Ethical Beauty – Where to Start

Holistic make-up artist and nutritional therapist Sjaniël Turrell shares a few starting points to inspire a cleaner, more ethical beauty regime:

YOUR POINT OF COMPROMISE – Decide what is ethically most important to you and begin from there. There is no product that will tick all the boxes and although independent, clean brands are constantly striving to do better they cannot please everyone. Do you want your products to be completely clean and free of synthetic ingredients or do you want the packaging to be completely sustainable? Perhaps having a vegan certified product is most important to you, or you want to make changes for the better but you don’t want to sacrifice on efficacy and therefore would choose products with cleaner base ingredients but with synthetic pigments. Once you know your stance you can find the brands that align with your personal ethos. Natural and organic independent brands are all cruelty free as this practice has no place in the clean beauty world.

SIMPLE CHANGES – Start slowly and change your products one at a time – as you finish your current commercial products, go and test and find a good replacement for those one or two products. This way you won’t be overwhelmed with buying a whole new makeup bag worth of products and you don’t run the risk of investing a lot of money in products that you may find in time are not exactly right for you. Prioritise the items that you’d use most often – if you still have a commercial black eyeliner that you only use once in a while then you really don’t need to invest in a clean one right away. Discarding all your old, half-used products doesn’t do much for your vote for sustainable living. (Though if they’re ancient and pose a health risk, of course do).

ASK THE EXPERTS – Clean beauty can be very confusing, with buzzwords like sustainable, organic, natural and ethical floating around everywhere – even the mainstream not-so-clean brands are also using them to market their products. Start by visiting dedicated natural beauty stores or contacting brands directly (they’re always very happy to answer technical questions) and asking them about ingredients or certifications that you may not understand or aren’t sure of. There are now more and more professional makeup artists specialising in organic makeup and you can find them on Instagram or online clean beauty platforms and they are a wealth of knowledge for recommending products, which will save you making too many buying mistakes. Alternatively book a one-on-one appointment for a makeup bag overhaul to find what’s right for you.

IT’S NOT A ONE-SIZE-FITS ALL – What works for you may very well not work for your friend. Often someone will wax lyrical about a specific product and when you go out and buy it you are underwhelmed by the results. Clean beauty brands try to formulate without ingredients like silicone, which makes products smooth onto anyone’s skin. Instead products are based in nourishing plant oils but everyone’s skin responds differently to these ingredients – whilst a coconut oil-based foundation works wonders for your friend, you may do better with a sunflower oil or jojoba oil base. Similarly someone else’s idea of a smudge-proof mascara may be a nightmare for you because your eye shape is completely different and your lashes may touch your skin and therefore smudge the product throughout the day.

CERTIFIED IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER – Organic certified, vegan certified, cruelty free certified, natural certified – there are so many and one organic certification differs from the next. Certification steers us in the right direction but when new to the clean beauty world one can feel overwhelmed. As little as 5%-10% of the total ingredients in a product can qualify for organic certification, but depending on how the rest of the product is formulated will determine if it’s truly clean or not. Small, independent start ups with true passion for their clean ethics often cannot afford to or may not want to certify, and there are many brands that use 100% organic ingredients that don’t have certification so it is important to read your labels and ask questions. 

RESIST THE URGE TO SPLURGE– The range of brands available has become very exciting and there a great deal of innovation going on. As you discover this new world of beauty that you may not have even known exists, it can be very tempting to want to buy ALL the products. Natural products by their very nature do not last for years – they oxidise and go rancid once they’ve been exposed to air and light – especially those brands that shout about not using any preservatives. This is wonderful news for your skin when the product is fresh, but once it has gone off it is a free-radical hothouse and will do more harm than good – so resist the urge to open your new product until the previous one is empty. Water based products have a shorter shelf life (usually 6 months once opened) than oil based products (usually 12 months once opened). Always store your products away from heat and sunlight. 

BE YOU – By nature we want to evolve and better ourselves or make ourselves feel more fresh when we’ve come out of a certain life chapter and this is the beauty of using makeup for good. When you feel like you’re in need of a makeover, still always be yourself. That amazing beauty tutorial you saw online by your favourite makeup artist may look good on the model or on her (because she’s doing it under a specialised beauty light), but it may make you look and feel ridiculous. You can achieve a very fresh and glowing look with as little as three products and for some people it needs to be only one. Don’t feel pressured into changing who you are.