We heard it first from Dame Vivienne Westwood last year: the not-so-bizarre notion that quality should be valued above quantity. It went down a storm here at Peaceful Dumpling and amongst slow fashion advocates across the globe. But what about the other major player that’s ever so closely related? I am referring to the beauty industry, of course. Plagued with problems ranging from animal testing to plastic waste to synthetic ingredients wreaking havoc on our hormones, it’s also one of the most heavily marketed on the internet. So when an industry icon released a video on her Youtube Channel encouraging viewers to buy nothing, I was interested. Is the beauty industry on the brink of change?
Despite our best efforts at encouraging each other ‘not to judge a book by its cover’ and remember that ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts’, it’s our biological instinct to judge others based on their physical appearance first. More than anything, on a biological level it factors into our attractiveness. Things like a symmetrical face or the combination of big eyes, big lips and small nose make us more attractive to each other. It’s innate and we can’t help it.
The problems arise, however, when an industry pushes a certain kind of aesthetic onto the general public and it’s marketed as “the norm.” It creates an unhealthy dynamic where none of us end up feeling good enough. The beauty ideal ever out of reach. Just like the fashion industry which tells us that dangerously thin is what to aspire to and that our figure must resemble an hourglass in order to be seen as sexy, the beauty industry is guilty of many similar lies.
Trends come and go, of course; but the problem lies in the endless stream of product launches released almost weekly. There’s always something new, but new isn’t always better.
Lisa Eldridge addressed this issue in a video posted last week and the audience reception was immense. In this age of beauty Youtubers and their unobtainable glamorous lives, their pushing of partner brands onto often preteen viewers, can be highly detrimental. It’s no longer about saving up your allowance for a movie ticket and some candy on a Friday night. It’s about buying high-end cosmetics from beauty brands, many of which are tested on animals. It’s impossible to keep up with all the “must have” products and the end result is a vanity stuffed full with expensive dust-collectors expiring before they’ve even been given a decent use. After all, we only have one face and there’s only so much makeup you can feasibly use.
From a brand’s perspective, it’s a highly competitive market. If they want to continue in their stream of success, they need to be going above and beyond competitors. We’ve seen this intensify over the past 10 years or so, but as Eldridge says, “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed at the amount of new products at the moment.” It’s true, it is overwhelming. The market is saturated. And for an industry expert to draw attention to this, it really puts into perspective the pressure on the everyday woman. Choice is wonderful, but too much and it becomes just a tad anxiety-inducing.
Her tutorial continues with emphasis on the colors and techniques she’s using as opposed to mentioning the exact brands and shades (like we normally see). Her ethos is very much use what you already have. And this is excellent because it encourages us to go back to basics and interact with makeup in a more playful sense and for its creativity as opposed to focusing so much on the consumption aspect.
So is this industry about to embark on a long overdue change? That’s really the question here. We’re seeing a huge rise in the number of people wanting to live at least a little bit more consciously and our beauty routines most certainly factor into that. Brands need to continue to drive forward their business in order to make a profit, but could there be a movement towards us as consumers thinking just a little bit more about quality? If you’ve ever experienced a skincare concern such as acne, eczema or rosacea, you’ll know that finding a product that works to either heal or cover up that concern quickly becomes cult. If it works, we don’t need something shiny and new to experiment with each month. This likely only causes aggravation.
My hope is that brands will act upon Eldridge’s call to buy nothing, moving away from emphasis on new = necessary and more towards a circular economy. Ideally, the future of beauty incorporates wellbeing, health and holistic support from brands rather than a cold, hard sale. Could we see a drive for ethical practices like incentives for recycling packaging in store, carbon-neutral supply chains and working with organic ingredients? It’s early days, but something tells me this is the start of a ripple effect in the right direction.
Are you affected by marketing within the beauty industry? Do you feel the pressure to consume more and more? What changes would you like to see?
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Photo: The Fashion Spot, Youtube