Beauty Products for the Ethical Consumer

A few months ago, I was shocked to discover that the cruelty-free brands I’d been using for years were no longer cruelty-free. This is because China, one of the largest markets in the world, particularly for beauty products, requires products sold in China to be tested on animals. Coming at a time when I was reading Naomi Wolf and thinking about how unsustainable our current globalized, unregulated capitalist system was, this made me really start to think about my choices as a consumer. As I was thinking more deeply on what goes into making the products I use every day, I started to look at labels to see where products are made. A lot of our makeup (a lot of our EVERYTHING) is made in China. This has implications both for our economy and for our planet. These products have a higher carbon footprint than products that are made in America and China does not have the worker protections or minimum wage policies that the USA has (even though our worker protections and minimum wage leave a lot to be desired, some protection is better than none at all). Reasoning that voting with my dollars is the most powerful act I can do in order to get the corporations that make personal care products take notice, I decided to start trying to invest in products that are both cruelty free and made in America. When I mentioned this to my friends on Facebook a lot of them asked me to keep them up to date on good cruelty-free brands and a blog feature idea was born! Over the coming months, I’ll be reviewing the different products I try here. Today I’m just going to go over my criteria for selecting which products to review.

It may surprise you to learn there are as many ways to be a cruelty-free, environmentally-conscious consumer as there are ways to eat animal-friendly (i.e. vegan, vegetarian, flexatarian). Some people trust the company, some like to use PETA’s cruelty-free list, others prefer the Leaping Bunny’s list and now there are quite a lot of bloggers that use their own criterion to determine whether or not a company is cruelty-free and do their own certification research before listing a brand on their blog (my favorite is Logical Harmony – although I check PETA & the Leaping Bunny, I use Logical Harmony’s list as my default list since she is very rigorous about her criteria for what constitutes a cruelty-free brand and she continually keeps in touch with brands to make sure that they remain cruelty-free). Since quite a lot of beauty brands are owned by parent companies, some consumers will only buy products whose parent company has a all-brand ban on animal-testing, whereas others are comfortable with buying from a cruelty-free brand whose parent company tests on animals. It’s up to each individual to determine what criteria they’re comfortable using in determining whether or not they want to support a brand. Personally, I prefer to purchase brands whose parent company does not test on animals and products which are made in America, so these will be the brands and products I will review here. All of the lists above do a good job of listing individual brands who maintain a cruelty-free policy even if their parent company tests (some of these brands include Urban Decay and The Body Shop). And there are quite a few cruelty-free brands whose products are made in China (including e.l.f., Wet ‘n Wild, Too Faced, some of Anastasia Beverly Hills). I will not be reviewing these brands but all of them make fantastic products so if you don’t think it’s fair for an individual brand to lose your business because of their parent company’s policies or you don’t mind that the products are made in China, that will considerably expand your available options. The good news is that even with the limits I have imposed upon myself, there’s a variety of great brands at all price points so you and I *will* be able to get all our beauty needs met by shopping cruelty-free and American-made. I’ve already made some great discoveries that I can’t wait to share with you guys.

I thought it would be helpful to get you started with a list of brands that I’ve vetted which are both cruelty-free and made in America. Please note that you should ALWAYS check the label before you buy a products. Something that was made in America the last time you shopped may no longer be made in the same factory or country. So even though it’s listed on this blog as made in America, it’s still on you to double check. Also, even brands like Jordana and FLOWER Beauty which heavily advertise their products are made in USA still have some items that are not made here. Some e-tailers (like Nordstrom) will add “Made in USA” to the product description (unfortunately, Nordstrom’s country of origin labeling is haphazard so only some products made in America are labelled). Unfortunately, most sites share even less information than Nordstrom. Hopefully the more people ask these questions, the more transparency there will be for consumers. If everybody who reads this blog consistently asks where an item is made, perhaps we’ll start to see more companies sharing this information!

A little side note: I’m not a purist about this. I’m a disabled woman of limited means living in a capitalist world and that means that a lot of my choices are constricted. I’m not here to judge anyone for making different choices from me because like everyone I have to pick my battles. For now, the made in America ban is limited to beauty and personal care. Although I am checking labels for any other items I buy, I’ve accepted that some things are going to be made in China (like most of my shoes!). My goal is to make more informed choices as a consumer and to be conscious of the impact my choices make on my planet.

Here’s my preliminary list of cruelty-free, made in USA products:

  • Butter London (their polishes are definitely made in the US but I don’t know about their makeup products)
  • Colourpop (all products made in L.A.)
  • FLOWER Beauty (FLOWER Beauty advertises that it is “proudly made in America” however, I still recommend checking labels. Also, this brand’s products are sold exclusively at Wal-mart which for some of you may be a deal breaker. FLOWER Beauty products are one of two things I buy at Wal-mart – a perfect example of a compromise I’m willing to make.)
  • Hourglass (some products are made in USA – sadly, the powder products that come in compacts are made in Italy)
  • Jordana Cosmetics (not ALL products are made in USA – check the label)
  • Makeup Geek (note: they sell other brands in addition to Makeup Geek on their site – only Makeup Geek has been vetted as cruelty-free and made in America)
  • Milani Cosmetics (again, not ALL their products are made in the USA – check the label)
  • Paula’s Choice (GREAT reasonably priced skincare – I believe everything made by this company is made in America and they have a 100% guarantee so if you don’t love a product you can return it no questions asked)
  • Sonia Kashuk (not all products are made in the USA)
  • TheBalm (tip: once or twice a year, TheBalm products show up on Hautelook at 50% off – sadly their most recent sale was this week so it’ll be a while before they do it again but in the meantime I’ll be writing my reviews of my sale haul and you guys can make your wishlists for the next sale!)
  • Trader Joe’s (as far as I know, all their personal care products are cruelty-free and made in the US but, again, double check the bottles before you buy!)

I’m not including all my nail polish brands on this list but if you know me, you know how much I love my polish so trust that I will be devoting many blog posts to nail polish this year!

Hope this list helps you guys start out! If you know of a great cruelty-free brand that is made in the US please share it in the comments! Thanks!

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