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?


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

  1. Bettina
    May 5, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    I would suggest getting the Hakuhodo dup for the MAC 217. I’ve heard it’s much better quality. I’ve read (not from an official source) that the goat hair is obtained from butchers, so not cruelty-free. But it’s no less ethical than MAC’s practice, and it’s not Estee Lauder. Plus, if it’s better quality, chances are good that the animals were treated better in the first place.

    Wayne Goss also sells a brush that is very similar to the 217. However, it might be made from squirrel hair which is much softer and may not work the same as the MAC brush. He claims his brushes are cruelty-free. The goat hair brushes might be, but I strongly suspect that his manufacturer is lying about the squirrel hair brushes being cruelty-free.

    • lamouretlamusique
      May 8, 2016 at 7:48 am

      Thank you so much for your reply! I’m adding the Hakuhodo brush to my list – any idea what number it is?? I have the Wayne Goss brush that’s supposed to be a 217 dupe – it’s gorgeous, but not QUITE the same – it’s a bit flatter and smaller, and yes softer so it’s better for a lighter wash, in my experience so far.

  2. May 6, 2016 at 12:56 am

    I have many thoughts! First, I love this post. It’s thoughtful and intelligent, and one of the reasons I love your channel :) I have to say, I completely agree with your instincts. It’s tough, though, because where do you draw the line? One of my chief struggles right now is this paradox I feel between trying to be a conscious and ethical consumer and yet in a way feeding the capitalist machine by both consuming and publicizing products that technically I don’t need…however green they are. Do you ever feel this? So I often swing back and forth between quitting my blog and then getting all inspired again. UGH!! I feel the same tension around eating animals. I love them, but yet still eat them. It sits oddly with me. I feel like certain people, and maybe you’re one of them, are forever drawn to seek to resolve these paradoxes in their lives. I’m getting to a better place of acceptance about it. And I think our instincts are usually correct…energy as you call it. So it sounds like you’re making the right call!

    • Bettina
      May 6, 2016 at 11:40 am

      I struggled with these questions and have gone “cruelty-free” at least a couple of times. I called myself a vegetarian for at least 20 years.

      But a few years ago I stopped feeling the need to draw any lines. I just try to move in a positive direction when making decisions. For instance, my friends and family would describe me as vegan, but I will eat a tuna sandwich if it is the healthiest option available at lunchtime.

      I also find it difficult to support the use of plastic instead of leather, when I live in an area heavily impacted by petrochemical pollution. (I know, leather isn’t exactly “clean”, either. Ugh. What to do?)

      Bottom line, when it comes to shopping, I just try to buy fewer things. I try to buy things that are ethically produced, but I’m not willing to compromise on quality or aesthetics. Nor am I willing to pay inflated prices. So instead of having a rule about it, I just try to buy the best possible things I can afford, things that I know I’ll keep around and use.

      The whole issue of animal testing in China does really bother me. Especially because those big companies like Estee Lauder were 100% cruelty-free until they decided to go along with China’s testing law. What the hell indeed.

      • lamouretlamusique
        May 8, 2016 at 7:54 am

        Yes, the drawing of the lines has always been semi-irritating to me/rubbed me the wrong way – though I’ve gone in and out of phases of doing it myself. Truthfully I’m not even sure WHY the whole exchange I detail in this post bothered me so much – like I said, I think it might be a channeling of a larger frustration/heartache/something over much larger issues, which I think are really magnified right now through US politics. I think the buying fewer things in general is a key take home point. I’ve always been attracted to minimalism, but at the same time one of the ways I derive significant happiness and pleasure is through the experience of very high quality and thoughtful THINGS. So as the comment from milk and honey beauty articulated, I guess I’m always trying to resolve this paradox, as both an intellectual exercise and lifestyle practice. Anyway thank you for sharing your thoughts – I really appreciate them.

      • May 9, 2016 at 12:48 am

        I agree…too many rules is confining…I love your approach! I try and do what feels right in the moment, most of the time, too.

    • lamouretlamusique
      May 8, 2016 at 7:51 am

      Thanks for your very thoughtful reply <3 I agree with everything, we're very much on the same wavelength. LIFE is really one big paradox, and yes, there is always this impulse to resolve them somehow – it's both an intellectual exercise as well as a way of being in the world, through reflexive practices. I'm so happy you understand <3

  3. June 5, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Very thoughtful post that really shows the internal questions you struggle with. I think all open minded, truly conscious people struggle with things like this. Every time I find the answer to one question I struggle or grapple with another. I went vegan 2 months ago after being a vegetarian for 17 years (my choice on this front is equal parts environmental, health, and ethical…and even if none of those things were an issue, I personally find eating flesh gross…having said that, my husband eats meat and I don’t beat him up about it. Live and let live, right? The best I can do is put out my opinions when asked, but with love and respect to others, instead of harsh judgment….) The whole animal testing thing is atrocious to me. I do see where you’re coming from with a sense of giving up products and brands you would like to buy – I feel the same. Sometimes I just think “It would be nice to be ignorant with my head in the sand and just shop freely and buy whatever I want” but I guess that is the price we pay for being more conscious. I’m so happy to see you make these statements. You are definitely a progressive individual and I really admire you.

    • Anonymous
      June 13, 2016 at 9:17 am

      I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to your amazing comment! I’m catching up now though. Thank you for sharing your own perspective on how you reflexively navigate these issues. Being ignorant would certainly be easier sometimes, but then…life wouldn’t be nearly as complex, interesting, evolving, and full of growth potential <3

  4. January 19, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Thank you for this article. In our school staffroom today us teachers started discussing the news headline of palm oil used in too many products but not labelled correctly for consumers. We then talked about how we can’t believe how fur is becoming fashionable again – i just couldn’t believe this as I remember the top models campaigning against it years and years ago and couldn’t believe some of the teachers friends and family buy fur!
    This led to me asking about make-up nd animal testing. I had planned to treat myself to ne MAC make-up to trial before my wedding…I’m so glad we had the conversation about mac and that I’ve now researched it…and come across your blog! Thank you for your thoughts. I will defiantly now be more careful and check my products. I’m searching for make-up which is sold in UK which is not tested on animals. I’d love any recommendations… or helpful websites. Thanks for this topic. I’m motivated to add a animal cruelty-free make-up section to my wedding planning blog. xx

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