They say that beauty is only skin deep
And they say it’s in the eye of the beholder
I don’t know, I just can’t agree
Dr. Feelgood – Best in the world
We have witnessed in the last decades in the rising of consumer awareness regarding the food industry. From one scandal to the other, consumers’ organizations rose to denounce the practices and preach for alternatives: awareness-raising, promotion of organic products, consumer guides and publications of all sorts. The momentum brought policy changes at a national and international level. Sustainability in the food industry was to be part of the Sustainable Goals Development, therefore making the States responsible for implementing necessary actions. The logic behind all of this is very simple: we should be careful of what we put inside our bodies.
What about what we put on our bodies?
It seems like a sensible question to ask for 3 reasons :
- Everyone uses goods from the beauty industry;
- The beauty industry is a billion dollars one and growing rapidly across the globe;
- Health concerns related to ingredients in some formulations, some even linked to breast cancer. I will devote a whole article to debunk some myths around “toxic” ingredients and present the actual scientific evidence we currently have;
- The social impact of ingredients sourcing.
When it comes to regulating the beauty industry, things get blurry. Apart from the occasional outrage towards an offensive marketing campaign and the demonization of some ingredients, little seems to affect the exponential growth of the sector.
I think one the problem that prevents the industry from being held accountable is the failure of seeing the bigger picture. While it is easier to imagine and even find out where potatoes are made, how much they cost at production, how much they are retailed for and why the same process is nearly impossible with an eye cream. Have you ever looked at your vanity and zoomed at a product and wondered: what are the ingredients, where do they come from, who are the formulators, what are the overheads and what is the impact on the planet? And if you did, did you go and look for the answer? You most probably just came with a fragment of an answer, if that. Industry secrets and the complex process would be the very first elements an industry insider would point out to justify the opacity of the process. Should the complexity of a process be an excuse for lack of accountability?
Should the complexity of a process be an excuse for lack of accountability?
Greenwashing practices have been used by some companies to silence potential concerns and cater to misinformed consumers. “Natural”, “local”, or even sometimes “organic” labels have very little to do with the actual formulation, impact or effectiveness of a product.
That is not to say that sustainability is not on the agenda. There is a summit dedicated to the topic, publications and industry consumer organizations discussions but there seems to be a real gap between those discussions and its communication to consumers. It is a gap that could be a loss in benefits in some cases because there are companies, even big corporations doing great things but communicating them quite poorly.
I don’t think the future lies in the creation of smarter PR strategies that would twist or straight out fabricate facts. Companies need to invest in sustainability not only because it is good but because they have to, that’s where the future lies. Solutions exist at a macro and micro level.
As customers, we can positively influence how industries behave by being more conscious about what we are buying. Just as we are concerned by where our carrots come from, we should have a basic understanding of skincare care formulations.
One way is of course to do your research, but an easier and more entertaining way is to reach out your local cosmetics creators and ask them about the products and their motivations. While some skeptics will fail to see the impact of such actions in the short term, it is my conviction that this kind of change in behavior and consumer education will lead to better decision making that will lead to better and more responsible consumption of cosmetics.