Now that we’re through all the holiday sales that test our resolve, it seems like a great time to talk about educated consumerism and how we can all be a little bit better in the new year. I’ve got some quick beginner “rules,” some background info on the types of brands I like to support and those that I choose not to, and then a more in-depth guide with some resources for choosing the best products for your personal needs. I’m writing this specifically with makeup in mind, but you can definitely apply some of these ideas to shopping in general. Learning to think more critically about the items we purchase and consume is never a bad thing.
First, a few quick tips to get you started on the path of smarter and better purchases:
1. Don’t buy anything limited edition, period. Items produced in a limited run are often not at the same level of quality as the brand’s permanent line, and these products are typically so hyped up that the “must buy ASAP” drive often wins out over logic since you don’t really “have the time” to wait for reviews or even do your own research. As a general statement, I don’t buy limited edition products and I am still alive and well.
2. If you wouldn’t buy it anyway, don’t buy it just because it’s on sale. If a $45 item is on sale, you’re not “saving 20%,” you’re spending $36, so if it wasn’t on your radar to begin with, take a minute to really consider why you want this item.
3. If it’s a “weird” or unconventional color that isn’t really appropriate for your every day life, look for a “dupe” or cheaper alternative. I’ll go a bit more in-depth with this one when we discuss cost per use.
4. Do your research! Obviously not every product will work for every skin type or tone, but even beyond that, our wallets have much louder voices than we often care to think about and where you choose to spend your money speaks volumes. (Don’t believe me? Whole Foods got so big they’re now owned by Amazon. If you keep supporting the things you believe in, they may become more readily available. Your shopping decisions do matter!)
Personally, I choose not to support brands who exploit or appropriate from marginalized groups, use sweat shops, are owned by known and unrepentant racists, or manufacture in China. I also try not to support anything owned by L’Oreal due to their violent and antisemitic past. You don’t necessarily need to have these same values, but figure out what you care about and stick to it.
If you only want to support cruelty free brands, Leaping Bunny and Logical Harmony are great resources for that, but please also consider the environmental impact of some of those brands that claim to be cruelty-free (which currently has no legal definition). If you want to get real pedantic, check out my friend Jupiter Gimlet’s super long post on the subject.
Don’t forget to also consider who owns certain parts of brands too. For example, Marc Jacobs Fragrances are not cruelty free as they are available for sale in China (which requires animal testing, by law, of any products sold in the country). However, Marc Jacobs Beauty – the makeup side of the brand – is owned by LVMH subsidiary Kendo and is a cruelty free brand. You’ll need to decide if something like that is an issue for you and whether you want to support them at all.
I’ve gone into more detail here with regards to cruelty free concerns as it’s one of the more popular ethical issues I see being discussed and thus made a great example. As I stated above, your values do not need to align with mine, I’m just providing general guidelines to help all of us be better consumers.
Some of the types of brands I do like to support are independently owned, cruelty free, made in the US, POC-owned, and/or women-owned brands. Sugarpill and Melt Cosmetics are two of my favorite examples here, but certainly not the only brands I support.
Now on to the nitty-gritty. Once you’ve figured out who deserves your hard-earned money, how do you even choose the right products for your specific needs?
First and foremost, do your research. Read reviews, look up swatches, check it out in person if possible, get a sample if you can.
Second, reflect on why you want this product. Is it unique to your collection? Are you in the market for a product in this category and just want to try something new? Why do you think this is the right product for you?
Consider the cost for every use. I definitely like my luxury products here and there, but cost per use is absolutely part of my decision-making. Is it something unconventional that I’m not likely to use often? Cost per each use will be high and likely not worth the investment, especially if a more affordable dupe is readily available. Is it something I’ll use regularly and will last a while? Sounds like a good item to sink some money in. Usually my big-ticket items are all skincare, but that’s just me, and a palette you can use on the regular is probably not a bad investment either *BUT ONLY IF* eyeshadow palettes are actually a thing you like and will use regularly! Think critically and be honest with yourself here. You are the only one who benefits (or doesn’t) from any particular purchase.
Finally, science. Check ingredients, learn your shit (especially for skincare), and learn to say no to the obvious gimmicks. Beautypedia is one of my favorite resources for this. They are absolutely biased in that they will always rate Paula’s Choice brand products favorably (same owners), but in general they do a great job of examining ingredients and calling out claims that aren’t backed by science. With my skin type, I know products high in alcohol aren’t going to work for me, and Beautypedia is exceedingly critical of ingredient-degrading jar packaging for skincare. Understanding what is in the product has made shopping a lot more straightforward for me, and has also removed any desire I may have once had about trying products from La Mer.
This post is clearly not sponsored. Buy less stuff! Think critically! Do better! Happy Holidays + Happy New Year ❤