Great Beauty Product Purge

It was a sad day in Smalltown, America.  Heavy grey clouds hung in the sky, too sad and disheartened to move on.  Our heroine, with puffy-eyes and tear-stained face, said her silent goodbyes.  Her quest, though valiant and honorable, has claimed its first victims and she mourned the loss of her dear friends, The Duchess of Olay and Lady Maybelline.

Okay, so perhaps it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but The Great Beauty Product Purge has certainly left its mark on my cosmetics and toiletries.  If you’ve read the rules you’ll remember that No. 4 states all toiletries must be cruelty free.  This includes my collection as it currently stands stood at the time.  So a week ago, I did the thing I was dreading most at the start of my year-long journey.  I compared my cosmetics collection to the Cruelty-Free Companies and Products list.  I have to admit that while the results were largely within the realm of my expectations certain things truly surprised me.

Look for this little guy on products for quick cruelty-free confirmation

If you want to live cruelty-free you can pretty much say goodbye to drugstore cosmetics.  That’s right ladies.  Cover Girl, Almay, Neutrogena, etc.  It doesn’t matter which end of drugstore price spectrum you run, none of them are on the cruelty-free lists, and neither are their various umbrella corporations.  This was, sadly, not a surprise. What did sadden me was the lack of Olay on these lists.  (I checked several different ones, and then their website.)  Olay has been my trusted skin care line for the past 9-12 months, so I suddenly find myself without a skin care line.  But never fear ladies!  There is still a budget-friendly cosmetics option. I was absolutely thrilled to discover that E.L.F. Cosmetics proudly displays the cruelty-free bunny.  Not only are their cosmetics and products a bargain, but they’re now widely available at Target stores across the country.  (Ideal for those situations where you drive 3 hours for a job interview, only to realize you’ve forgotten your make-up.  What?  You’ve never done that?  Oh, well neither have I…)  Seeing E.L.F. on these lists was a good surprise.

A not-so-good surprise was the discovery of how many of my favorite, more up-scale products were not represented on these lists.  MAC, Benefit, NARS, and Laura Mercier were all found to be cosmetic contraband.  Benefit and NARS especially surprised me because their websites boast not testing on animals, however their umbrella corporation animal-tests on both ingredients and finished products.  This led to the dilemma of “if a product is cruelty-free but the company isn’t, is it within the rules or is it contraband?”  Ultimately I had to say that yes, it counts as contraband.  It broke my heart to say goodbye to one of my favorite eye-shadow pallets, but ultimately I believe it’s truly cruelty-free if the company that makes it is not.

So what does this leave me with?  Too-Faced, Urban Decay, and Stila are all safe, along with the E.L.F. collection I’ve built.  (With most products being $1.00 a piece, they’re a little tough to resist.)  I have the beauty basics covered.  My hair care is covered, even if I did have to part with a large amount of styling products.  That is thanks in large part to a miraculous product which I’ll cover later.  Surprisingly, I still have both of my fragrances of choice.  I was expecting the designer fragrance to be okay, but fully expected Bath & Bodyworks to make the “no list.”  Way to go, B&B!  I’m also left with a rather large bin of contraband, for which I now must figure out an acceptable fate.

I was also left needing to replace some products.  Skin care products aside, at the end of this product purge I was also in need of basic things I hadn’t really thought about being affected by this whole process.  Things like toothpaste, antiperspirant, and shaving cream were never really a blip on my mental radar.  Now, they were a legitimate reason to run to the (locally owned!) health food store.

Oh, and on the way home I stopped into a thrift store where I found this little guy.  Now he sits in my bathroom as a reminder to double-check all products before I buy.


Gifts And The Rules

Over the past week I have gotten the same question over and over again.  Is accepting gifts within the realm of my rules?  The first time I was asked this it legitimately threw me off guard.  Given my lackluster enthusiasm for birthdays I have no expectations in the way of gifts, so this wasn’t something I initially considered.

