This article originally appeared on VICE US.
I am truly grateful to the beauty industry, and I mean that sincerely. Without it, I would hate how I look. I know that some people reading this will say that the cosmetics industry is the cause of my self-hatred and that I might feel differently if I were liberated from the oppressive beauty standards imposed under late capitalism.
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But they’re wrong, even if it’s true that I never saw women who looked like me in adverts growing up. I just hate how I look without makeup: I have half-moons of purple under my eyes, and my scalp flakes when I am stressed. My eyes only look good when ringed heavily with liquid eyeliner and kohl. Powder tamps down my oleaginous skin. I wear super-strong deodorant because my greatest fear is finding out that people think I smell, and have been gossiping about it. When I appear in public without makeup, my friends either make ostentatious comments about how good I look (a sure sign that they’re lying) or avoid eye contact. Men who say they prefer the natural look make me puke.
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling conflicted. On a recent holiday to Cambodia, I saw firsthand the polluting effects of the cosmetics industry. Empty shampoo bottles and wrung-out toothpaste tubes floated in the sea. On roadsides across the country, enormous piles of plastic slowly mouldered under the beating sun.
As consumers, we’re all to blame, with around 12.2 million tonnes of plastic waste deposited in the marine environment every year, according to The Green Alliance. Products commonly used by the global cosmetics industry, like the microbeads in exfoliating products, wash into the sea each year, damaging wildlife and often ending up in the human food supply. (Plastic microbeads were banned in the USA in 2015, and 2016 in the UK.) Research shows that only 50 percent of the products we commonly use in our bathrooms are recycled.
But things are slowly changing. “We’re seeing consumers, particularly younger ones, becoming more mindful of their environmental impact, and they expect beauty brands to be too,” says Andrew McDougall of market research firm Mintel. According to McDougall, 47 percent of shopper purchase natural or organic beauty products specifically because they’re better for the environment. “Consumers are becoming more conscious of their plastic consumption, and it’s impacting personal care brands to rethink their use of plastic products and packaging.”
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Another all day shoot! So, no makeup in the day. But I’m going to a party later this evening, and someone (OK, more than one person) I banged is going to be there, so it’s imperative I look fantastic. I briefly consider just applying my normal makeup and lying, but I’m trying to be a better person lately. I use the Lush foundation again, sweep RMK Beauty Living Luminize illuminator down my cheekbones, and decide to experiment with a red eyeshadow. I dust some pressed powder across my eyelids in the hope this will help tamp down the grease, and them apply Elate Cosmetics Universal Creme in Keen, which is a sheer, burgundy red. I finish off with mascara and then apply Keen to my lips and cheeks. Normally I’d go for a much heavier makeup look, but people at the party compliment me on how fresh-faced I look. Maybe I’ll start wearing less makeup.
I’m exhausted after spending all day Saturday working, so I literally just lie in bed smelling Santal 33 over and over again whilst Googling pictures of Gwyneth Paltrow’s boyfriend and beach house. Mostly I’m just relieved the week is over so I can be reunited with my beloved eyeshadow primer and liquid eyeliner, but overall it’s been a good experience. The main thing I’ve probably learned is that I’ve been stuck in a makeup rut for years.
Being forced to wear much less makeup than I’d usually use encouraged me to feel more confident with a more bare-faced look, even if I initially hated it. Going forward, I’ll try to be more sparing with both the products that I buy—even if it’s not possible to be fully plastic free—and sparing with their application, too.
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