THE DAWN OF COSMETICS
Cosmetics have been worn for centuries. In 2007, makeup, consisting of reddish ground up rock, was found in a South African cave, and is belied to date back 164,000 years ago. The timeless communities of indigenous people across the world often notably wear tattoos and cosmetics, taken and made from the earth’s resources. Whether it was copper or lead ore, red clay, henna, ash or ochre, they were always natural elements.
There is much speculation as to why makeup was so popular by both the sexes in our ancient history. Was it purely to hide flaws and enhance one’s appearance, as is today’s primary motive? The answer is perhaps not. It was not about what other Egyptians thought of them, but how the divine observed them. The Egyptians, who in their art history always had prominently painted faces, are believed to have been made up as a means to show their devotion to their gods.
The application of dark colors around the eyes, known as kohl in many ancient cultures and produced from charcoal, was believed to not only have powerful medicinal benefits but would also ward off the evil eye. Even today in cultures such as India, this is still a prevalent and accepted reason, particularly among newborns and small tots.
Perhaps our spiritual worth is no longer connected to our appearance, but certainly our daily ritualistic habits are an expensive business: today’s global beauty industry is worth billions of dollars.
In the 1800s, soft brushes were used to apply makeup to the wealthy society by servants, and the utilization of brushes has been accepted and regarded ever since. The modern applicator was believed to be invented by the Germans, however the Japanese had been using brushes for centuries, not least because its popular calligraphy culture demands it.
Both cultures continue to produce luxurious crafted brushes that meet the requirements mainly of the extremely wealthy.
However, today most cosmetic brushes are manufactured cheaply in less economically developed countries such as Korea, Taiwan and China. While they are often still trimmed by hand, transparency in the supply chain is very blurred.
Application is the most important part of any makeover, and both natural and synthetic brushes are sold today. There are many dubious reasons why a conscious consumer may not choose either.
Beauty experts have always claimed that natural bristles generally apply powder products better than their synthetic sisters, however these brushes are not as good as applying liquid cosmetics, and can get misshapen. Natural bristles are harder to clean and less hygienic as they pick up dirt more easily, and commonly cause allergic reactions.
Most importantly, natural brushes are always made with animal hair – from goat, badgers, boars, pony and squirrel to sable (weasel) hair. The anti-animal cruelty organization PETA has campaigned for decades that these products stem from the notably cruel international fur industry, in which animals are abused, trapped, injured and inhumanely slaughtered in countries that are unregulated for animal welfare.
Synthetic brushes are smoother, less prone to shed and are continually improving in quality, however the majority being sold today are primarily plastic, mass produced and poor quality, meaning they need to be replaced frequently.
Some could argue that applying cosmetics is not the most environmental action, however there is clearly a demand for it: sustainable cosmetics have been on the market for over a decade now. According to the Ethical Consumer Markets Report 2017, they increased by 3.2% between 2015 and 2016.
Until recently, sustainable cosmetics applicators had not been considered as a mainstream option, with just a handful of companies adopting alternatives.
Even the most ethical consumers may not wish to use fingers to apply foundation, blusher or eye shadow. So what is the solution? Reach for the cheap plastic brushes made in China from fast-moving, poor quality materials that end up in the unrecyclable waste bin long before their life expectancy?
That was the question that led to the creation of So Eco brushes.
Founder Mark Taylor already had a company selling beauty products, but realized there was a major gap in the market. Makeup brushes, however, had been left in the dust while consumers moved forward with sustainable living. It was only a matter of time before more consumers would demand them.
With decades of experience, So Eco Brushes was born, with a heartfelt brand ethos.
With this realization, Mark and his team sought out materials that had a transparent supply chain from reputable suppliers, and could be heralded as cruelty free and sustainable, while closing the entire waste loop. Mark explains,
“We think it is the way forward for all companies, and the only one that will be accepted by consumers long-term.”
So Eco’s stylish products have handles made from bamboo and bristles made from the synthetic fibre taklon, which are joined together by recycled aluminium ferrules.
THE RIGHT PACKAGE
When it came to packaging So Eco’s brushes, the search for ethical printers was in fact more challenging, and some key decisions had to be made.
Eventually Mark found a supplier that could print with vegetable inks, and supply a transparent window that could showcase the product with the look and feel of plastic, but actually made from biodegradable corn starch. Risks were taken – as sourcing to ensure a sustainable and socially responsible supply chain proved more difficult and expensive, but Mark firmly believes that it was always worth the extra effort.
With consumers keen to rely on recognized and trustworthy accreditation, So Eco has been able to achieve good brands accreditation, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), PETA Cruelty Free and Vegan, and also OK Compost by Vincotte certification.
The company provide a wide range of makeup brushes, of which the foundation brush is its bestselling products. One of the most interesting and unique offerings is So Eco’s entire face kit, in which all the brushes are hand cut, and the storage pouch is made from unbleached cotton.
As demand continues to grow, Mark plans to expand So Eco in the next few years to include spa, bath, skincare and cosmetic products.
You can purchase So Eco brushes from a range of beauty outlets and high-street retailers, including Sainsbury’s Tesco, Look Fantastic, and Amazon.