Have you ever taken a moment to think about what goes into your beauty products?
What journey did your makeup go on to get from where it was manufactured to the shelf you picked it from? What makes a green makeup brand ‘green’? And how can some makeup brands charge only a few dollars for products that work similarly to expensive ones?
Many people never think about these things or assume that they can take a product at face value – that an affordable popular brand that doesn’t test on animals is good for our bodies, the environment, and our bank accounts. But packages and trends don’t tell the whole story.
Fast beauty brands are changing the beauty industry as we know it – and affecting environments, economies, and communities around the globe.
What is Fast Beauty?
Fast beauty, much like fast fashion, refers to massive companies that quickly churn out trendy products at an affordable price. Fast beauty brands like Kylie Cosmetics, e.l.f., Nyx, and N.Y.C prioritize staying on top of what’s ‘hot’ and put quality, safety, and even labor practices on the back burner, so to speak. In addition, these global companies produce an incredible amount of waste.
According to Zero Waste Week, the beauty industry contributes more than 120 billion units of packaging to the global waste crisis per year and contributes to 18 million acres of deforestation each year.
These statistics come from these massive corporations – the ones who put the dollar ahead of the environment and the consumer. This is exactly what minimalist beauty companies (like Bellavana Beauty) are trying to challenge.
We can learn a lot more about how the fast beauty industry works by looking into fast fashion.
How is Fast Fashion Related to the Beauty Industry?
We’ve all heard the term ‘fast fashion’ before. It refers to companies that work quickly to snag looks off the runway and get them into the hands of the everyday consumer at a low, accessible price - such brands include Forever 21, Fashion Nova, SHEIN, and H&M.
While this may sound like a great concept, it has serious ramifications. For one thing, fast fashion feeds our need for always wanting more, which leads to mass consumerism. A few decades ago, the average American purchased 25 items of clothing per year or less, spent more than 10% of their annual income on clothing and almost all clothing was made in the United States.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, when massive textile factories opened in Asian and Latin American countries and promised low labor and material prices, American retailers could not compete. They began outsourcing their products to these companies to save money and increase profit margins. As a result, clothing prices dropped, and Americans were able to afford more, more, more.
Today, the average American buys 70 pieces of clothing per year yet spends only 3.5% of their annual income. And only about 2% of clothing that is sold in the U.S. is manufactured here.
As you can probably guess, this creates more issues than just overconsumption. Mass production also causes social labor issues (including unethical labor practices), pollution, and lots of waste. Cheap fabrics typically fall apart after a few wears and washes and buying an outfit to wear only once isn’t unheard of when prices are so low.
Plus, every time a new trend pops up, clothing is manufactured, purchased, and then thrown to the wayside once the trend has passed. A revival in thrifting attempts to mitigate this issue, but clothes are still being produced on a scale that thrifting cannot compete with.
At the end of the day, the issue stems from society’s obsession with overconsumption – with always needing to buy new and more. Fast fashion and fast beauty make it easy for people to feed this obsession and look the other way while opening their new box of makeup or clothing.
The same sentiments relate to the fast beauty industry. Neither the labor, environmental, nor economic practices that go into the fast beauty industry are sustainable.
The Problem with Fast Beauty
Some massive beauty brands try to make their companies look better by adopting ‘green’ practices. For example, e.l.f. prides its brand on being 100% vegan and cruelty-free. This label sounds like it would be good for our bodies and the environment while combating unethical animal testing, but it just slaps a ‘green’ label over the other issues their mass-produced makeup lines cause.
This phenomenon is called Green Consumerism. While companies ‘go green’ by taking small steps toward a sustainable future (recyclable packaging, less plastic, etc.) they are still contributing to the issue of consumerism, adding massive amounts of waste to a planet already in crisis, and overlooking their unethical/unsustainable practices from end to end.
Piggybacking off Green Consumerism is Greenwashing. Greenwashing is when corporations cover up their unsustainable practices and toxic ingredients with ‘green’ packaging, advertisements, and ingredients.
A perfect example of this is Urban Decay, L’Oreal, and the mica mining industry.
The mica mining industry is notoriously unsafe and unethical. The mineral is mined in China, India, and Madagascar, where poverty is high and child labor laws are practically nonexistent. Young children are all but forced to turn to mica mining instead of receiving an education, so they can feed themselves and their families.
Urban Decay touts that they are a cruelty-free brand, yet they are owned by L’Oreal – one of the biggest makeup companies and buyers of mica in the world. People who are unaware of this might purchase Urban Decay makeup because they want to avoid supporting a corporation that supports child labor. Unfortunately, every purchase from Urban Decay goes to fund L’Oreal and the mica mining industry.
There are many more examples of Greenwashing in the beauty industry and cruel labor practices. Although some practices and ingredients are illegal in the United States there are no regulations for obtaining outsourced materials in other countries. When this is done on a massive scale by brands who prioritize profit over all else, the beauty industry doesn’t look so beautiful, after all.
What Can We Do About Fast Beauty?
Thankfully, hope isn’t lost. Fast beauty has uncovered many issues in the beauty industry that we can now work toward solving, as consumers and business owners.
As a consumer:
The goal isn’t to stop consuming products. The goal is to buy what you need and to be more mindful of what you are buying and who you are buying from. Find brands committed to making a change and transparent about their practices, sources, and intentions.
Pay close attention to the expiration date of your products. Most beauty products don’t last as long as people think, so they store them away in their makeup cabinet for months to years and buy new products in the meantime.
Try to purchase one product and use it all before buying another. If you aren’t sure if you’re going to like a product, go to a physical location and test it on your skin or ask the company for a sample.
As a beauty brand owner:
Innovate packaging by switching to glass or recycled materials. Be transparent with your consumers about where your packaging comes from, what it’s made of, and how to properly dispose of it.
Do your research into where your products and materials come from. Make sure your sources are using ethical and sustainable practices.
Ask your audience what’s important to them when it comes to sustainability. You might get some great ideas that you didn’t think of.
What is Bellavana Beauty Doing About This Problem?
Bellavana Beauty has a goal to switch to glass or other innovative recycled materials by 2023. We also encourage and educate our audience on recycling, plastic pollution, and sustainability to reduce waste and create intentional shoppers.
Bellavana Beauty is actively working to make a positive impact in the industry by providing products that are clean (using non-toxic for skin and planet, plant-based, or safe, synthetic alternatives). We focus on creating products that serve a daily purpose and that are part of a simple routine, not one of excess.