The Ethics of Cosmetics

In which Nikita tries to purchase concealer.

I’m starting to make choices with a view to going zero waste, or more generally to improve the ethics and health implications of what I purchase, specifically with regard to cosmetics.

I’m not going to do it suddenly or all at once – it would be completely besides the point to throw out all my makeup and toiletries and replace them with non-plastic/ vegan/ cruelty free/ environmentally friendly/ organic alternatives. That in itself would be wasteful.

But there’s an issue in that last paragraph and it’s there in the list of ethics. There is a lot of options there, a lot of things to consider. I’ve been scouring blogs and looking at The Good Shopping Guide every time I realise that there’s something I could do with. For some reason I was very reluctant to use the word ‘need’ in that last sentence and as I reflect on it, I think this might be close to the root of my ethical shopping dilemma.

What do I ‘need’ when it comes to ethics? On a higher level, what does the world need? To which of the many movements could I as an individual add my weight in a way that will have the most profound effect? Where is my time, money, and effort best spent? What choices can I make to have the most positive impact or, perhaps more realistically, the least negative one? I’m trying to live my best life here and I’m not really sure what to prioritise, or even what I personally care about.

As usual for me, a deceptively simple task (finding a new concealer), has become a research project. I need data and numbers to guide me on what I should care about. If I think through these questions maybe I’ll be able to find an answer that works for me, for my life and goals, and then make my choices based around those ethics and principles. And only then I can write my shopping list.