I’ve been doing a lot of research for my thesis the past few days. Which I suppose I’ll share the general topic here otherwise it will not really make sense why I am talking about safety and beauty plus since it’s not for a Doctorate, if someone ‘steals’ my idea it’s not so grave for me. My general topic is the economic sustainability of the environmentally sustainable beauty industry. I chose this topic because it kind of sums up everything I’ve learned and grown from in the past 4-5 years. Obviously economics is a passion, but I also went to cosmetology school in between undergrad and graduate schools. I was privileged enough to go to an Aveda school for my beauty studies and of course that company is very very active in sustainable/environmental programs.
Thus it’s taken a while, but I FINALLY found an advisor who is supportive and helpful instead of one who simply stares at me with a blank look every time I try to explain just what it is I am trying to do with my future. All that being said – a component of my thesis will need to pertain to the safety of cosmetics.
Aveda, The Body Shop, Bare Essentials, …. the list goes on these days for companies that were founded with product integrity and the health of the consumer in mind, but still so many products out there are lacking in both product integrity and social responsibility. Product integrity meaning ‘natural’ and really natural not just described that way to make a profit. When I say natural I think of ingredients that are naturally derived from nature (aka picked or harvested) and are still present in the finished product. Natural means no ‘by-products’ or ‘synthetics’ not to mention parabens, which have been shown to cause forms of tumors and cancer yet are in millions of products and their packagings we purchase and use today.
From the start, beauty products were always meant to aid – whether through medical claims or purely aesthetic measures. In fact, the industrialization of beauty products into the modern day beauty counter we visit today has essentially helped to ensure that once homemade products are now mass produced and regulated to at least some degree to do what their label says without directly killing anyone. However, it seems in recent years ‘homemade’ has transitioned back to meaning ‘safe.’ Safe from parabens, safe from toxic chemicals used in ‘trivial’ amounts, and safe from the capitalistic views of the corporations that make processed beauty products.
The ‘green-movement’ in cosmetics one could argue, has always been there – before chemists and labs were involved in designing the latest fragrance or cream, nature provided most of the ‘products’ available. From the ancient Egyptians to the modern covergirl, nature has always been involved to some degree. However that degree has shifted and shrank to make room for things like market shares, bench marks, patents, and profits. “Derived from nature” and other such claims mean nothing in the modern cosmetic aisle, as there is no real measure to define these claims. Unlike the organic trend where certain (despite sometimes lacking) measures have been enforced, cosmetics have for the most part been left to morph and ‘disguise’ themselves as ‘healthy’ and ‘natural.’ I was disturbed to find in some of my research that certain beauty brands (who I should not name since I am still researching them) have had scandals with harmful ‘ingredients’ – most notably during the 60’s and 70’s and responded by changing their original formula to a similar yet still harmful product. Even members of the FDA pointed to the changes as only substituting one bad chemical for another. However, who heard about this? Not my grandparents, not my aunts or uncles, not my mom or dad. The public has been kept in the dark about the health concerns of their daily products through marketing genius.
Should it surprise anyone that conglomerates do not really care about the integrity of their product’s ingredients, where they were sourced, what they do, or what illness they cause, when they have 15 other companies to keep a fiscal eye on? It’s disturbing to me – not that the companies do not care – because that through capitalism should be understood by this point in history. But what really disturbs me is that more than a majority of the population has no idea why safety and beauty even go together. I’m not saying using a product that is not ‘organic,’ ‘natural,’ or ‘sustainable’ will cause cancer or global warming, but I am arguing to figure out why profit/dividends/money and the economics of it all has such a strong hold on the health and wellbeing of us.
The last time I checked, I didn’t okay using parabens in my toothpaste just so P&G can save money on packaging and preservation…. and I guess I’m really not okay with the sourcing of certain cosmetics ruining ecosystems and believe it or not people’s lives – not just animals (who have been classified as test subjects for most cosmetic firms anyways).
Food for thought- obviously I cannot rant with so much bias in my thesis, but after delving into the safety of beauty I had to get this off my chest.