Ethical Beauty… Secret or Dilemma?

In all my comments over previous weeks about the potentially harmful household products that we pour down our drains, I have studiously avoided discussing the similar effects of hygiene and beauty products. Why is that? Is it because the bubbles, fragrance and silky texture enhance my bathing pleasure? Is it because my children exercise more control over my choices in this area? Or is it because we get through so much shower gel and shampoo that the price becomes all-important?

Certainly, my supermarket’s shelves bear witness to the fact that people can be more easily persuaded to buy environmentally friendly washing liquid than shampoo. As far as I can see, there are no organic beauty products on offer. And yet it stands to reason that harmful ingredients in household products are also present in beauty products – what disappears down the plughole in the bath has the same harmful effects on the natural world as what disappears out of the sink in the kitchen. Time to try organic, naturally fragranced shower gels and shampoos without harmful chemical additives, I feel (especially as my body is entering a heightened allergy phase for some reason).

But how about the make-up and all the creams and potions that promise so much? For some people, to be separated from their face cream would be a matter of life and death. I remember a friend telling me when our children were babies that she would never answer the door, not even to the postman, if she did not have all her make-up on. In those days, I thought I’d achieved something if I left the house wearing clean clothes! Mind you, I’ve never been into beauty products in the same way as many others seem to be. At a recent make-up party, I became the challenge for the hostess, when she found out that I had only ever used soap and water on my face. I left the party unconvinced and without purchasing cleanser, toner, day cream, night cream and whatever else she thought I needed.. She probably still has sleepless nights about me.

I am so sceptical about anything that claims to be age-defying. How can that be? Ageing is natural; defying ageing is not. Defying ageing depends on combinations of chemicals working their magic. Surely healthy living, drinking water, not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, getting enough sleep, staying out of the sun, avoiding stress – these are the natural ways to stay looking young. Just so unpopular, though. Far easier to buy an expensive potion to slap on at the end of the day to remove all the day’s excesses.

I realise I am on dangerous territory here. I am no beauty queen. And beauty is the holy grail according to the magazines in a pile by our bedside. I deserve the best product on the market “because I’m worth it”.

Is it really worth all the time and money spent researching the latest beauty-enhancing mix of chemicals so that I can look the best for my partner?
Is it really worth the damaging effect on the natural environment just because I need to look good for my job?
Is it really worth the suffering of innocent animals on whom these products are tested so that I don’t embarrass my kids in public?

I don’t think so. Maybe you do. You must hate me by now for piling on the guilt. Well, be reassured. I share that guilt. I do have one guilty secret that I feel awful about every time I use it – hair dye. A couple of years ago, I stopped using it and began to go grey naturally. It was not a good experience. I began to feel sorry for my friends and family who very obviously struggled with it. I lost confidence in myself and felt I had more to prove everywhere I went. I didn’t have what it took to go through with it. I returned to the hair dye counter for my salvation. Without it, I would now be completely grey. I’ve decided to keep going until my husband catches me up and then we can go grey disgracefully together! However, I hate being caught up into using a product that I am unhappy with. Every time I do it, I spare a thought for the rivers and oceans (as if that would make any difference).

Maybe it’s time to experiment with some natural colourings – has anyone out there got any suggestions? Do they actually work? (see, the chemical myth has cast its spell over me, too). Or any suggestions of natural creams and make-up that ‘do the job’ for you? If any of you have a product that you rate because it works and ticks all the ethical boxes, then share the secret. It’s time we began our own advertising campaign by personal recommendation.

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