First I thought about my reasons for doing this.  Lowering my impact on the environment, supporting local businesses, producing less waste, etc.  So on one hand accepting gifts has the potential to be counterproductive.  Then I thought about the nature of gifts.  I don’t mean the gifts that are given out of obligation.  I mean gifts from family and true friends.  These types of gifts are meant to be tokens of love and affection.  It would be rude to not accept gifts from these groups, right?  Someone suggested I ask people, during traditional gift-giving times, to keep my rules by giving me only 2nd hand items.  I thought about this for a while, but ultimately that also feels wrong.

So, I’ve determined that yes, I can accept gifts.  However the use of those gifts must fall within the rules.  If someone gives me something functional, I can use it right away.  If gift cards are received, their use must fit the rules.  IE – a gift card to Sephora, Ulta, Lush, etc can be used as long as the products I’m purchasing are cruelty free and it’s one of my quarterly-allotted shopping times.  Gift cards to clothing stores, book stores, etc. must wait to be used until the end of my challenge.  I feel like this was a fair way to resolve this; it stays true to my  goals without causing insult/injury to the people I love.

Of course some of those people have chosen to honor my challenge through their gifts, which is how I ended up with this amazing cupcake cookie jar, purchased from a local thrift store.

Of course, now I have to keep it filled…

The Rules

So how, exactly, do I learn how to “walk the talk”?  If I’m brutally honest with myself, I already have all of the tools and knowledge I need to at least get started with my challenge.  I’ve just been lazy and/or taken the easy way out.  For example, I have probably fifteen reusable grocery totes.  They are different sizes from different stores, but they are all on the back shelf in my pantry.  Inevitably I will think of them about ten minutes out of my driveway, but decide it’s too much trouble to go back and get them.  As a result my pantry has been overrun with The Plastic Bag Monster.  Currently The Monster’s sole purpose is to terrify my cat since I cannot seem to find a fitting use for the bags.  So what does this tell me?  Lazy + grocery shopping  + unbeatable Plastic Bag Monster = Kitten Night Terrors.  Seriously, this monster is the reason cats tear through the house at 2am claws a-blazing.  But I digress.  Let’s get to the rules.

1. I cannot buy anything new.*
Over the summer a friend of mine posted these recipes for lemonade.  In the dog days of summer, they really appealed to me, and I decided I simply had to try them.  I read them over, ran to the store to get various ingredients, and also picked up these new items: juicer, glass pitcher, fine strainer.  When I got home I discovered that hidden in the depths of my kitchen cabinet were two heat resistant pitchers and a juicer.  It didn’t even occur to me to look for the items first.  (I think this may have been the night I decided I needed to change some things.)  Not only did I already have two of the three things I bought, but the next day my mother informed me that she found all of those things in the local thrift stores.  Between thrift stores, craigslist, ebay, and even the option to buy used on amazon, there is no reason I should have to buy anything “new.”  This includes gifts.

*This rule does not apply to: food, unmentionables, or toiletries/beauty products.  

 2. Groceries must be purchased as locally as possible, and carried with reusable grocery totes.
I live in an area surrounded by farms, and we have a huge farmer’s market here.  Local farmers bring fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, cheeses, grass-fed beef, eggs, and free range chicken.  Local fisherman bring their fresh catches.  All of these people in an indoor, year round facility.  I have never been there.  The most locally I have bought groceries since November has been the “local produce” section at Wegman’s.  So from now on I start at the farmer’s market.  I know I won’t be able to get everything there, but I believe I can get the majority of my regular grocery purchases there.  I am also putting my grocery totes in my car.  They’ll live there from now on.

3. All Leftovers must be used.
I suck at eating leftovers.  Whether it’s left over from a meal I cooked or take-home from a meal in a restaurant I didn’t finish, the food inevitably sits forgotten in my fridge until I get around to cleaning it out.  By that point it’s usually starting to resemble a 3rd grade science project and then I lament how wasteful I am.  The same goes for fresh herbs purchased for recipes, and usually about half of the lettuce I purchase.  If I buy it, I have to use it.  Once it’s cooked, I have to eat it.

