Is the wish to be attractive one of the most fundamental human desires? Judging by the explosion of the beauty industry—from makeup and skincare to injectables, plastic surgery, YouTubers, and influencers—the answer seems to be yes. Even in my own lifetime, I’ve seen the interest in beauty grow exponentially. Beauty used to be something more accessible and no-nonsense in the 90s: remember the quaint old days of drugstore makeup? This was before Sephora, the Kardashians, and K-Beauty.
On one hand, the increase in options and improved formulas have made women and other genders feel more beautiful and confident. I’m not above singing praises of a good cushion foundation or Holy Grail eye cream. And yet, the overheating of the beauty industry has its dark sides, from sheer waste to ethically questionable ingredients. Carmine from insects, animal collagen, and mica (the shimmery powder in your eyeshadow, highlighter, and even lotions) mined by children isn’t the only thing you need to be aware of. The latest beauty “It” ingredient, colostrum, surpasses even tallow from cows in its cruelty, yet mainstream beauty industry and media are painting it as if it’s harmless.
What is colostrum?
Colostrum is the first milk that is produced for a newborn immediately prior to and following the birth. It has been called “liquid gold” for its nutritional profile and unparalleled benefits, all designed to equip the baby with immunity and growth. That includes antibodies, prebiotics, growth factors, and other vital nutrients. A 2021 study has shown that topical colostrum slows skin’s aging as measured by the shortening of telomeres in your DNA. Translation: it is a powerful anti-ager. It also counteracts inflammation and damage from UV rays.
If that all sounds miraculous, credit Mother Nature for figuring out how to give the best start in life to newborns (more about that in a minute). Seizing upon these properties, a number of brands have launched supplements and topical products in the name of beauty and wellness. That includes Biologique Recherche, the cult favorite French brand known for their exceptional functionality, and Armra, a sunny blonde M.D.-founded supplement company that claims it’s “rebuilding health from inside out.”
Is colostrum ethical?
If colostrum used in skincare and supplements were lab-created or donated by new mothers for burn victims, you might consider that the only case in which it’s ethical. Unfortunately, colostrum is a product of animal exploitation—yet even more despicable than normal for the blithe way the beauty industry is glossing over the reality. “It comes from grass-fed bovine milk,” warbles Coveteur. Well and Good goes a step farther: “Cows make an average of 15 liters of the stuff, while their calves never intake more than half of their supply. The rest becomes a waste product of the dairy industry, so there’s plenty to go around.” It’s shocking, the willful ignorance that must be in place to not see the reality!
As peaceful dumplings know, the only reason calves don’t take more colostrum is that ranchers separate calves from their mothers within mere hours of their birth. Female calves are raised with other calves away from any adults, until they are subject to constant artificial impregnation, delivery, and milking like their own mothers. Male calves are raised for weeks until butchered for veal, or killed even earlier if they are found to be “surplus.” Even the most “ethical” small farms that claim to raise “grass-fed” cows in fact bring their cows into barns where they can be chained and immobile for months out of the year. It’s incredible (ghastly, not amazing) that mainstream beauty writers have zero critical thinking ability—or zero conscience. Both would be disturbing.
You don’t need animal cruelty for powerful bioactive skincare. Look for plant-derived ingredients from trust-worthy vegan skincare lines. My favorite is Chantecaille, but there are so many out there! Staying youthful isn’t just about what goes on your skin: healthy, balanced plant-based diet and regular exercise, limiting sugar intake, putting on sunscreen, and getting enough sleep are more important than crazy ingredients in your skincare. Especially if those ingredients come at a steep moral cost.
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Photo: Andre Sebastian via Unsplash