Is It Possible to Be an Ethical Beauty Consumer?

Once upon a time, Allure ran advice columns by our favorite beauty pros. In celebration of our 30th anniversary, we’re bringing back the tradition — but this time the expert is: us (we’ve learned a lot over the years). Send your burning (or itching, or otherwise inflamed) questions to beautyexpert@allure.com, and we might answer them in an upcoming story. 

Dear Allure, 

I try my best to be a good beauty consumer. My only hard-and-fast rule is that I won’t buy a product if the company tests on animals, and I try to patronize smaller brands or underrepresented founders when I can. But sometimes I also buy cotton rounds at Walmart. One of my favorite skin-care products was made by somebody who eventually got “canceled.” Are there ethics in beauty shopping? —Danielle, Brooklyn

First, thank you for writing. This year, in the face of overwhelming public suffering, people are having tiny, private referendums in every corner of their lives, including the ones behind the bathroom mirror. The good news is that, unless they are an Instagram influencer, one person’s skin-care and makeup preferences are rarely newsworthy. You are unlikely to lose any public favor based on your beauty product choices. I know that’s not the point, but in our darkest hours it is a nice thing to remember.

Second, I’d like to introduce a concept here, in the manner of a jovial balloon merchant handing one of his wares to a delighted customer: Money is power and nothing else. What are dollars if not enchanted pieces of paper we exchange for toilet paper and massages?

Personally, I love the stuff, cannot get enough of it. We have a simple and powerful relationship: The more money I have, the less feeble I feel. Money does not buy happiness, but if you gave me a substantial amount right now, I would love that, thank you! Because though it does not buy happiness, money does buy food, shelter, clothing, and other things that humans love, and which bring us health and basic dignity. Many have tried to combat money’s magic and failed. The best we can do is try to make sure everybody has enough of it to meet their basic human needs.


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