Thursday, 9 February 2012

Trying to be less cruel

Animal testing is one of the most controversial aspects of the beauty industry.  I’m not planning on writing a long and detailed piece today and it’s not my intention to try to convince anybody to change their beauty buying habits here (I’m not an entirely cruelty free shopper myself yet), but rather if you do feel that you would like to try to avoid products tested on or involving potential distress to animals then I’d just like to provide some extra information on how you can ascertain whether a product involves cruelty to animals or not.  Please note also that I have tried my best to provide information that is correct to the best of my knowledge at the time of publication some of which is time sensitive and subject to change in the future.

Contrary to popular belief a total ban on animal testing of cosmetic products has not yet been fully implemented in Europe, therefore it is possible that many popular cosmetics available on the market have been tested on animals.  There are also no bans in place in many other global territories such as the USA and Asia.  Currently the only way to be sure that a product in the UK is cruelty free is to check if it has Leaping Bunny accreditation, which can be looked up on the Go Cruelty Free website.  If a brand displays the Leaping Bunny logo then that’s basically the gold standard for being cruelty free.  Brands have to prove that they comply with a strict range of criteria in order to earn the Leaping Bunny.  However, not all brands which are Leaping Bunny accredited choose to display the logo on their packaging so if you have heard that a brand is cruelty free but it does not display the Leaping Bunny then the best idea is to check the list of approved companies here.

As part of their marketing many brands will state that they do not test their cosmetics on animals unless required by law (since they understand that animal testing is off putting to many consumers), yet will not have Leaping Bunny accreditation.  This is because some countries (e.g China) require that cosmetics are tested on animals before they will be approved for sale, therefore any companies selling in those markets will not be eligible for the Leaping Bunny stamp of cruelty free approval.  That seems perfectly reasonable to me – what’s the point of not testing the exact same products in Europe only to go and test them in other territories?  That is absolutely part of the same R&D process in my eyes.  However, there is an argument to be made that a boycott of those companies would make no difference to their decision to sell in those territories where testing is a legal requirement so they would go ahead testing even if all their consumers in Europe were to stop buying them as the markets in China etc are potentially much larger, whereas boycotts may be more successful if brands stood to lose a large portion of their overall market.

Finally a word on make-up brushes.  I basically try to avoid natural hair brushes entirely because I just feel there’s no way to guarantee that there was no cruelty involved to the animals – sure, some of them may well have been produced from hair already shed by the animals, or from hair collected by gentle shearing, but there’s also the possibility that obtaining the hair did well involve some cruelty or distress to animals, which in the case of make-up brushes I just find unnecessary.

I’m not an entirely cruelty free shopper yet so please be aware that this is not a cruelty free blog and as mentioned above the only way to know if a product is cruelty free is to regularly check for it on the Go Cruelty Free website (as brands can also lose their Leaping Bunny status).

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Where I’ve been + bad beauty ads

I’m back again at last, after what seems to have been almost six weeks of not having posted anything.  I haven’t been away anywhere, the reason for my absence is much more mundane I’m afraid.  Basically I woke up one day and the hard drive of my 18 month old Dell was fried and nothing could be done to save it.  I’ve ordered a new one but my laptop is still not up and running again and I’m writing this on my boyfriend’s tiny netbook.  Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be able to cope with editing photos so it’ll still be a while before I can return to normal picture posts, so in the meantime I thought I’d write a few discussion posts instead about some controversial beauty topics.  They’re a very different style of post to my normal blogging but I hope you find them interesting all the same!

I recently read an article in The Guardian that yet another L’oreal advert is to be banned here in the UK after it was found to have breached advertising standards by the Advertising Standards Authority.  The advert, for an anti-wrinkle cream, features a black and white shot of Rachel Weisz’s face that has been so blasted with white light and digitally altered that I think it actually doesn’t even look like her anymore.  This is the third time in recent years that I personally can remember L’oreal adverts to have been found in breach of advertising standards in the UK – the other two being an advert for Telescopic mascara featuring Penelope Cruz that did not explicitly mention that false lashes and digital enhancement were used, and a Lancome advert featuring Julia Roberts that was banned for having been excessively altered in post-production.  I have personally always found L’oreal adverts to be risible in how badly presented they are.  The two main problems that I have is that they are lazy and completely lack integrity.  They generally feature head shots of celebrities who are renowned for their beauty, but whom L’oreal have clearly deemed to be well below the “beauty threshold” they require in order to make them presentable ambassadors for their products because they go on to digitally alter them almost beyond recognition in some cases (thereby defeating the purpose of using a celebrity in the first place as they need to be recognisable for who they are), at the same time making it completely obvious that they have not been able to achieve the look being presented by using the product being advertised.  I have never once bought a L’oreal product because I believed that I could achieve the look featured in the advert by using the product or even that I believed that the celebrity ambassador used the product themselves (and if they did then it still didn’t make them look good enough for L’oreal now, did it?)  The only time I would buy a L’oreal product I had seen advertised would simply be because it alerted me to the existence of a new product that I would potentially be interested in trying anyway.  However I am generally very put off by L’oreal adverts and in fact nowadays I almost completely avoid the brand solely because I hate their adverts so much.  Another of their brands, Maybelline, might just win for me in the “worst beauty adverts" stakes.  The adverts are practically computer generated illustrations that provide no useful information at all about the potential performance of the products being advertised – I just really can’t understand the point of them.

The kind of beauty ad I would like to see more of are just shots of models wearing the products in an imaginative and cool way that would both give an indication of the colours and textures of the products as they are actually worn on the skin and provide a bit of inspiration on different ways to wear them.  I like both Illamasqua and Urban Decay’s bright and bold approach to beauty shots, and while some of Illamasqua’s shots in particular are often outrageous they do fit in well with the ethos of the brand.

Do you share my beauty advert bugbears?  What are your favourite and least favourite beauty ads?