To me, mascara is the finishing touch to my makeup routine. It's not that I can't leave the house without mascara, it's simply that I love the way it makes my eyes pop.
There was a time (in high school) when I was really into buying MAC cosmetics -- and by buying I mean having my mom buy them for me because I was 16 -- but ever since I started paying for my own products, I've stuck to what beauty bloggers would call drugstore brands.
Like all the makeup wearing people out there, I've tried out my fair share of mascaras. From the classic Maybelline to MAC, I found my favorite to be CoverGirl's Lash Blast series, particularly the purple one that combines volume and length, because the results and price point where exactly where I wanted them to be.
I was a loyal CoverGirl mascara customer for over 5 years. Then one day, about a year ago, I read a post on cruelty-free products from one of the many blogs I read. In it was a link to the Beagle Freedom Project and after a quick couple of clicks I ended up watching a video meant to raise awareness about what procedures are performed on animals during the testing process. I was astonished. If you know me, you know that dogs are my favorite animals. I love them. Now I had discovered that all along, the products I was buying to make my eyes pop and to cover the occasional blemish weren't just tested on any animal, but on the same breed that my in-laws have as a pet.
I'll be super real with you, I'd heard about animal testing before and it hadn't really mattered to me because I'd always pictured lab rats as the subjects. Does that make me awful? Maybe, but I have a feeling that's how most people think: certain animals rank higher than others. For me, lab rats still fall below dogs, particularly Beagles, which are chosen for testing because they have a gentle disposition.
Side bar: I'm currently wrestling with my personal hierarchy of animals "that matter" thanks to a recent trip to a rodeo for one of my husband's gigs.
I was done. At that very moment, I decided I would start phasing out my conventional makeup products. This meant that once a product was used up, I'd replace it with a testing-free one.
Quick note on the terms cruelty-free and testing-free. Cruelty-free is at times used as an umbrella term to include vegan and testing-free products, but — at least from my research — the vegan community define cruelty-free as being free of any animal product and animal testing (i.e.: vegan). I'll probably end up calling some non-vegan product cruelty-free at some point, so just know that if a product fits the vegan definition of cruelty-free, I'll simply call it vegan.
You still with me?
I quickly found good replacement products for my BB cream, eyeshadow, blush, and even concealer. But mascara eluded me. I knew I had limited brand options available around me, so I looked up reviews for mascaras I had access to on YouTube and Pinterest.
I started with e.l.f.’s basic mascara. Pinterest told me this was a good mascara and I loved their other products, but it turned out to not be what I was looking for. For one, I got what I paid for, which was next to nothing. I found the mascara to be smudgy and clumpy, and I always ended up with dark circles under my eyes by 1:00 in the afternoon.
Next I tried a couple of NYX cosmetics’ options. I liked these more, but they dried up very quickly and still left me looking like I’d been out clubbing instead of at work.
So I gave in. I caved and purchased another tube of CoverGirl’s Lash Blast. It didn’t sit well with me, even though I loved the way it made my lashes look, so I decided to try a cruelty-free brand one last time. I took to Twitter and asked a vegan beauty blogger for a suggestion, which was Too Faced’s Better Than Sex mascara. I read some customer reviews about it, and while the risqué name was wonderful, it turned out that lots of people found the newer formula to be smudgy, something I did not want to deal with again.
Finding the one
I tend to avoid shopping at Ulta if at all possible because I find the employees there rude and less-than-helpful. But since Target’s selection wasn’t cutting it, I had to suck it up. Luckily enough, there was super helpful mascara display on the day I was shopping, which limited my exposure to employee snobbery. I found one that was touted as a volume and length formula, quickly googled the name to make sure it was a testing-free brand, and hopped in line while doing a mental happy dance that I’d found something.
I paid like $20 for Tarte's lights, camera, lashes mascara, which turned out to be vegan, and while I totally understand how that sounds outrageous, I couldn’t be happier. I spend so much less on all my other make up products that splurging on a really good mascara doesn’t freak me out. Plus there’s the added benefit of voting with my dollars! I’d rather give $20 to a brand that doesn’t test on animals that $12 to a brand that does, especially when the $20 product is also just better than the other.
Sometimes being a conscious consumer is difficult. Sometimes you cave because you don’t think an alternative exists, and sometimes you’re in a pinch and can’t afford to splurge. But when something is a priority, you make the extra effort to achieve it. Maybe $20 mascara isn’t for you, but maybe $2 eye shadow is. Start where you can! Small change is still change.
Have you ever considered switching to testing-free cosmetics? What challenges did you come across? What are your favorite test-free products?