I have gotten numerous questions from many friends on eco alternatives to all the not-so-nice makeup brands I have been blogging about. Well good news, I spent a good 4 hours one Sunday morning googling my sanity away on affordable and practical eco-makeup brands!
Before I dive into my journey and finds, I would like to mention that secondhand cosmetics will always be the best option if you have to consume them. Secondhand products vary in terms of how used they are, some are 30% used, some have just been swatched, others might be completely new! So it is completely up to your discretion as to what you are comfortable with. By consuming secondhand you are giving unwanted products a second chance, preventing wastage, saving unnecessary raw materials from being extracted and saving lots of money XD. A simple search on Carousell of your favourite cosmetics products should lead you to a long list of secondhand cosmetics.
There are long lists of Eco-friendly cosmetic brands all over the internet, but not all are truly as environmentally-friendly as they might seem. You can find a list of brands that brand themselves as green brands but really are not here. So how now? I went through lists of makeup brands online and found not all of them ship to Singapore or are just too pricey. When I finally did a search on Amazon, at wits end to find something affordable and as natural as possible, I nearly cried tears of joy. There are so many brands available on Amazon that are not too pricey and seem relatively Eco-friendly in terms of packaging and ingredients.
Eco-friendly cosmetics bought off Amazon (Image by Audrey)
I managed to get a concealer from Juicebeauty, brow balm from Elate cosmetics and eye liner from Fat and the moon. They were relatively affordable on amazon and I managed to save on shipping too. Each of them have different packaging that are all quite sustainable! One is made from bamboo with a magnetic clasp, another is in a aluminium tin, and the last one was in a glass container with a plastic cap. Packaging wise they all seem like better alternatives than pure plastic. I personally love the bamboo packaging by Juicebeauty as it is really unqiue, light and sturdy. Ingredients wise they aren’t made of fresh fruits or rose petals or anything magically natural like that, but they are kept to the minimum and are equally functional. An important factor in deciding which brands are worth supporting was reading the company values online and checking on their certifications. There are a number of small shops on amazon like clean-faced cosmetics and Fat and the moon that make everything by hand in small batches. This means less preservatives are added and less pollution from the manufacturing or assembly process.
There were some drawbacks to this sustainable makeup buying process. The products came bubble wrapped, so that was one unavoidable piece of plastic. Additionally, these brands aren’t available in any stores in Singapore, meaning there is no way to test the products. It is possible to be creating more waste by constantly purchasing products until the buyer is satisfied, making this process counter intuitive.
All in all, use only what you need, finish your existing products before more, buy secondhand if you can, do thorough research before purchasing from what you think are eco-friendly brands. Please ask any questions you have on zerowaste/eco-friendly makeup down below 🙂
I am VERY guilty of binge watching beauty videos on Youtube every once in a while, getting overly excited about new cosmetic product releases and reviews by youtubers. Most of the time, these influencers are on a ‘PR’ list and are sent regular ‘PR’ packages from various brands in hopes they will enjoy and promote the brands products (free marketing). ‘PR’ stands for public relations, and being on such a list often means you are significant enough of an influence to the brands target group. Being sent multitudes of free cosmetics might sound like paradise to some. However on the other side of the screen there is an evil untold.
‘PR’ packages often come in specially curated packaging designed to make a lasting impression on influencers and viewers. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with different concepts and selling points. While this can help achieve its purpose in being a memorable product, it comes at the expense of our environment. There is no exact way to measure the degree of harm imposed by the manufacturing of such packages as each vary in amount and type of materials used. What is conclusive is that the joyful experience of such packages is short-lived and is unlikely to continue being of practical use in the long-run, hence, most of them will end up being thrown away after the products have been reviewed.
Brands usually include the full range of products in their collection in these ‘PR’ packages, which means influencers usually have an excess of product. For example, when a brand comes out with a foundation range they might send the entire range of shades (which can go up to 40). Product waste becomes a big issue as there is no way influencers will fully utilise all of the makeup they receive. Some influencers give away the products which is a great way to mitigate the waste issue and create stronger viewership loyalty. However, the overall effect is the promotion of consumerism by viewers which leads to unnecessary environmental degradation.
Who doesn’t love free things? According to research, free gifts improve brand image and increase the likelihood of a returning customer. So of course many brands give away free samples with every purchase. These small gestures affect consumer behaviour in more ways than one might think!