4.  All toiletries must be cruelty free.
I can’t lie, this rule scares me.  I’m a firm believer in skin care.  I love experimenting with the new colors of make up and nail polish that come out every season.  My fine, straight hair requires products  if I hope to have any volume or style throughout the day.  Seriously, I cannot get enough of beauty products.  Of course, when you’re as addicted to beauty products as I am and living on a budget, you end up with a large stock of drug store make up.  Anything quality is top of the line, but I always hit the drug store first to figure out color combinations.  I anticipate unloading a large portion of my product collection.

5. I cannot buy toiletries whenever I want.
Most toiletries come packaged, which means waste.  Buying toiletries as often as I do is wasteful, especially when I realize how many colors I buy, use once, hate, and then completely disregard.  Skin and hair care products can be replaced as needed (because, hygiene) but make up can only be purchased at the season changes, and only if I don’t already own the colors.

6. All necessary “new” purchases must be local if possible.
It’s not easy to find local shops here, but they do exist.  Hardware stores, clothing boutiques, local grocers – they all exist.  We even have plenty of local vineyards, many of which produce wonderful local wines.  I haven’t found a locally owned beauty shop yet, but I’m excited to see what types of resources I can find.

7.  Anything that’s the result of an “Experience Gathering” must not be used for myself.
I’m not sure about your area, but a real trend here is the Experience Party.  Origami Owl bridal showers, Pampered Chef birthdays, even “Color Me Mine” is considered a celebratory event.  I’ve determined that in my efforts to not buy anything “new” I cannot offend the people I care about by refusing to attend or participate in these events.  But never more than $40.00, and never anything intended for myself.

8. Reevaluate all of my charitable donations.
I need to make sure all the organizations I donate to use donations responsibly.  Some of them are local, some of them are national, but I only know one of them intimately.  Some fairly simple research should help me determine which ones I will continue to donate to, and possibly help me discover some new ones that may be more worthy of support.

9. Learn how to garden.
This skill has evaded me for years.  Partially because I’m convinced I have a black thumb.  Mostly because I’ve never found digging in the dirt appealing.  Fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes, going in my backyard to get fresh herbs – that is appealing to me.  I actually do own gardening tools.  I think it’s time I learned how to use them

10.  Enjoy this!
I’m sure this year will be challenging.  I’m sure there will be times when I don’t keep all the rules.  I love a good challenge. My hope is that by the end of this year I will have experienced more new things, gained new skills, and be generally have had a lot of fun trying to live up to this whole thing.

Not Why I’m Doing This

Since announcing my decision to take on this fairly extensive challenge I have been bombarded with questions, comments, and even judgments from my friends and family.  I thought it might be helpful to address those concerns now at the onset of my year, rather than try to deal with them later on.

This is not a soapbox.  I’m not trying to preach the green, convert conservatives, or judge anyone else’s lifestyle choice.  This is all about my lifestyle.  If you can find something to take from it, that’s awesome.  If you want to hate, well…wouldn’t you rather hold hands and sing “kumbaya” instead?  Truly, I’m not trying to influence anyone but myself.

This is not a money-saving ploy.  While I’m sure my credit card will be thanking me at the end of the year, I’m hoping my creativity will be thanking me more.

This has nothing to do with supporting  PETA, or any other organization.  Honestly, I would be a terrible PETA supporter anyways, considering I am the proud owner of a wonderful little puppy named Moxy.  (Yes, PETA is against pets.)

Seriously, how could you not love this face!

Courtesy of A.K. Photography

I’ve already said that I do give to certain environmental and animal rights agencies, and I will be putting those under scrutiny for the next year, but this isn’t about that either.

So what is this about?  Challenging myself.  Really challenging myself to make a difference with my life.  It’s going to be hard, probably really  hard.  I think the challenge will be fun, and ultimately exactly what I need at this point in my life.