Long posts

Cruelty-free make up

I’m not super clued up on cosmetic products in general. Contouring is total magic to me, and I can’t even get liquid liner right without an emergency cotton bud on hand. But a lot of people use makeup everyday, or even if they just use it on weekends to look like a total bombshell at the bar, makeup products do have an environmental impact, so it’s important to be aware of that and make good decisions about which products to buy.

Obviously, there’s the waste factor – what else can you do with a mascara tube when it’s empty? But that is a really big issue, and most of the responsibility for that lies at the door of the cosmetic companies who make the products and their plastic containers. But what I really want to talk about here is the animal testing aspect, because that’s something we as consumers really do have power over.

I had intended this post to be a follow up to my post on cruelty-free personal hygiene, but as I use very little make up, I found I actually had too little information to give a good discussion on BWC make-up brands. So I called in some assistance from a friend on this one (check her out on Instagram @caitwhispers, for some really fun, life-loving content). Between us, we have tried three different brands on BWC approved make up: essence, The Body Shop and Lush. Of course, there are a bunch of other brands out there, but my intention for this blog is to only review things that I have tried first-hand (or vicariously first-hand). However, I did find this post by Liezel Malherbe, from the South African lifestyle blog, 9 Lives, which provides a very good list of BWC brands.

A little background on the issue

At the end of 2017 there were government talks about updating the Animals Protection Act and the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act to ban testing of cosmetics on animals in South Africa. Despite my best research efforts, I haven’t been able to find out if the law has been passed yet, which makes me think it hasn’t. This law follows a similar model to that of the EU (and a number of other countries listed here) which bans testing of products and/or associated ingredients for cosmetic use, as well as banning the sale of products which have been tested on animals.

These amendments will also impose new standards and provisions for what is considered ‘acceptable’ animal testing (for example, for medicine), and give the Act more legal clout by increasing the maximum fine for contravention to R40 000 (up from R4000) and increasing the maximum sentence to 10 years (up from 1 year).

There is an unfortunate loophole, that products and ingredients may still legally be tested on animals for medical purposes, and a cosmetic company could use an ingredient that was tested in this way in their products without breaking the law. Of course other methods are being developed, but they have to be very strictly scientifically and legally approved, which takes time. M-A-C cosmetics is a strong supporter of these methods.

Similarly, products that were tested on animals before the ban in 2013 are still used in cosmetic products today. These tests can’t be undone, but in the here-and-now, we can make choices that promote an animal friendly future for cosmetics.

Some companies are really honest about this, and do their best to avoid animal testing as much as possible. Other companies will tell you they are animal cruelty free, but source products from companies which do use animal testing. Sadly it often comes from the big names like L’Oreal, Revlon, and Coty (and their subsidiary brands like Maybelline, Almay and Rimmel). It’s a real mine field, and it can be very frustrating and disappointing. but it is worth remembering that the loophole does exist, and while some companies may state that they don’t use animal testing, it’s really important not to take it at face value.

(Note: In the previous post about hygiene products, I talked about an app called Bunny Free, which tells you if a company is genuinely animal cruelty free, or not. It doesn’t always have the brand you’re looking for, but it is a very useful tool.)

Brand 1: The Body Shop

Tried by: Me (yep, I interviewed myself)

As in my other BWC post, I need to say up front that The Body Shop has Revlon as their parent company, which is not BWC approved. It’s up to you how strictly you want to apply the tag ‘cruelty-free’. I used their products some time ago, and since learning about their connection to Revlon, I have steered away from them. But by supporting a recognised BWC brand, you can signal to Revlon that cruelty-free is something they should strive towards in all their products.

1. How long have you used Body Shop products for?

I started using Body Shop make up when I was about 16 or 17 years old. At that stage I was still just getting into make up so I only had their mascara and powder eye-liner. I used them for about two years, then didn’t have access to The Body Shop at university so I just bought what I could get/afford. Then, in 2016 I went back to their powder eyeliner for a year (which is about as long as one compact lasted me).

2. Why did you start using Body Shop?

When I was young it was pretty much the only anti-animal testing brand I could get in South Africa. I didn’t really even understand the full extent of animal testing, but I knew it was bad and I didn’t want to support it.

3. What do you like most about the company and their products?

At the time, I liked that they were outspokenly anti-cruelty. Their products were/are also very good quality. I also like that they are socially engaged and focus on a broad range of global issues. Although their connection to Revlon has made me stop buying their products, I do still believe they are a good company with good intentions.

4. What are your top 3 products?

As a mentioned above, I only really used their mascara and eyeliner, so that’s a difficult question to answer fairly. Especially as I didn’t actually like the mascara very much – the brush was quite fat and I would often end up painting my face with it.

However, the powder eyeliner was excellent. It came in a compact like eyeshadow and could be applied with a flat brush along your water line. I don’t even know if they still make it, but it was the longest lasting, most smudge-proof eyeliner I’ve ever used! I will also add make up brushes to this list, because 10 years later, the brushes I bought from them still look as good as ever.

5. Was there anything you had to get used to when you first started using their products?

Not really. Everything worked like normal make-up!

Brand 2: Lush

Tried by: @caitwhispers

1. I started using Lush in the middle of 2016, and have used them consistently since then.

2. I started using them because my cousin told me about them and I was looking for a good cruelty-free brand, so I had to check it out! Cruelty-free products are a must-have, and I feel that Lush is committed to being responsible for their products.

3. I like the company because once I started using their products, I learned that their eco-consciousness extends beyond just what goes into their products and also applies to their packaging and aesthetics. For example, the glitter in their bath bombs, which are kind of a signature product, is biodegradable and harmless. They also set up a rewards system to motivate people to bring back empty bottles and tubs (bring 5 back and receive a free face mask), to reduce waste. This thoughtfulness made it very clear to me that Lush is company worth investing in, supporting and promoting. Their staff are also nice people, with good hearts and you can see that they enjoy working there.

4. My favourite products are their solid shampoo bars (they last for ages and are completely package free), rose argan body wash and sea salt shampoo. (Note: I know these aren’t cosmetics, but they are her favourites!)

5. I really think people shouldn’t be so set in their ways and not want to adapt or change to more eco-friendly alternatives. So, no, there was nothing I had to get used to. I was happy to make the change!

Brand 3: essence

Tried by: Me, again.

1. I started using essence at the beginning of 2018, so I’ve used them for just over a year now.

2. I started using essence mainly because of the affordability! I had done some research into BWC approved brands that were available in South Africa, but a lot of the ones I could find in my area were waaaaay out of my price range. However, essence prides itself on affordability and that was a huge draw card for me.

3. The thing I like the most about them is that they were the first company I’d ever encountered that were very honest and straightforward about their animal testing policy. A lot of other companies use vague statements and half-truths like ‘we don’t own any animal testing facilities’ which doesn’t mean the same as ‘we don’t use any ingredients that have been tested on animals’. But essence’s website lays everything out very clearly and even acknowledges that some of their ingredients, like almond oil, were tested on animals for medical purposes in the past.

4. My top 3 products are their camouflage 2-in-1 make up and concealer (this is usually the only make up I wear), long-lasting eye pencil (the softest eyeliner I’ve ever used!), and their volume boost waterproof mascara.

5. The only thing I had to get used to was breaking my very middle-class association that cheap = poor quality!


I hope to add to this post over time, but if you have tried any other BWC make up brands and would like to answer these questions in the comments, please do! It helps other readers, and also helps me.

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