In stores filled with perfectly organized rows of prepackaged cosmetic goodies, the quiet labs where animal testing takes place can seem far removed -- so far, typically, you forget how closely they're linked.
But, for the thousands of beagles, guinea pigs and rabbits injured each year, life is a slow, caged slog toward death -- all of it, just to perfect this season's "it" shade of pink.
Focusing on the animals is how I found myself wandering aimlessly through a maze of fluorescent aisles in search of products promising more good than harm.
Fawning over animals is practically a hobby of mine; I regularly ask my pet cat whether or not she’s feeling okay (she mostly ignores me), and I volunteer to walk shelter dogs. There’s a soft spot in my heart for all things furry and feathered.
So, like a bewildered, modern-day "Alice in Wonderland," I finally turned a corner to find a whole row of cartoon rabbits staring down at me.
The parallels between the movie and my life hit too close to home -- Alice was frantically searching for a mythical creature, but I was chasing a real one.
The leaping bunny is the stamp of approval created by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC). It's given to cosmetic brands when they don't employ animal testing while developing cosmetic products.
Since its creation in 1996, the bunny has become a symbol of the cruelty-free movement.
Because I place such high value on living, acting and eating compassionately, buying any drugstore mascara from my local CVS felt hypocritical.
Although the term "cruelty-free" doesn’t have a legal definition, it normally includes products which haven’t been tested on laboratory animals and are often vegan.
My first purchases were cautious: a body lotion here, a lip balm there. But, with experience came confidence, and soon, I could navigate the crowded shelves of a New York City Whole Foods like a professional.
My skin improved. I began to enjoy my beauty routine each morning. I actually saved money. In the short-term timeframe that'd passed, I had tangible, feel-good results.
By making the choice to go cruelty-free, I’d accidentally adopted an entirely new approach to beauty, one that allows my life on the outside to match with the one on the inside.
You don't have to compromise who you are and what you believe in.
First thing in the morning, I reach for a bar of cruelty-free soap and facial lotion. In those two simple steps, I’ve already set the tone for my day.
Choosing products that don’t harm animals is a conscious decision. Just like “waking up on the right side of the bed,” I’m deciding to live in a kinder way to animals.
I like to believe attitude extends outside the boundaries of makeup and into my relationships. "Living without harm" is a sort of mantra I reinforce each time I apply mascara or shampoo my hair.
My attitude is echoed by sisters Tish and Snooky Bellomo, who founded the iconic hair dye brand, Manic Panic, way back in 1977. In an email, the Manic Panic representatives described these feelings of having a clear conscience as “guilt-free glamour,” adding,
Making the right decision is always worth it in the end. Going vegan and cruelty-free is the way of the future, and even more simply, it's the moral path.
You don't just buy products; you invest in values, too.
Before transitioning to cruelty-free makeup, I often felt like I was being forced into a mold created by cosmetic companies.
I'd never worried about cellulite, for example, but, somehow, every lotion I saw on shelves boasted "cellulite-masking powers." Language like that, alone, made me feel like I needed it.
The feeling of being a marketing pawn rather than a valued individual vanished when I began to find cruelty-free brands to replace my usual buys.
A company founded in positivity is, in my experience, more likely to consider its customers' needs than to simply try to sell them the same old cherry red lipstick.
Model Josie Maran, founder of the eponymous cosmetics line, believes a value-driven company creates a special bond with consumers. She says,
There is a sense of community within our company [Josie Maran Cosmetics]...It’s an understanding that we're all empowered to make a real difference and have fun while we're doing it.
Maran speaks to the idea of a shared mission: creating beauty without sacrificing ethics. Cruelty-free cosmetics companies are on your side.
Buying cruelty-free is much more satisfying.
Swapping out my makeup, bath products and lotions was a daunting task because I've been known to hoard cosmetics.
But, as one mascara emptied and was replaced by a cruelty-free version, the list of ingredients on the bottle seemed increasingly attractive to me.
Taking an active role in your own product consumption is a process Sarah Galusha, personal care category manager at Hain Celestial Care, describes as uplifting.
Galusha, who represents Alba Botanica, believes checking ingredients makes you more satisfied as a customer handing over a credit card. She explains,
You’ll know you’re not exposing yourself to a long list of potentially harmful chemicals commonly found in many conventional [products] and you’ll know that no animal was harmed to create the product.
Reading scientific studies dedicated to parabens, sulfates, aluminum and other cosmetic add-ins suddenly became somewhat of a dirty hobby, increasing both my curiosity and awareness.
I think of it as a kind of butterfly effect: Transitioning your cosmetics to "ethical" buys makes you wonder what else you've been overlooking when it comes to consumption, health and safety.
It's always quality over quantity.
Although it often seems cruelty-free or "natural" items are more expensive than their big-beauty counterparts, beauty brand representatives across the board label the idea a myth.
In fact, actively considering the animals and people involved in the creation of your beauty products can make you less likely to break your budget.
With a little research, you're more likely to choose a few quality products rather than a whole stash of mediocre lip glosses that fade after one hour.
Maran agrees with the "less is more" point of view, adding,
For me, the real question is at what cost are we willing to forego using cruelty-free products? The products we’re innovating at Josie Maran are made with love, compassion and really good stuff so you can get amazing results and use less product, which it's means money well spent.
Originally, I'd expected the world of cruelty-free beauty to mean endless trips to Sephora to burn through my latest paycheck, but it wasn't the case.
I strategized at home first, catalogued the products I needed, and found homemade recipes for those I didn't want to buy. Face masks with ingredients found in every kitchen have become my new kind of cooking.
You give back to your cause with every purchase you make.
It's difficult and time-consuming to make a major life change -- like restocking your entire medicine cabinet -- but purchasing products from companies with value systems similar to yours enables you to stick to your beliefs.
In other words, I put my money where my mouth (and heart) is.
Besides the fact cruelty-free companies prevent harm to innocent animals, many even donate money to charitable causes.
Burt's Bees Vice President of Research and Development Celeste Lutrario recommends actively seeking out brands who send a portion of their earnings to charity.
She's practically an expert on the subject because a portion of Burt's Bees' revenue goes back to benefit the honeybees on which they depend.
Although making the move to cruelty-free beauty was challenging at first, I'm secure in the fact my beauty purchases and values are finally in sync. The harmony is beautiful.
For more information on the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics’ (CCIC) Leaping Bunny Program, visit its website.