The rise of conscious beauty

This is a piece I wrote for 1nstant.FR back in the summer to accompany a beautiful shoot I did with Karin Berndl. I haven’t posted on here for a while so thought this would be nice to share some thoughts on conscious beauty.

Photography Karin Berndl Model Felicia Svanberg @ The Hive Make-up me

Natural, green, clean, vegan, zero waste, sustainable – the types of beauty available now can be confusing at the best of times. Beauty products are meant to make us feel good, not stressed, when and why did it get so complicated and how can we make it easy again?

Marketing plays a huge role in the confusion. Buzzwords are thrown around and with no legal definition for many of the terms, the waters can get very muddy. Take ‘clean beauty’ for example, this term is hugely debatable. Each brand will have its own criteria that declares it ‘clean’; one might allow a silicone, viewing it as an ‘inert skin safe’ ingredient, while another will put it on its prohibited list for environmental concerns. You can see the conflict.

The terms become entangled and can become quite misunderstood. For example, a product being vegan doesn’t always mean it is cruelty free. A product being natural doesn’t mean it’s better for your skin, on the contrary nature can be very potent and irritating for some skins.

Another example is the belief that natural beauty automatically equals sustainable, which isn’t always the case. Yes, there are many wonderful projects sourcing ingredients respectfully while replenishing crops and soils. However, some companies’ activities are questionable at best and as we continue to use the earth’s resources at an alarming rate, some natural ingredients will not be available infinitely. Losing species for our vanity just isn’t right.

At such a critical time for our planet and indeed us, surely no one wants their face cream to contribute to the many problems we face.  This does sound quite dramatic, but the elements that make up our beauty products can have quite an impact on many levels. 

It is essential to consider the way in which ingredients are sourced alongside how the products are manufactured. Also what are the working conditions of labourers and were any animals harmed? There is a lot to consider as one delves into this other side of the beauty industry and the detail can become very overwhelming. 

Knowing that the products were produced in a fair way and being clear on your own personal values is a great way to make decisions when making a new purchase while considering new doesn’t always mean better; Weleda’s cult Skin Food is almost 100 years old and still going strong. Brands can’t tick every box so it is important to know what boxes are most important to you, which makes decisions a lot easier. 

Our beauty routine is a place where we can positively take charge. During turbulent times, beauty products can become part of a self-care ritual to calm the mind and boost wellbeing. They are meant to make us feel good, and we can take that feel good factor even further by ensuring that not only do those products work for our skins, but that they also work with our principles. Through a more conscious approach to beauty true empowerment can be achieved.

With this in mind I set up ‘Conscious Beauty Union’ together with four other leading beauty experts in 2018. We wanted something that ran deeper. The union is an educational platform for beauty professionals wanting to develop a more sustainable practice. Just saying that something is natural or organic isn’t enough anymore. The many different viewpoints with different priorities that each single one of us brought on board enabled us to create a wider consciousness that is so much more than just being another marketing buzzword. 

For me conscious beauty is going that little bit further. It’s about finding out as much as I can about a product and a brand; why they’re doing what they’re doing and how. It’s about being open to change – I’m constantly learning and relearning. As an early natural beauty lover, I’d always choose the authentic plant ingredient with an almost aversion for anything synthetic, although now I know sometimes the synthetic might be the more sustainable option. It is not black and white and therein lays the beauty of conscious beauty. It is about exploring and finding the best options to suit the individual and situation at that time.

Find brands that align with your values. This can be tricky at first; brands can shout as loud as they want, however it doesn’t mean what they’re saying is the whole truth. Look on their websites and see if they have the data to back up their claims. Ask questions – if a brand is really doing what they say they are, they’ll love to chat with you about it. For me it is not about perfection – transparency is key. 

In terms of sustainable beauty, the first thing to do is to use everything up before buying anything more. We currently have far too much choice. There are too many products to tempt us into multi-step routines perhaps compromising our skin as well as. Streamlining your routine is a really effective way to reduce waste and ensure your products are working for you. I’ve seen so many happier skins after simplifying regimes.

The beauty industry is one of the biggest industries in the world. Despite the pandemic by 2026 the global beauty industry is predicted to be worth 438.38 billion dollars. That’s an awful lot of money spent on an awful lot of product. Let’s make it count; we really can make a difference with how and where we decide to spend our money, at the same time as enjoying our beauty routines in the process.

Hope you enjoyed the piece. What are your thoughts on conscious beauty?

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