Ethical Beauty


Confession: I love a good lipstick. And a good eyeliner. And a good self-heating mud mask. The gigantic, costly, mystical world of beauty leaves me endlessly fascinated. Which lipstick is best for my colouring? Does my moisturiser need an SPF? Does anybody even know what a BB Cream is? These are all questions that I’ve asked over a long love affair with the beauty world. But recently I’ve been asking myself a new, broader question that goes further than the superficial : where are my products coming from?

The beauty industry is older than one might think. In 400 BC, Greek Olympic athletes covered their bodies with a ‘sunscreen’ mixture of sand and oil to protect their skin from the sun. Ancient Romans used a mixture of soil and water in their hair, rolled with textiles and baked it in the sun to create temporary waves (I think I’ll stick to my Morroccanoil, thanks).

Today, technology is moving so fast that it’s difficult to keep up with the new “superproducts” on the market. From BB to CC creams and at-home laser treatments, it’s a maquillage minefield. The beauty industry is one of the most profitable in the United Kingdom, grossing approximately £6.2bn in revenue a year, employing over a quarter of a million citizens. 

It seems inevitable that it has an ugly side.

On researching the beauty ethics and trade policies of some of the most popular brands on the market, I was shocked by the ethics of most of them. Ethicalconsumer.org measures each company on their ethics by evaluating their policies on a variety of levels, including their effect on climate change, political activities, arms and military supply and their human rights. They give full investigative reports on brands to online members.

The website nottested.co.uk evaluates beauty companies’ stance on animal testing in the manufacturing of their products. Animal testing is one of my biggest concerns when purchasing beauty products. An animal lover myself, for animals to come to harm simply in order for humans to decorate their outside appearance is an appalling thought. I have discovered that one of the biggest culprits of animal testing is L’Oreal. One of the biggest beauty companies out there, it is also the owner of a good number of smaller beauty brands. One significant brand they own is The Body Shop. Most controversially, L’Oreal bought the Body Shop a few years ago and since then, some customers have noticed a decline in quality. The most pressing issue, however, is whether The Body Shop remains cruelty free. Upon contacting them, they replied that they remain cruelty free despite being owned by L’Oreal, but I remain skeptical. I was pleased to see that some of my favourite brands, such as Benefit and NARS, do not test on animals, but horrified to learn that MAC had been bought by Estée Lauder, another guilty “supercompany.” MAC’s previous stance on animal testing was absolutely anti-cruelty, but now their official statement is that they only use it “when the law requires it.” An oft-repeated statement from brands who test on animals, I’m irritated by capitalism’s role to play in all of this. The largest companies remain the most corrupt and most powerful, while the smallest companies have the choice to either go under after they are unable to compete with the big names, or sell their company to the big names – subsequently, the ethics change with the owner.

Another concern is the trade of natural beauty ingredients. Morroccanoil has to come from somewhere, and I doubt that it’s someone’s back garden in England. Natural ingredients such as Argan oil, coconut oil and lavender tend to come from the poorest countries, and only the most ethical of brands are committed to close ties with communities and fair trade agreements so that these people are not exploited. Companies such as Neal’s Yard Remedies, Jurlique, Aesop and Antipodes all take their responsibility as ethical natural brands very seriously, with some having fair trade agreements with communities and some sourcing their ingredients in their own local farms. 

After investigating more into the concept of Ethical beauty, it has become apparent that I have a lot more to investigate and research. But it’s worth it- the more we try and use products that are responsibly sourced and ethically manufactured, the more it will become the norm in the beauty industry. There’s no harm in contacting your favourite beauty companies and asking some questions you’re concerned about. They nearly always reply and they’re required by law to tell you truth – so sometimes it takes a little reading in between the lines to gauge the real answer. 

So if you expect your favourite brands’ ethics to be as glowing as their reviews on feelunique.com, be sure to investigate them and push for change!


1. Neal’s Yard Remedies Power Berry Moisturiser

2. Antipodes Lime & Patchouli Cleanser 

3. Burt’s Bees Badger Lip Kit

4. Aesop Nurturing Conditioner

5. Jurlique Fruit Enzyme Exfoliator