Natural makeup and beauty products have had a popularity surge in recent years. The movement towards non-toxic, eco-friendly beauty mainly interests women, especially those with health concerns triggered by the onset of pregnancy, who prefer a daily routine void of nasty chemicals and ingredients they can’t pronounce (as is the case with Jessica Alba, who created The Honest Company after becoming a mom). Now, even mainstream brands are jumping on the bandwagon, albeit usually through minimum FDA requirements and misleading product labels.
But beyond corporate greenwashing, there’s a whole new crop of companies dedicated to making small-batch products from natural, and often ethically sourced ingredients. What’s fantastic about these companies, beyond their commitment to consumer health and the environment, is this: Most are run by women. The natural beauty movement–specifically small batch brands and their purveyors– is one run, directed, and encouraged by women.
Tata Harper, Rose Marie Swift, Rachel Winard, and Tammy Fender all run their own brands. Spirit Demerson of Spirit Beauty Lounge and Jean Seo of Evolue Beauty in Los Angeles run their own shops (online and brick and mortar, respectively). Other brands, like Kahina, run by Katharine L’Heureux, and Josie Maran Cosmetics, helmed by its eponymous model-turned-beauty maven, give economic solvency to women in developing nations. And then there are the women who run blogs, forums, and discussions, such as Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt of No More Dirty Looks, that give women a space a to discuss their own beauty wants and needs– free of airbrushing and unrealistic expectations. Wonderfully, these are just a few examples of the women who direct and control their own share of the natural beauty market.
But what’s most important in all of this is how natural and DIY beauty can give women control over their routine and, ultimately, their health.
Makeup has always been of great debate among feminists. Is a woman who wears makeup effectively serving The Patriarchy, or exercising free will? Is makeup a way for women to express their gender identity, or a means to conform to externally-set beauty ideals? But within the natural makeup market, a whole new discussion has begun, centered around empowering women to make smart and healthy choices about the products they buy, creating an economic and social space that women run and direct themselves.
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any,” declared Alice Walker. This is precisely what we, as women, have done with the beauty industry. While petitions like Julia Bluhm’s, aimed at reducing Seventeen‘s use of photoshop, are starting to rail against beauty ideals that mostly prize unhealthy habits and digital alterations, it still doesn’t get to the major problem driving women’s beauty standards. The problem being that we handed over authority to experts—hired by huge corporations that owe allegiance to shareholders; not consumers—to tell us what to do with our skin, what kind of makeup to wear, and how to care for our bodies. Without hardly any fuss, most women have given up their power to say they know themselves and their own bodies.