Not only do consumers have a better impression of the brand, they are also able to try out a new product and may return to purchase it if they like it. I have had customers come up to me with a picture of a sample they tried from Dior previously and asked to purchase a full bottle.
Additionally, retail workers like myself are encouraged to use the gift with purchase as a way to push for more sales. In my experience working for Dior, there are tiers to hit to get free gifts of higher quality. It is a push factor for customers to buy “just one more lipstick” to get “an exclusive Dior travel pouch”. While this is great for my sales record, it is at the expense of our environment.
Dior free gifts (source)
Lets zoom in closer to the environmental impact of the free gifts themselves. For cosmetics the small product size result in a higher ratio of packaging to the actual product, leading to mostly more plastic being produced. As for non-cosmetic free gifts like makeup bags, pouches, face rollers, the impact of each vary from the materials used, source of materials, distance travelled etc.
Comic on mindless consumerism (Source)
The free gifts encourage mindless consumption of cosmetics, leading to more resources being extracted from our earth that consumers may not have even intended to use in the first place.
Pop-up event by Urban Decay for their new eye-shadow palatte release at ION (Image by Audrey Lim)
Welcome back! Do you remember any pop up event while walking down Orchard road about a new phone release, sweet drink or insurance plan? I am sure most of us have seen at least one of these pop-up events. If you walk past the Sephora outlet at ION, your are more likely than not to spot some sort of promotional event going on for a new lipstick, foundation, eye-shadow palette etc. The cosmetic industry uses such marketing tactics as well, attracting passerby with their flashy set up and unique concepts. However, we rarely think about the environmental effect of running such a space.
Having personally worked in two cosmetic pop-up events and participating in a few as a consumer, I have found some common characteristics that make this practice environmentally harmful. The key selling point of each pop-up will always be its exclusivity and uniqueness. This applies to its set-up, products, services and overall experience.
Customised Dior pop-up store with me at the counter (haha) (Source)
Firstly, the set-up is customised specifically for the event and as such, seems unlikely to have any future opportunities to be reused. The environmental impact for each pop-up will differ from type and amount of materials used, type and number of lighting used, duration of use, type and amount of paint used etc.
Fresh bouquets of flowers made on the spot every weekend for customers who purchase from the pop-up store (Image by Audrey Lim)
Fragrance bottle engraved as part of the special engraving service (Image by Audrey Lim)
Secondly, extra services are usually provided such as gift-wrapping, free makeup consultation, polaroid taking etc. Just to show the extent of how exclusive the event can be, let me list down what was custom made for one of the pop-ups I worked at. The brand specially flew in rose tea and rose jam from France for customers to experience the centifolia rose, there were also over 600 fresh centifolia roses flown in as part of a never-done-before rose garden in Asia-Pacific. We had customised rose blotters, gift-boxes, ribbons, polaroid sleeves, engraving services, uniforms, flower bouquets and wrapping paper. This means that resources were put aside to create such unique pieces to attract customers and offer a customer-centric experience. Furthermore, all excess material at the end of the event were to be thrown away if not distributed to the employees if possible. For example, I took back a thick stack of wrapping paper and rose tea in an attempt to not let the resources go to waste. But I know that I am only assuring my guilty conscience while aware that the environmental damage has already been done regardless of how long the lifespan of the materials is prolonged.
While there is no definitive measure of how much environmental damage is done by one cosmetic pop-up store, I think it is safe to say that it is a damage we can avoid while reducing the promotion of mindless consumption.
“How may I help you mam/sir?” is a phrase I’ve said a thousand times, I then proceed to perform various product demonstrations on the customer. From fragrances, skincare to makeup, there is a whole range of services employees in the cosmetic industry, like myself, are required to perform with the appropriate items. These items- eye-shadow applicators, cotton pads, blotters etc, are readily available for customers to use for themselves too. There are no estimates available online regarding the total waste produced by the cosmetic industry, I can only guess that number is not small. So let’s dive in and see what waste is generated in the service aspect of the cosmetic industry.
For fragrances, we make use of testers and blotters for the customers to experience the scent. While there is waste generated from tester use in all aspects of the cosmetic industry, fragrance testers can be particularly wasteful as they are required to be replaced after a certain amount is used.
According to my product trainers, this is to ensure the testers displayed are never empty as well as for aesthetic purposes when its a clear fragrance bottles. My colleagues and I did ask if we could take home the unwanted testers as it is a waste to not finish them, or if we could recycle the glass bottles, but the management was very strict and said they had a standard operating procedure to follow. Instead of possibly being fully used and recycled, the half used testers are sent back to the HQ and disposed of.
