Unethical makeup brings shades of controversy

Lela Nesheim, Staff Writer

Makeup has become a fairly common household item nowadays, especially with the influx of beauty bloggers and influencers plugging all sorts of products through social media. I am rather obsessed with makeup and, admittedly, follow a large number of makeup artists on Instagram and YouTube, checking in every day to see what new looks and new products people are raving about. However, a new trend picking up momentum in the online beauty community and beyond is ethical and conscious consumption of makeup.

There are a lot of ways you can go about this. Here’s a quick rundown of a few:

Shade range and inclusivity

Cosmetic brands — from drugstore to high-end — have catered mostly, if not exclusively, to white and light skin for a long time. It’s actually pretty outrageous how non-inclusive many well-established brands continue to be, which is why Rihanna’s brand Fenty made such a splash with their foundation; it comes in 40 shades, favoring all sorts of undertones. So why not support brands like Fenty that promote inclusivity and/or cater to darker skin tones?

Drugstore brands that have gotten their shit together in this department include Maybelline, their FitMe Matte and Poreless Foundation has 40 shades, and Nyx, their Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation has 45 shades.

Some black-owned indie brands to look out for include Beauty Bakerie, Juvia’s Place, BlackUp and Coloured Raine. Some Latinx-owned ones include Bésame Cosmetics, Melt Cosmetics, Chaos Makeup and Reina Rebelde.


Most cosmetic brands test on animals. According to the Humane Society, it has been an industry standard since 1938 when the United States Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act was signed into law, requiring some form of safety verification of cosmetic products. Animal testing is not essential but has become most corporations’ go-to way of testing the safety of products. Animal testing causes suffering and, often, death. There are alternatives to animal testing that brands are beginning to pick up! Finally!

A comprehensive list of worldwide brands that are cruelty free can be found on the website CrueltyFreeKitty.com and includes high-end, drugstore and indie brands. Some drugstore options I would suggest are Elf, Wet’N’Wild and Milani.

The issue, however, is that some brands that consider themselves “cruelty free” aren’t actually. All brands that sell products in China are required to perform animal testing. For instance, the drugstore brand Nyx is “cruelty free,” but because they are owned by the parent company L’Oreal, which sells their products in China, technically Nyx is not cruelty-free. So pay attention to parent companies and stay vigilant!

Ethically-sourced ingredients

Some ingredients in cosmetics are controversial because of how they are produced and supplied. One such ingredient is mica, mostly extracted from the mountains of India. Where’s the controversy? Well, in a 2014 article titled “Child labor: mineral make-up boom raises fear over ethical extraction,” “The Guardian” revealed that India accounts for 60% of global production of mica and most of the exports were unregulated, leading to a dangerous spike in the use of child labor. Another article from “The Guardian,” this one from 2016, estimated that 20,000 children worked in mica mines at the time in the two Indian states of Bihar and Jharkhand.

Many brands have ditched mica, but be sure to read the label on a product to sure.

A difficult thing about ethical consumption of anything is that, even with what I have listed above, there isn’t always very much crossover. Maybelline and other drugstore brands kill it in the shade range department but also use mica and test on animals. Sometimes you have to pick one approach, especially if you’re looking for products that aren’t as expensive as luxury and high-end brands. That’s totally okay. Sometimes you gotta pick your battles!

Happy consuming, fellow consumers! See you next issue!

This article first appeared in the Friday, September 28 edition of The Echo.