be cruelty-free but put exceptions to their promise, it means they still practice animal testing; it’s a smart way of saying they’re cruelty-free in some parts of the world, just not in countries where it’s legally required.
Growing Trends: Sustainability and Cruelty-Free
Based on everything I’ve said, you might be a little confused by why this trend of organic and vegan makeup is growing. Before this, you would just have to go to your nearest Sephora branch, pay for a product you want, and leave without a heavy heart thinking about the ingredients used or the animals tested on. But the trend is growing, and it appears to be staying thanks to the millennial-driven industry shift towards sustainable, organic products.
Unlike older generations, millennials are more likely to purchase items that promise organic or sustainable practices. Organic and cruelty-free may be more expensive than its regular cosmetic counterpart on the market may be, but millennials are more likely to bIf a certain brand becomes known for developing environmental, organic, or cruelty-free practices, more customers may become more likely to remain loyal to that brand. And with a $200 billion buying power in the market, millennial buying factors may need to be a huge consideration for businesses.
When “Organic” and “Cruelty-Free” Isn’t What It Seems
The downside of this trend is that there’s no rule from the Federal Trade Commission or the Food and Drug Administration that stops beauty brands from calling their products “clean,” “non-toxic,” or “cruelty-free.” As of writing, there are no criteria set for a brand to call their product whatever they want it to be. Brands regulate themselves, and how they use those words to attract consumers with sustainability in mind depends on what their definition is of those words.
It’s why some brands can call themselves cruelty-free even when they’re not. It’s why, hypothetically speaking, a brand can use low-quality ingredients that can cause pimples and acne and still label itself as “non-toxic” — as long as nobody dies because of the product, they aren’t telling a lie.
This is why some businesses have taken these words and slapped it onto their products to try to get more eco-friendly customers on their side. The only word under regulation is “organic” according to the US Department of Agriculture, and even the FDA leaves a disclaimer that organic doesn’t necessarily mean better (Poison ivy is natural, but it’s not good for you).
Being conscious of what kind of cosmetics you buy may be a burden for some, but it’s an active choice and responsibility for those willing to practice sustainable but rewarding beauty practices. If you want to go green, choose organic beauty products with sustainable manufacturing methods, or choose cruelty-free products where you know no animals were harmed to make you look pretty.