Deliberate Consumption – Beauty

Deliberate Consumption is my new favorite thing. So much my new favorite thing, that it really is the only topic I want to write about on this blog these days.

What I mean when I say “deliberate consumption” is that my intention for myself is to make deliberate, careful choices about what I consume. From just what I see in print advertising and total real-estate of shopping institutions, I would say that my demographic (nearly 30, femme, white, middle class woman) is probably the most sought after for dollars. I may be overgeneralizing, and certainly have no facts to back this up, just my own observation, which being a nearly 30, femme, white , middle class woman may be scewed towards what I notice and take interest in. I’m trying desperately to overcome the idea that I “need” something, and figure out where these desires come from, and what the product I’m desiring really does for me.

I consume a lot on a daily basis just to keep up appearances. My hair is dyed and cut at a salon (and definitely, on the lower end of cost, but over $100 every 6 wks). I use shampoo and conditioner that promises to take care of the color (total over $100 every year) and then there’s my face care! I have to wash, tone and hydrate, and then I have to worry about SPF, and I don’t want to use the SPF at night. Then there’s eye creme. My make-up, which I wear 5 days a week, consists of mattifier, powder, blush, lip stick/gloss, eyeliner, eye shadow, and mascara.

Any given month you can look at the magazine rack and see that one magazine or another is rating make up and skin care products. They’re ranked to superiority and efficacy, and of course, cost. Meanwhile, the luxury products advertised are bursting at the seams. I’ve seen for 20+ years that Maybelline’s Great Lash is the best mascara, and is on the cheap. I know that when it comes to lip liners and eye liners that the difference in price doesn’t always equal that tremendous a difference in quality. The luxury brands have the added benefit of someone at the counter who will paint your face and give you beauty tips, but usually convinces you to buy at least one extra item. Then there’s the questions of where the product is made, how sustainably it’s made, what are the ingredients, how recyclable is the packaging. And then there’s the big question, who are the respective parent companies?

I remember when I was in high school and I first got wind of The Body Shop. Like many things that piqued my interest in high school (Doc Martens, Douglas Coupland, going green, being cheap, gay rights and those rainbow rings on a chain), Sassy magazine turned me on to Anita Roddick’s The Body Shop. I first came across one in NYC in the early 90’s, and was thrilled at my new options in body care.

What The Body Shop brought to me was an enhanced consumer consciousness (and conscience). The first big thing was that they didn’t test on animals. Then there was the efforts that they espoused towards sustainability and enhancing the lives of the people that they bought materials from. Back in the day, you could buy their products and bring back the bottles for recycling. The make-up had the options of re-fillable cases. You could perfume some of the products yourself, and for the rest, the options were only slightly smelly, and came in no-nonsense packaging.

I realized over the past few years that The Body Shop started taking on a different look, and started looking and smelling more like Bath and Body Works or any other purveyer of smelly body concoctions with slick packaging. It turns out that in 2006, The Body Shop had been struggling, and finally was bought by L’Oreal (who makes Maybelline, L’Oreal and Lancome cosmetics/body care). Anita Roddick maintains as primary consultant for the brand, but all I can think of is how much I miss the Brazil Nut conditioner, the durable plastic foundation case with refill option and the unscented body lotion customized with Ananya, all in the non-slick, matte-translucent, green with black writing label.

In recent years, I turned to Aveda for my skin and body care, but at a substantial increase in price. Aveda has the added advantage of using more sustainable packaging in some respects, such as recyclable paperboard and refillable cases. But then, here’s the thing — Aveda is a brand of the cosmetics giant Estee Lauder. Doing a simple google search “Estee Lauder investor relations” brings me to the brands list of the Estee Lauder Companies.

They are: Estee Lauder, Aramis, Clinique, Prescriptives, Lab Series Skin Care for Men, Origins, MAC, La Mer, Bobbi Brown, Tommy Hilfiger, Kiton, Donna Karen, Aveda, Jo Malone, Bumble and bumble, Michael Kors, Darphin, Rodan + Fields, American Beauty, good skin(tm), Flirt!, Donald Trump, The Fragrance, grassroots(tm), Sean John Fragrances, MISSONI

Let’s go back to L’Oreal, since Estee Lauder’s brands were obviously pervasive. A quick list includes: L’Oreal Paris, Biotherm, Cacherel, Dermablend, Garnier, Giorgio Armani, Kerastase, Kiehl’s, LaRoche-Posay, Lancome, Matrix, Maybelline, Mizani, Ralph Lauren Fragrances, Redken, shu uemera, skinceuticals, softsheen-carson, VICHY, Viktor Rolf

Did you know that Proctor and Gamble, aside from being in the cleaning products business, also makes prestige frangrances? I found out about the Prestige line due to my coming back from Japan and wanting to purchase Anna Sui cosmetics, which I totally lust after only for the packaging (very gothy!) and the color pallette. It turns out that P&G is involved in the US products for Anna Sui, whereas a Japanese company is responsible for the rest of the world. Proctor and Gamble have been noted by PETA and other animal rights organizations for their grusome animal testing. Other boycotts, however, seem to include them because they have allegedly promoted the “homosexual agenda.” If that’s the case, P&G, good on you!

The Environmental Working Group, Skin Deep reports on the safety of health and beauty products. The reviews they have are thought provoking, but the “danger” should be taken with a grain of salt, as that some of the offenders they list (such as ethyl alcohol) can be innocuous in small amounts when ingested, and since these are body care products, I would question whether the liver toxicity noted is even applicable. Still, it’s a good resource to look at the ingredients, and find out some parent companies of products, if you don’t want to go the Google and company Investor Relations route.

Do you choose to support the brand and what they offer, or do you choose to support the parent company? What if the parent company has brands that don’t espouse the same ethics as the brand you purchase? My quest continues to reconcile my emotional need to consume, and my emotional need to conduct myself ethically. At what point do I surrender to DIY or only locally produced, sustainable products via farmer’s markets and the internet and change my look (and scent) from the cosmopolitan femme to the stereotypical granola girl?

2 thoughts on “Deliberate Consumption – Beauty

  1. I’m struggling with the same thing. I have very sensitive skin and have tried most products out there – from inexpensive to expensive! I use Prescriptives foundation and Origins skin care. Origins told me they do not test on animals. Now, I’m wondering about Prescriptives. As you stated, do subsidiaries of the parent operate independently? I asked a Chanel rep and they told me they don’t test on animals, however, an online search says differently. I believe EVERY costmetic counter should have signs posted. Don’t you agree?

Comments are closed.