On to blotters, which are the pieces of paper we use to spray the fragrance. They are made of paper that could have been easily recycled but are not. The amount of blotters I used a shift was insane, I would estimate it to be 150-250 blotters. There is no fair judgement to determine how many blotters are used as the number varies from employee to employee. But there are easily tens or hundreds of thousands of blotters used globally.
As for makeup and skincare, let me just list down all the single-use items I was provided with – eye-shadow applicator, mascara applicator, liquid lipstick applicator, solid lipstick applicator, short spatula, long spatula, tissues, cotton buds, cotton pads, makeup sponge, micellar water and makeup remover. They are mainly made up of infamous plastic and thirsty cotton. Plastic production and incineration as most of us would know, threatens the health of humans and all types of wildlife. Cotton is extremely taxing on water resources, using more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton. Though these items might be small individually, it is the cumulative usage that creates a significant amount of waste we are unlikely to see.
Hope you gained a little more insight as to what goes on behind the scenes in testing out and promoting cosmetic products. You might want to think twice the next time you want to pick up a blotter!
Hi guys! This week I will be continuing from last weeks post on how working in the cosmetics industry affects employee’s makeup consumption and hence its impact on the environment.
It might be hard to believe, but just 8 months ago, I was someone who detested makeup. The only time I wore makeup was when I grudgingly let my mom do it for special occasions. I found makeup as something that was a waste of time and money. However, things took for a change when makeup became a prerequisite to my job.
Initially I viewed the process as a chore, having to spend an hour every day doing something I disliked and was alien to. But within a month I learned to appreciate the process and art of makeup. I was particularly influenced by most of my colleagues who already had a love for makeup. Moreover, it was part of my job to promote makeup products, identifying the selling points and performing demonstrations on customers faces. Gradually over the course of 8 months, my appreciation for makeup grew. I started to use makeup outside of work more often, increasing my usual “heaviness” of makeup as well. My personal makeup collection was very limited, with only the addition of the makeup given to me by Dior. Hence, I started to purchase makeup, a lot a lot of makeup. I’ve bought at least 20 makeup products since the start of my work. Obviously, my work has greatly influenced my personal usage and consumption of makeup. I investigated to find out if there was a similar trend among my colleagues.
Over 70% of my colleagues felt that their personal interest in makeup increased due to their work in the cosmetic industry too.
Of that 70%, 41% wore makeup more frequently and increased their makeup purchases. Only 25% of them wore “heavier” makeup outside of work. This shows that their total personal makeup usage increased after working in the cosmetic industry. 50% of them are even more willing to spend more money on high-end makeup, evidently, their personal interest in makeup has increased considerably.
The impact the cosmetic industry has on increasing its employees makeup consumption can be easily overlooked, it is not something most people think about when considering the environmental impacts of the industry. The makeup industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, it has a significant impact of our environment and on ourselves. As mentioned in second post, most makeup contains hazardous ingredients that are hormone disrupting, posing a threat to both human’s health and wildlife’s health. When we wash our makeup down the drains or dispose of them improperly, chemicals can end up in water sources accessible by wildlife. Not to forget the negative environmental impact of transportation and packaging!
Welcome back! For this week and the next, I will be writing about how working in the cosmetics industry affects employees’ makeup consumption and hence its impact on the environment.
Above is a picture of my usual work makeup and it might not seem much on camera due to the strong lighting in the store, but my face has a REALLY thick layer of makeup on! Below is an example of the bare minimum number of makeup items I use for my work.
I typically use less than half the number of items seen above before I started working for Dior, to add on, I normally use more these for work. It’s obvious that I use a significant amount more of makeup for work. My makeup usage frequency increased too as I worked 4 times a week compared to my usual usage of 1-2 times a month. While I observed this sharp increase in amount of makeup used due to work, I wondered if there were similarities with my colleagues. I did a short survey with 17 colleagues to find out more.
About 65% of my colleagues felt that they too used a heavier amount of makeup for work than their usual amount.
Furthermore, there is an increase in frequency of makeup usage after starting their work as seen above . Although the difference in frequency might vary individually, there is an overall increase in frequency of makeup usage. This is evident in how the number of people who used makeup 6-7 times a week jumped from about 29% to about 59%.
