Monday, March 8, 2021


By Luke Douglas

Beauty photo created by freepik -

We all want to look and feel our best, but that youthful glow our favored beauty brands give us is hardly worth the price if they come at the expense of our health or the health of the planet. It’s hard to feel beautiful if the products we’ve used to get there are created through labor exploitation or painful animal testing.

Nevertheless, it can be difficult to determine which beauty products, and brands, truly are made through ethical practices and which just pay lip service to the values of kindness, compassion, and equity that shape your purchasing decisions. This article will show you how to identify potentially unethical brands and products. It will also provide tips for finding alternatives that help you feel beautiful both inside and out.

Beware of “Greenwashing”

When you’re looking to identify truly ethical brands and products, the first and most important thing to be wary of is the increasingly common practice of greenwashing. In essence, greenwashing is a strategy corporations use to technically qualify as a “green,” “sustainable,” “cruelty-free,” and/or “organic” product while still engaging in problematic, often unethical, practices. 

Woman photo created by freepik -

In other words, greenwashing means that a company does what it must to meet legal standards for various sustainable certifications while taking advantage of the loopholes that allow it to keep on with dirty business as usual. They might, for example, delegate the sourcing of their product ingredients to external third parties who use manufacturing and production processes that certified “green” companies cannot. 

And that means they get cheap ingredients without getting their hands dirty, allowing them to maximize profits while reaping the benefits of a green label. Meanwhile, consumers are drawn to these deceptive claims and have no idea that they’re supporting companies that not only do not share their values but are actually exploiting them.

Know the Warning Signs 

While it’s never a good idea to take companies’ claims at face value, consumers are far from helpless. If you know what to look for, and if you do a bit of research, you can spot the warning signs. Here are some tips:

1. Cruelty-Free 

If you’re looking for products and brands that don’t test on animals at any stage of the product development and manufacturing process, then there are a few things to look out for. First, any product that is truly cruelty-free (i.e. never tested on animals at any point) will include one of three cruelty-free bunny-shaped logos somewhere on the package. 

Photo created by wirestock -

Additionally, several apps can be downloaded to your smartphone so that you can check out a product and confirm its cruelty-free status right there in the store before you buy. 

When you’re shopping for products that aren’t tested on animals, though, there are some caveats you need to be aware of. First, “vegan” does not necessarily mean cruelty-free. A certified vegan product does not use any ingredients derived from animals, but that does not necessarily mean that it is not tested on animals at any stage. So, again, do your homework!

You also need to research the company itself. Some countries, such as China, require that products be tested on animals before they can be sold there. So if the company you’re investigating sells its products in one of the markets that require animal testing, then move on! 

2. Mica and Palm Oil

Mica and palm oil are ingredients that are often found in beauty and hygiene products. Unfortunately, both are extremely problematic, both for how they are sourced and for their potential harmful health effects.

Mica, for example, is most often sourced from highly impoverished regions of India where child labor in illegal and dangerous mines is commonplace. To avoid purchasing products made from unethically sourced mica, it’s important to look specifically for companies that adhere to fair-trade operational standards or products made from synthetic mica.

Palm oil is also a common ingredient, typically used for moisturizing and texturizing, that has potentially devastating impacts when being harvested. The production of palm oil has been associated with significant environmental harms, including the loss of biodiversity and animal habitats and an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. 

Oil palm plantation (Photo created by aopsan -

3. Asbestos

Many industrialized nations, including the US, have imposed significant bans on the use of asbestos as a result of its significant health impacts, including the risk of mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of lung cancer. In recent years, however, researchers have found alarming levels of asbestos in beauty and hygiene products containing talc. 

Asbestos contamination of these products seems to occur during the mining process. Because both talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that develop in the same geological environments, the mining of talc often involves infiltration by the asbestos deposits developed alongside it. And that means that from baby power to cosmetics, consumers may be using potentially life-threatening talcum products long identified as safe, even for daily use by both adults and children.

The Takeaway

Beauty has always been more than skin deep. And there is perhaps nothing more important to looking and feeling beautiful than knowing that your buying choices are truly helping to protect the earth, to prevent animal cruelty, and to end the exploitation of children and the poor. Fortunately, with a bit of research, it’s not hard to find ethical products that make you feel beautiful both inside and out.

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