As you all know by now, I've made the decision to start investigating more natural and, when possible, organic skin care products. I'm finding this to be much more difficult and confusing than I imagined. It seems that a huge majority of the so-called "natural" and "organic" skin care on the market is no such thing. There are many, many products out there claiming to be organic when, in reality, they are nothing more than chemical-filled creams, lotions and cleansers containing one or two "organic" essential oils to fool the consumer. Even more unsettling is the common labeling claim that chemicals are "naturally derived" when, in fact, they are highly-processed materials that start off natural (coconut oil is a common one), then undergo heat and/or chemical processing that renders them unrecognizable. I've been frustrated beyond belief by all of the false and misleading claims I've come across in the world of natural skin care.
However, what's been even more appalling to me has been the attitude of some of the truly organic company representatives toward non-organic products and those of us who use them. Last week I was supposed to interview the owner of one such company. Apparently, she didn't bother to read my blog before she agreed to speak with me (or perhaps she was seeing dollar signs at the thought of free publicity for her line), as I later found this quote deep within her website:
"Here's our opinion about wearing non-botanical color cosmetics: they are unnecessary vanity items and their manufacture and use is harmful to life on the planet. I view cosmetics made from metal ores (as opposed to plant dyes) (and other synthetic chemicals such as hair dyes) as I view second-hand cigarette smoke and I wish I didn't have to be exposed to the chemical pollution from the manufacture of these products. If people could find a way to indulge their vanity without effecting my lungs, my brain, my life, my friends, and all the wildlife on the planet, then I say go ahead and indulge. Just don't dump your stuff in my air or water."
She goes on to state:
"Though we have the ability to produce a color cosmetic line, we have chosen not to do so because we have not seen any legal colorings that meet our standards. We have never seen a cosmetic line without synthetic ingredients and we've never seen a line of makeup that we would recommend."
Okay, that's fine. However, my blog is called "Lipstick Musings". It's very obviously a pro-cosmetics blog. Regardless of the fact that I intend to delve into the world of organics, I'm still obviously promoting products that this woman is adamantly opposed to. The fact that she can act so morally superior in her views, yet still be willing to shill her product on my site is incredibly hypocritical. As it happened, we were unable to do the interview due to unforeseen circumstances. However, the fact that she even considered speaking to me given her militant objections to basically everything I espouse is telling. It's amazing to me how moral authority falls by the wayside when money is involved.
If the manufacture of non-botanical cosmetics is polluting the environment, we should all be more mindful of what we are using and which companies we are supporting. That being said, there's a way to express one's views that doesn't insult a huge portion of the population. The woman I quoted above also offers commentary to the effect that cosmetics are promoted as a way to make women feel terrible about themselves, as a way to hold us down. It's all a big chemical-company conspiracy to denigrate women and destroy the world. The view of the owners of this particular organic company seems to be that by using non-organic cosmetics, we as consumers and as women are being exploited and exploitative, literally destroying our world to appease our shallow, vain, useless selves. Women like us, who enjoy looking good, who enjoy the rituals of beauty, are seen as selfish, useless, predatory beings with no concern for the world around us. Furthermore, there is no middle ground available to any of us. It isn't sufficient to gradually move towards a more organic lifestyle; rather, you're either right (totally organic with absolutely no synthetics in your life) or wrong (every other human on the planet). End of story.
This same couple also claims that all sunscreens are toxic (including mineral). In their view, skin cancer isn't nearly the risk that sunscreens are. My grandfather died of malignant melanoma as a result of childhood sun exposure. I personally have seen the positive effects of sunscreen--I know it works. It's kept me from burning (or even tanning) on many, many occasions. It may not be perfect, but at this time in history it's the best we've got. Yes, I could wear big floppy hats and loose-fitting clothes while out in the sun, but that's not always a viable option--and when you live in Atlanta, where summertime temperatures are often 85+ degrees by 9:00 am, it's also an extremely uncomfortable (and sometimes dangerous, due to the very real threat of heat stroke) option.
I do not feel "exploited" or "subjugated" by cosmetics companies and the images they put out to the public. I know full well that images are photoshopped, that the ideal of beauty as put forth by the media is virtually unattainable, and that mascara (or even a red lipstick) won't solve my problems. What I also know is that using these product makes me feel happy, and sometimes even empowered. Makeup, for better or worse, is a part of my identity.
I also have no intention of becoming a zero-carbon-footprint kind of person. I do what I can. I recycle as much of what I use as possible, I try to save energy and gas as often as I can, I conserve power. I've had organic gardens in my backyard. I try not to be wasteful of natural resources, and now I'm trying to become more mindful of excess consumption in all areas of my life. I'm also becoming more mindful of the types of things I do eventually consume, such as reading ingredients labels and buying locally.
The fact is, for better or worse, I love makeup. I love the beauty of it, the artistry involved in applying it. I love the way it makes me feel. Do I feel I need it to be complete? No. I also know I have far more cosmetics than any single human needs, which is why I'm paring down my collection. That being said, I do feel my life is enriched by participating in the rituals of beauty. Being the mother of three and having a full-time job, I rarely get time alone. One of my more meditative moments each day is during my nightly skin care ritual. The same goes for my morning makeup application. To some extent, I set the tone for my day through my chosen makeup. Smokey eyes? I face the day as a sultry predator. Red lips? Today I'll be in charge of my world and those around me! Barely-there neutrals? Time to sit back and let others do the talking.
The truth is, makeup can be fun. It doesn't have to be the result of low self esteem or subjugation to the monster corporations out there. And though they are large (and often soulless) and in it for a profit, those cosmetics corporations are obviously giving some of us what we want, or they wouldn't stay around long. Pretty is a big business, and many of us enjoy the hell out of it. That doesn't make us evil.
I won't ever be one of those people who is so committed to saving the world that I'm willing to move up north to the middle of nowhere, live in a house with no running water or electricity, grow all my own food, and protest everyone else. It's not who I am. I still love my lotions and potions, powders and paint. I won't apologize for that. I'll try in the future to be more mindful of my purchasing decisions. Maybe my contributions are smaller, effecting individuals more than the masses. But it's what I've got to offer, and I'm doing the best I can.
I don't intend to stop purchasing makeup and skin care. I do intend to continue featuring new releases and old favorites, sharing with you my opinions and experiences in the world of beauty. As I become more aware of issues, I will share those with you as well. What I won't do is apologize for who I am.
I'm a cosmetics junkie with a weakness for red lipsticks and an addiction to sunscreen. My mother taught me you can learn a lot about a woman by the contents of her makeup bag, and I've learned she was right. Join me on my adventures through lotions and potions, powders and paint!