As many of you who read this blog are aware (especially if you’ve seen the sub-header on this blog) that I also double as a graduate student in Public Health. One of the biggest issues in Public Health (and one of the goals of Healthy People 2020, a public health initiative created by experts in the field) is reducing and eliminating disparities which contribute to inequities, one of which can be access to care (in terms of who has it and who does not.)
While makeup is not critical such as having access to resources like healthy foods, mental health care providers, and the ability to afford care in general, makeup is something that can be considered a means of self-care for many, or if nothing else, a means to increase earnings in the workplace if you are a woman. So, yes, makeup isn’t on the radar for the Health and Human Services (and rightfully so!–they have enough on their plate.) But for many women (men and other non-binary genders too!), it is something to help appear “more polished,” or as a means to help reduce anxiety, or even just give a nice moment of zen for a few minutes out of the day. Though it is not the same, it is still a brief moment of importance to that person.
I know what you’re asking: what does this have to do with cruelty-free? We’ll get there. Sit tight.
There’s a lot of terms in makeup and beauty, and many of them are either ill-defined or not at all. For example, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the regulatory body in the United States for cosmetics (obviously, among other things like food and drugs), does not even have a specific definition for “organic.”
Cruelty-free is another one of those definitions that I, personally, find to be ill-defined. The general idea behind it is to reduce, or preferably, eliminate all non-human animal-based cosmetics testing which to many (this writer included) is considered “cruel.” From an ethical standpoint, I can understand the desire behind this 110%.
However, I am also a stickler for details (pedantic powers, activate!) Cruelty-free does not have a legal definition per the FDA. Cruelty-free, in general, is a really difficult thing to pin down depending on who you ask and it is reliant upon the company to disclose their status on non-human animal testing. Some may say they may not actively test, but they may have a third-party demonstrate safety on certain ingredients or products by doing the testing for the company, “absolving” them of any responsibility and, on a technicality, making that a true statement (because it isn’t truly Cosmetics Company A doing the work–it’s their ingredients supplier or manufacturer on their behalf.) Not to mention, all cosmetics have benefited from previous animal testing, regardless of whether or not they currently and actively test.
Obviously, we can’t go back in time and change things. I don’t like the argument that just because we did it once, it should be continued. The idea of “Well, this is how things have always been done and should just continue!” is a line of thought I loathe because it impedes progress.
There are also situations wherein the parent company may not be against or actively performs non-human animal based cosmetics testing, but after being acquired, smaller brands under the parent label may not perform the testing and consider themselves “cruelty-free.” (An example of this is Urban Decay under the L’Oreal umbrella; Urban Decay offers cruelty-free products, some of which are vegan, which the parent company, L’Oreal, is not.) Some individuals will not purchase from these brands under these circumstances, others might–it is an individual person’s prerogative to determine how ethically permissible it may be for him/her/hir.
To be clear: I am not saying it is a bad thing to want to end non-human animal testing. People are absolutely capable of caring about more than one thing at a time! It is still good to want to reduce this! I am, however, saying that is a misnomer and it is important to recognize that. Cruelty-free is a terrible name because cruelty-free is often not free of overall cruelty.
There are two examples of this I would like to point out. Get your tea, cookies, and a blanket, because this is going to be a long one: Continue reading “Cruelty-Free: a misnomer.”