I was quite shocked and honestly quite excited to see that Maybelline Cosmetics now do a number of vegan friendly make up products. This includes lipsticks, foundations, eye shadows and mascaras, as well as a number of other products. From the look I had at my local display at Superdrug, it seems you could get your entire make up kit (including contour and highlight) all from Maybelline’s vegan range.
However I had always avoided Maybelline because not only did they never offer vegan make up, they were never certified cruelty free. I was therefore a little confused how the vegan range could be labelled vegan without there being any cruelty free certificate to go with this. How can a product be truly vegan if it is not cruelty free?
So I did some digging. I am sure this may be common knowledge to many of you but I did not know that Maybelline was owned by L’Oréal Cosmetics. So it makes sense why they are not cruelty free certified because L’Oréal operate in China.
For those who may not know, animal testing for cosmetics is still mandatory in China, although this did change slightly from 1st May 2022. Before this time, all cosmetics that were being sold in China had to have mandatory animal testing trials before the product could be sold on the Chinese market. From May 2021 however this mandatory testing was removed for cosmetic products, including make up, skin care and hair care. However special use products such as hair dye, hair removal, sunscreen and deodorant all still need to have the mandatory testing.
Now on their website Maybelline and L’Oréal state that they do not pay for animal testing anywhere. But if they sell any kind of hair dye in China then they can’t be cruelty free as they would have to test those products on animals before being able to sell them. Of course on their website I cannot find any information regarding what they do and do not sell in China, so it is hard to be certain of what their current business model is when it comes to animal testing and selling in China. From a practical standpoint, I know that China is a huge economic market and a brand as big as L’Oréal is very unlikely to want to miss out on those big sales. Also, they sold in China before the animal testing was deemed non-mandatory so why would this really change anything? Really it has simply made selling in China far easier for them.
But then I have gotten even more confused. Because L’Oréal owns a lot of vegan friendly brands, most notably Urban Decay which is one of the most popular make up brands for vegans to use. On their website, Urban Decay say that they will ‘never, ever test on animals’ and are fully vegan and cruelty free. They even have a PETA certification for being cruelty free. But if they are owned by L’Oréal how can that be? They also now sell in China (granted after the removal of mandatory testing) but would that not go against the entire vegan and cruelty free message by selling products in a country that still allows for cosmetic testing on animals?
But then I am always drawn back to the reality that there are actually only 7 parent companies that own a combined total of 182 brands. These seven include L’Oréal, Estée Lauder Companies, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Shisheido, Johnson & Johnson and City. Included in the other brands that L’Oréal own include the Body Shop, Garnier and NYX make up, all of which offer vegan friendly and cruelty free products.
So all of this made me think…should I really be buying Maybelline’s new vegan range of products? I am slightly conflicted. If this was food – such as the McPlant or the Burger King vegan nuggets – I would buy them to show my support for vegan products and also to hopefully encourage the brand to make more vegan options available. So should that same logic apply here?
I guess I do always come back to the fact that there can be no conscious consumerism under a capitalist society, and so no matter how much I try to always shop ethically there is some degree of exploitation happening simply because of the capitalist society we live in. Also judging by the infograph above it seems I would be unlikely to buy ANY sort of mainstream beauty product that could truly be considered cruelty free. Meaning I would have to support the lesser known brands or the more niche brands specifically made to be vegan and cruelty free, but sometimes these brands are either not easily accessible (perhaps only available online or at certain stores that aren’t in a reasonable vicinity) or are considerably more expensive.
I suppose the other issue would be that L’Oréal is simply trying to tap into a new market that it didn’t have access to before. I think it would be very naive of me to think that this is L’Oréal and Maybelline ‘reassessing their ethics’ or ‘trying to do good for the planet’ because at the end of the day they a huge brand and they didn’t get there by being ethical (another debate to be had but can you ever truly have ethical businesses?). Veganism is also surging in popularity and if money can be made from something, you know that big businesses will want to do so, so it would make sense that L’Oréal would want to make products that appeal to an even wider market of consumers.
So what do we do? Like I said when it comes to food, I am willing to try every vegan offering in the hope it will encourage more options later on. So maybe I should apply the same logic to any of these brands that offer vegan options – in some cases I already have done before I knew their parent company associations, such as Garnier.