It seems like majority of my colleagues experienced a similar change as well and increased our total makeup usage. This means more products are consumed over time, corresponding to an increase in each of our personal cosmetics carbon footprint.
Last week, I mentioned that we were all given a set of makeup by Dior to use for work. I personally did not use all of them and gave the extras to friends and family instead. Let’s see how my colleagues responded to the makeup given.
From the data collected above, we can see that none of my colleagues used all of the products, with about 28% of them using none or less than 50% of the given products. Might I add that some of us were given multiple sets of makeup for every event we took up. Personally, I was unnecessarily given 2 sets of makeup in the span of 6 months. I ended up giving away most of the second set of makeup away. I tried to reject the second set but was told that it was compulsory for me to accept it. I felt quite defeated at that point as I did not want to be consuming more than what was necessary for my job.
About 35% of the unused makeup was stored or thrown away by my colleagues, this seems wasteful and just goes to show how unnecessary the forced set of makeup given to us was. It would have been more sustainable had we been given the freedom to pick only what we needed.
Look out for part 2 of my findings next week!
Before I started working in the cosmetic industry, I used to think of the environmental impact the makeup I have based on just on the products itself. It was from my work experience that I realised there was more to the environmental impact of the cosmetic industry, it included the physical marketing aspect as well. According to this article, over 60% consumers would enter physical stores and try out makeup before making a purchase. Retail promoters help some of these consumers decide on their purchase, hence are part of the consumer’s purchase and environmental journey.
One of my job requirements was to wear a full face of makeup using only the brand I was endorsing. My company supplied each promoter with a set of makeup as seen in the picture above. It was difficult to find out the exact carbon footprint of any of these cosmetic products, but we can categorise the products impact into mainly three parts: ingredients, packaging and transportation.
I will be focusing on just this one eye shadow product that was given to me to show the negative environmental impacts of makeup products. Just a note that each product will definitely differ in packaging and ingredients, so the degree of environmental impact will vary as well.
Ingredients – According to Dior’s website, one of the many ingredients in this eye shadow is Titanium oxide. It is shown to stunt the growth of phytoplankton, which is vital to the marine ecosystem’s health as it the primary energy source at the bottom of the food web. That is just one ingredient out of the whole long list!
Packaging- This tiny eye shadow palette came in a box, with a black sleeve on, consists of plastic, a mirror and 2 applicators. All of these materials are to just compliment and present the product, seemingly unnecessary. It is reported that 14% of the world’s remaining carbon budget is taken up by the plastics industry. It is hard to imagine that this seemingly innocent eye shadow is part of that global statistic.
Transportation – Assuming this product was flown into Singapore directly from France, the flight alone would release about 1.03 metric tons of CO2e. This is not considering the transportation involved at the many levels of manufacturing or the transport from supplier to consumer in Singapore. The carbon footprint of transportation of this product will differ depending on where the consumers make the purchase. Having said that, it is important to consider how globalised cities increase carbon footprint of the cosmetics industry.
This just goes to show how such a small item fits in the big picture of our environmental impacts. Hope you will think about the person behind the counter the next time you purchase a cosmetic product, there is a whole world of marketing behind the cosmetic industry that we should consider in our environmental impacts too!
Hi everyone! My name is Audrey and welcome to my blog.
This blog will be about discovering the environmental impact of the cosmetic industry with a main focus on makeup. I hope to explore these environmental impacts through my personal journey with cosmetics by documenting and analysing my experience working in the cosmetic industry.
What got me so interested in make up to begin with was the 8 months I spent working as a brand ambassador for Christian Dior before my first year in University started this year. I promoted makeup, fragrances and skincare products for the first time in my life, it was truly an eye opening experience working for the cosmetic industry. The most important thing I took away from my experience apart from service skills, was the realisation of how environmentally harmful the cosmetic industry is. It also got me thinking about just whatexactly goes behind the scenes in the cosmetic industry all together and what impact does it have on our planet Earth.
As someone who has always valued and respected nature since young, my queries about the cosmetic industry naturally grew together with my interest in make up. As an avid makeup and nature lover, I hope to not only uncover the environmental impacts of the cosmetic industry but also show that compromises are possible between both interests.
Whether or not you love makeup like me, I hope by the end of this blog all of you will gain a better understanding of what goes on in the cosmetic industry, beyond what meets the consumer’s eye.
Hope you are as excited as me to start this blogging journey! Thank you for reading, see you next week 🙂