Guest writer Kate Hall shares her guide to buying better when it comes to beauty and fashion. The face and brains behind Ethically Kate, a platform vocal about sustainable practices, Kate is an educator, activist, and blogger who advocates for daily habits that respect and protect people and the planet.
When was the last time you purchased something without looking at the price? I’d bet my beloved peppermint green bike that your answer is “never.” Price is the leading factor when it comes to purchasing anything; a dishwasher, a dress, a foundation. We have expectations around what particular items cost, and we are frustrated when something is expensive.
Imagine a world where we all understood that the upfront price of something is only one of the costs involved.
Environmental, social, and the physical costs to our bodies are usually gleaned over. ‘Cost per wear’ or the long term impact of using a product are underrated and forgotten concepts, and we’re so focused on the perceived immediate costs that we lose out on the goodness of sustainable consumption.
As an advocate for sustainable beauty and fashion, I believe that if we buy less, better, and quality, ourselves, our planet, and other people will thrive. Not only that, but this way of purchasing doesn’t have to be a burden on our wallets.
When I’m at the supermarket choosing bananas, I always pick up the fairtrade ones. If I need new socks, I’ll make sure I know the people who made them were paid and treated fairly in their workplace. This is buying better.
Buying better involves respecting the people who produced the items we purchase and consume. Buying better involves considering how the production and lifespan of something will affect the environment, and buying better is thinking before buying.
Making a purchase is telling the company you gave money to “that’s great, keep on doing what you do”; buying better truly dictates the type of world you want. This sounds cheesy and the ‘vote with your wallet’ message seems to flood my Instagram feed endlessly - but that’s because it’s completely true.
Buying better looks like purchasing products you can trust. Products that have a neutral or positive effect on people and the planet throughout their production and lifetime. Buying better means you may pay slightly more for a product at checkout, but at least someone else isn’t paying for it earlier on in the production process in the form of their livelihood or wellbeing.
I wear makeup approximately three to four times a week. I wait for at least a month until I purchase a new item of clothing. I buy food in bulk so I don’t frequent the supermarket and allow temptation to make me buy things I don’t need.
Purchasing less is the best way to participate in a sustainable lifestyle. I look around my house to see if something can fulfill a need before looking to bring something into my home. Buy less; It’s that simple.
You could buy better, you could buy less, but if the product isn’t quality, you won’t use it - and that’s definitely not sustainable.
I’ve purchased amazing eco products in the past that have fallen apart after a few uses. I’ve used natural beauty products that have made my skin break out, and I’ve tried on sustainable dresses that fit weirdly. These things were a complete waste of money and time; they were far from quality.
Let's go back to basics for a moment and determine what the word ‘sustainable’ really means; something that can happen continuously (forever) without negative impact.
Buying quality is usually less important than cost when it comes to beauty and fashion. We look at a shirt that will only last 2 years for $7 (obviously fast fashion) and think ‘great!’ We look at an ethically made shirt for $100 that will last 20 years and think “too expensive!” You do that math - and then go buy quality.
Using Aleph Beauty as an example, here’s how these three concepts work practically:
Unfortunately, buying better can be incredibly difficult when the options simply don’t exist. While the world catches up, it’s unlikely you’ll find something sustainably made at the most accessible stores. That’s why I’ve worn Aleph Beauty makeup since their conception and can picture myself at 75 wearing it too! Aleph Beauty is the epitome of buying better.
Not only are the products made in Aotearoa New Zealand, but they’re made fairly in Aotearoa New Zealand (that’s right, we still have exploitation here!). The ingredients are sustainable, making me feel okay when I wash off my makeup and the product goes down the drain. Their packaging is predominantly glass and metal, and the new reuse system is the best beauty packaging scheme I have come across to date.
I purchase less makeup because I can actually get to the bottom of every Aleph Beauty jar - unlike all other foundations I’ve used that are in packaging that’s impossible to empty out.
To me, buying less also includes the multipurpose element. My beauty regime is short and no fuss, so I'm a big believer in multipurpose products that keep my bathroom cupboard simple. Every Aleph Beauty product I own has multiple purposes, a little goes a long way, and some products have lasted me years already.
Next time you compare something like the Aleph Beauty concealer/foundation to a liquid foundation that’s larger but filled with fillers and water, think again. That’s an ‘oranges and apples’ comparison. Even though an Aleph Beauty item may look like it has less in it, it will last longer and be more cost effective.
Aleph Beauty products contain no nasty chemicals that will be harmful to my skin, the products do exactly what I want them to do, and I could definitely use them continuously without negative impact on myself, others, or the environment.
Applying the concealer/foundation feels more like applying a skincare product that will nourish my skin, as opposed to a foundation that may give me breakouts. This feeling shows me that Aleph Beauty is absolute quality.
Next time you need something, buy better, buy less, and buy quality. Of course this way of shopping doesn’t address the people who live paycheck to paycheck and do not have the time privilege of researching where to buy sustainable products - this issue is too complex for one blog post. However, there are too many of us who are capable of making conscious buying decisions and don’t. We all need to start.
Next time you assess the cost of a product, consider the overall cost, not just the cost to your wallet. Think better, less, and buy quality.