On Esteé Lauder/Brand Subsidiaries, Testing Cosmetics on Animals, and China…

may 5, 2016 | by: mercedes | filed under: ethos reflections, makeup


I am a thoughtful, critical person. This has pros, and plenty of cons. It can make life more complicated, but I’ve determined ultimately much more rewarding and full of immense depth. One way this energy has become channeled in my life is through my constant reflexive/reflective practice over my consumption habits – and chiefly beauty products. It is a combination of my minimalist strivings, my attempt at curating a beautiful life, and more recently a reflection of the incredible detoxification that has infused every corner of my life as a result of the work I began with a medical intuitive three months ago. Now more than ever, I am crystal clear on what belongs in my life, what doesn’t, and what I want to draw into my life, and surround myself with.

As a beauty blogger/youtuber/content creator who brands herself primarily in the “eco space,” I’ve always felt a bit…different, from many of the same vein. For one, I am not vegan or vegetarian. In fact completely the opposite – a traditional foods approach was what finally kicked the disordered relationship I had with foods since childhood to the curb. It is my personal conviction that very few people can thrive on an animal-free diet over the long term. During my dissertation research, on Rhode Island’s local/alternative food movement, I traveled all over the state and met many people involved in producing and selling food locally, including animal products. It profoundly shifted my mindset away from the now normalized rhetoric of “meat is basically all of our environmental/health/spiritual/everything problems” and towards a deep respect and reverence for humane animal husbandry, and a conscious relationship with animals and animal products we may consume, which provide profound nourishment on both the physical and energetic level.

I’m not sure why I’m rambling about all this so much when the point of this post is to wax poetic about why I no longer want to buy from cosmetics brands owned by Esteé Lauder, which I’ll get to very soon. But I suppose I feel the need to clarify my stance towards the now commonplace rhetoric around our (human) relationship with animals. As a species, we have ALWAYS had a dependent, and often exploitative relationship with animals. This has only become grossly and perversely exacerbated under (late-stage) capitalism, and global development. I think most people can agree that there are some things deemed worthy of an ethical “violation” of animal rights (i.e. testing pharmaceuticals that have the potential to be life-saving to humans), and those not worth of such a violation (i.e. testing cosmetics). I’m oversimplifying this, but bear with me.

As I spoke about in this video, I’ve never been overly compelled by cosmetics brands whose primary marketing slant is that they are cruelty-free – while continuing to use toxic chemicals in their formulations. What the HELL is the point of that? I still don’t understand it, really. It has also always upset me that we seem to care a hell of a lot more about animal rights (maybe because they are technically “voiceless”?) over human rights/labor rights, which is a part of the discussion that is nearly always edited out, or not even considered. In general, I try and consider a holistic nexus of issues when I choose what brands to support and products to buy. Now, I’m human and not a perfectionist, so I’m not 100% conscious 100% of the time. But more and more, I find myself being repelled ENERGETICALLY by certain brands and products. Enter, what this post was actually supposed to be about from the outset!

In a recent video, I talked about how I was lusting the Tom Ford eye defining pen. I mean damn that thing looks luxe, at $56 a pop – the stuff a liquid eyeliner lover’s dreams are MADE of. It gets nothing but raves, and is supposed to perform like nothing else on the market. After expressing my desire for said product, a few of my regular viewers (and friends) pointed out Tom Ford’s non-cruelty free status, as a brand. As you can see if you go read the comments, we had a nice dialect about it where I shared a version of what I’m sharing here – that I don’t find the cruelty-free label compelling, I look at the bigger issues, et cetera. But the more I sat with it, the more I actually WAS kind of upset. Or, I started feeling more into the energy I guess.

I did just a basic search on Tom Ford and cruelty-free, and learned (both from google and from my friend/viewer who works for Trish McEvoy, which is [aside] one of the last hold outs in independently owned luxury cosmetics brands) that Tom Ford is owned by parent company Esteé Lauder, which owns a host of other brands I feel embarrassed I didn’t actually know about, including MAC, Bobbi Brown, Bumble & Bumble, among many others – you can read the full list here.

Now, the issue is such. In the United States, all of these Esteé Lauder-owned brands I guess ARE cruelty-free, and do not test their products on animals. However, they have a “disclaimer” that states they WILL test their products on animals IF IT’S REQUIRED BY LAW. And you need not dig very far to learn that it is, in fact, required to test cosmetics on animals before they reach the consumer market in China. I’m sorry, but what the fuck is up with that. There’s no politically correct way to say this, but China already makes me uncomfortable in so many ways and this was just the last straw. Maybe I’m missing some of the context about WHY a country would have such a law in place, but either way it’s just really gross. Of course, a global company like Esteé Lauder would never dream of not selling their products in a place like China with such a MASSIVE market share (I heard on NPR the other morning that China either has or will soon surpass the US in terms of Starbucks locations/consumption). So I get that companies like that are basically ethically bankrupt and sans morals, but I’m just like…no. NO.

So, enter my why I guess I’ll no longer be buying from brands under the Esteé Lauder umbrella. And continuing to research what other companies/specific brands this pertains to. It kind of blows because I really need a new MAC 217 brush so that may be my one teeny tiny last ditch exception. I don’t know guys. Maybe I’m just channeling my frustrations about the state of the WORLD more generally into this, lashing out on China! But I’ve been thinking about it enough to write this exceedingly verbose blog post about the issue.

Any thoughts?