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tools for overthrowing the patriarchy! (or, conscientious make-up brands)

October 25th, 2006     by Thea Lim     Comments

As a recovering girly girl, I’m often searching for ways to be ecologically, politically, womanly (etc etc) correct, in those moments of relapse when I am gripped by the unquenchable desire to buy some anti-humectant for my hair.

After I realised that every single darn thing is political, from shoes to hairpins to moisturiser, I began only shopping for my body products at health food stores. I thought, if I have to buy into these darn cultural beauty ideals, at least I can buy stuff that is good for the environment, not tested on bunnies, and not going to give me lead poisoning. But I was shocked to find that, just because you buy your shampoo alongside the organic, shade-grown wheat free cereal, it’s not always good news. For example, I was pretty appalled when I discovered that Burt’s Bees sells make-up in the colours: light, medium, dark and ethnic. The skin colour that would match “ethnic” would likely belong to a person with darker skin, but last time I checked, we all have ethnicities, and I would look mighty funny in “ethnic” foundation. Thank goodness ol’ Burt recently renamed this colour as “deep” - however, my suspicions of him persist.

But lo and behold, the internet, has bestowed yet another wonderful directory on us: the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. As self-described, Skin Deep is a “personal care product safety guide with in-depth information on 14,841 products - 1,052 brands of lotion, lip balm, deodorant, sunscreen and other popular products - and the 7,093 ingredients that form them.” They also mention the scary and unbelivable fact that the FDA can’t require companies to do safety testing on products before the companies’ market them (does the same thing apply to our Canadian FDA?). The database is very simple to use, just key in the name of your favourite epilatory cream, and it will bring up a whole bunch of stats on all the ingredients, neatly summed up in a rating from 0 to 5, 0 meaning as pure as organic grass, and 5 meaning evacuate immediately.

I made a few shocking discoveries on my first trip there. For example, I discovered that both Aveda and Nature’s Gate, which between them manufacture more than 3/4s of the products in my bathroom, both score quite badly on the Skin Deep system. My PABA-free sunblock scores a rating of 3, which is pretty measly when you consider that Dove, a company with no clear pretensions to eco-friendliness, scores a 0.5 on multiple products. Goshdarnit!

Also, if you are more concerned about the bunnies than the ozone layer, you can visit Compassionate Consumer, which works basically the same way as Skin Deep except it shows you which products test on aminals, and which don’t.

The only downside to both these websites is that they are chock full of images of very conventionally attractive women lounging about in sulfate-free soap. None of them seem to be that interested in deconstructing what it is that compels us ladies (and men, of course) to buy products that are ripping holes in our organs the size of Ontario, and depleting our only source of life (i.e. the earth). But hey, if we can’t eliminate fascist beauty standards overnight, we can at least start with harm reduction.

And, since I am channeling my inner hippie tonight, here is a lovely recipe for vegan chocolate orange cupcakes.

Tags: body politics

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