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“No doubt, we are living in one of the best times in history, with so much information and knowledge available at our disposal,” says Danielle Schleese, vegan makeup artist and Youtube vlogger. “The spread of information about cruelty-free products can be used as a powerful tool to raise awareness on issues that affect our global evolution.” Schleese goes on to note that it remains up to the consumer to decide what information to expose themselves to and what choices to make when it comes to going eco-friendly and cruelty-free—especially when it comes to cosmetics and makeup brushes.
Many of us associate this kind of conscious consumerism with veganism and especially what people eat. And yes, there’s a good reason more and more Americans are moving toward a vegan lifestyle according to a report prepared by the research company GlobalData. Veganism is definitely trendy, but people are also realizing that ethical purchases and sustainable lifestyles choices can have a major influence on our furry friends and on the environment regardless of what we’re putting on our plates. Though GlobalData’s report focused primarily on the culinary world, this mentality has made its way onto the beauty scene, with more and more brands creating vegan, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free products.
Specifically, we’ve seen an increase in the use of synthetic makeup brushes in place of the animal-hair brushes that have long been deemed “the best of the best.” Case in point: Big-name brand MAC announced earlier this year that their makeup brushes have are now 100 percent synthetic. This is exciting news for consumers and makeup artists who’ve been on the hunt for eco-friendly makeup brushes for years.
Does synthetic mean sacrificing quality?
The use of synthetic materials is key when it comes to choosing eco-friendly makeup brushes, but a brand’s cruelty-free and eco-friendly qualities are not the only factors to consider. You want to make sure the brush you’re buying is high quality too! Anything you’re spending your hard-earned money on shouldn’t shed (a hairy face is probably not the look you’re going for), should be held in place by a solid metal base (known as the “ferrule”) that won’t easily fly off the handle (aka become detached), and, most importantly, should do the job of effectively applying your makeup.
To help educate you on the true meaning behind eco-friendly and cruelty-free, and what you need to know before purchasing a makeup brush that claims to be both, we turned to experts who explain how it all works.
What puts the “friendly” in eco-friendly makeup brushes?
When most of us think about the term “eco-friendly,” we think about a product that’s not harmful to the earth or the environment. But when it comes to the makeup industry, it can actually go far beyond that. Cruelty-free is the name of the game, but some cult fave cosmetics companies still aren’t on board with banning animal testing.
Millions of animals are used in research and toxicity testing for some of the most commonly used beauty products we hold so dear to our get-ready regimen. What’s worse is that research published in a 2014 report from the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, “Review of Evidence of Environmental Impacts of Animal Research and Testing,” suggests that the use and disposal of these animals contributes to pollution in addition to adversely impacting biodiversity and public health.
Additional reports from the National Institutes of Health’s Division of Intramural Research Laboratories found that labs that use animals for research produced over 1.5 million pounds of animal bedding, feces, and excess food waste. These large amounts of animal waste are as detrimental to our environment as the waste we create as humans. Additionally, the millions of discarded animal carcasses—many of which have been contaminated with a myriad of different chemicals, viruses, and diseases—can lead to an array of biological hazards. The same is true for laboratories that incinerate the animals after use—the toxic emissions are still released into the environment.
But a beauty product—like a makeup brush—can be cruelty-free without being animal-free. That means that while a company may not test on animals, they could still use hair or fur from an animal for the brush’s bristles: “Many of the soft and plush makeup brushes on the market are made with animal hair (squirrel, boar, fox, horse, etc,),” explains Annie Tevelin, beauty expert and founder of natural, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free skincare line SkinOwl.
Though animal testing and cruelty are huge issues in the cosmetics industry, parts and packaging are also a big part of the problem. When brush handles and parts are not recyclable, they wind up landfills, which pile up year after year. Thankfully, more and more companies are turning toward using recyclable materials. Some, like EcoTools, are even using 100 percent tree-free paper for their packaging by swapping paper out for 20 percent cotton and 80 percent bamboo fibers.
Ready to hop on the eco-friendly and cruelty-free bandwagon? Here are some of the best “friendly” makeup brushes the market has to offer.
This PETA-certified brush company pretty much takes the cake when it comes to being environmentally aware in all aspects of production and creation. They use recycled materials such as aluminum and plastic, their packaging is made of 100 percent tree-free paper, with 20 percent cotton and 80 percent bamboo fibers, and their handles are made from renewable bamboo.
“They are great for the average daily use and maintain their form and shape if treated properly,” says Schleese. In her experience, she’s never had any problems with EcoTools brushes shedding, although she has experienced the head separating from the handle. “If this happens, it’s so easy to glue back on,” she adds. “These brushes are great quality for a great price, lasting for two-plus years. They are also good for travel because the handles are a bit shorter than standard brushes.”
This is another vegan, eco-friendly brand that Schleese loves—especially for the price point. Full sets range in size and price from $30.99 to $129.99 on Amazon.
“They feature eco-friendly green bamboo handles and vegan bristles with an anodized aluminum ferrule,” she says. “They are often compared to professional grade since they don’t shed, hardly ever fall apart, and offer a wide range of brush types—ideal for someone looking for more styles.”
This Australian-owned company has gained clout in the beauty industry over the last decade for their organic, natural makeup and their vegan and cruelty-free products. Not only are their products made from natural ingredients and not tested on animals, but they’re certified organic by the Organic Food Chain, Australia’s National Organic Standard, which is a major deal since this is one of the highest standards set for organic cosmetic companies in the world.
They’re kind to the environment too; their brushes’ handles are made from sustainably sourced wood.
This vegan, cruelty-free makeup, skincare, and brush line is fully committed to producing the purest products in all aspects. The colors in their makeup are sourced from a vibrant combination of fruit, vegetable, tea, and other plant pigments instead of harmful dyes that contain lead, mercury, and other dangerous heavy metals, and they also utilize a Natural Definition Process (NDP) adopted from the USDA process for identifying natural versus synthetic ingredients.
100% Pure is also committed to being eco-friendly in all areas, from developing their products using biodegradable formulas to using recyclable packaging and biodegradable packing materials. They even print using non-toxic and soy inks and work out of a headquarters that is 100 percent solar-powered. Pretty impressive all around!
This luxe vegan makeup brush line hovers at a higher price point but is worth checking out for multiple reasons. Of course they’re both vegan and cruelty-free and PETA certified. The brushes are made out of Taklon, a high-grade synthetic polyester fiber that’s just as soft as, if not softer than, real animal hair.
“The ferrule (the part that holds the bristles) does not shed, nor come off since my two-and-a-half years of owning them,” says Schleese. “The only thing is their handle is not made from recycled materials, or from natural bamboo-like materials, which is worth noting.” All brushes in their line are hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial, so they’re ideal for people who are sensitive to allergens and irritants.
This environmentally conscious collection of cosmetics includes everything from eyeshadows and foundations to moisturizers and cleansers as well as a pretty sensational line of brushes. The brand has been around since 2005, making it one of the first eco-friendly brush lines.
None of NVEY ECO’s products are tested on animals and are all developed without the use of chemical ingredients such as parabens, petrochemicals, or synthetic fragrances. NVEY ECO’s products also qualify as industrially compostable (aka capable of naturally disintegrating without leaving a mark of toxicity). What’s also enviable about NVEY ECO’s brushes is that they don’t shed. True to their moderate-to-high price range, they are long-lasting, soft, and blend easily.