Why Fair Trade Beauty Products Matter

Sure, we try to buy cruelty-free, vegan and clean cosmetics. But here’s why Fair Trade beauty products matter, too!

By Lora O’Brien

This month is best known for Hallowe’en and in Canada, Thanksgiving. But did you know October is also the start of Fair Trade Month? The month-long celebration puts the spotlight on the farms, factories, brands and retailers who are striving to do things differently and ignite change.

When we think of Fair Trade, we usually think of food – namely chocolate, wine and coffee. The FT growers of those crops are keen to give their workers a better life. But over recent years, the Fair Trade logo has been seen on beauty products, too. And no wonder, since in the world of clean beauty anyway, many core ingredients are actually food based!

What Is Fair Trade Beauty?

We vote for the kind of world we want to live in every time we spend money. And supporting Fair Trade beauty brands helps us to create a better world for future generations.

We’ve become accustomed to seeking out beauty products that are clean, cruelty-free and sustainable. Sure, these are good steps in terms of our own health. But have you ever thought to question what impact the ingredients of beauty products have on people, animals and the planet?

For example, did you know that many ingredients in the most common beauty brands are seriously harmful? The worst offender, of course, is palm oil. AVOID THAT at all costs if you care even one iota about animals and forests! Other ingredients, such as cacao butter, mica (used in mineral makeup) and vanilla extract (for fragrance) may seem perfectly sustainable. And in many cases, they are. But did you know they’re often harvested by child labourers, in dangerous conditions? Still want to know more? Click here.

Luckily, you can help put an end to these atrocities.

How YOU Can Make A Difference

It’s a lot easier to know which ones are Fair Trade beauty products when the work has been done for you. And Beautyologie does just that.

Beautyologie is the first online beauty marketplace to really put Fair Trade at the forefront of one of the biggest industries around. They feature plenty of Fair Trade and ethically formulated products from brands around the globe that are committed to giving back to the communities that they work with.

Curious about the kind of impact you can have when you shop? You could help victims of human trafficking by purchasing 700 River’s soaps. Artisans in Bangladesh who have escaped human trafficking are behind their creation. Want to help poor women in Ghana? Shea Yeleen’s products pay the women who make their Shea based products 5 times the countries’ living wage. And Tierra & Lava helps to preserve ancient Mayan farming practices by supporting farmers in Guatemala who produce the ingredients behind their products. Those are just a few examples!

Here below, we interviewed Robin Doyle, founder of Beautyologie, to let us know a bit more about why Fair Trade in beauty products really matters.

Why Buying Fair Trade Beauty Products Matters

Why Fair Trade Beauty Products Matter

As a business owner, what does Fair Trade mean to you?

Fair Trade is a world-changing way of doing business. Essentially, it’s a global movement that includes an international network for producers, companies, consumers, advocates and organizations positioning people and the planet before profit. Consumerism, at its most basic level, is the transaction of buying and selling products. It all effects the livelihoods of others in one way or another. The Fair Trade way of doing business provides greater equity for marginalised workers.

Fair Trade practices do this by helping create solutions to issues including the overuse of natural resources, women’s empowerment, refugee livelihoods, human rights, inequality and sustainable farming. Fair Trade enterprises also support organic agriculture, adopt circular economy production processes, and generate new models of social enterprise. 

What are the best ways people can support Fair Trade Month? 

Show support by choosing Fair Trade products! You can search for a list of retail stores and online marketplaces, if you don’t know where to start. The definition of ‘fair trade’ can be confusing. So even looking it up online to understand it and all its benefits is empowering. Once you know what your options are when it comes to shopping for everyday goods, you’re on your way to making the world a better place! Also, share your knowledge with friends and family, not just during Fair Trade Month, but throughout the year.

What main misconceptions are there about Fair Trade?

The biggest myth is that the Fair Trade movement is charity. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Instead, it promotes positive and long-term change through trade-based relationships which build self-sufficiency. Its success depends on independent, successfully-run organisations and businesses–not on handouts.

Another common misconception is that Fair Trade products are more expensive. Most Fair Trade goods are competitively priced in relation to their marketplace equivalents. The saying “You get what you pay for” is very relevant when it comes to Fair Trade beauty products. Fair Trade businesses work directly with producers, cutting out middlemen, so they can keep their goods affordable for consumers and return a greater percentage of the price to the producers.

How would you describe Fair Trade Month in three words? 

Empowering, Respectful, Ethical 

Ultimately, why does fair trade matter when it comes to beauty?

Sadly, many skincare and beauty products use agricultural components that are tended to by marginalised workers. One of the many goals for Fair Trade beauty products is stomping out the neglect and abuse of underpaid and overworked labourers. Sure, you can buy a tinted moisturiser or lip balm on the fly at a discount store without giving it much thought. But the choices we make as consumers matter. Literally every purchase we make affects supply and demand, and when it comes to beauty products, let’s face it—there’s a lot of cheap junk out there. Beyond being unsafe and harmful to the environment, many cosmetics and skincare makers take advantage of poor farmers and perpetuate the suffering of exploited workers in makeshift factories. 

What else might surprise people in terms of Fair Trade beauty products?

The very topic of the beauty industry being reliant on the agriculture industry isn’t one that many people talk about. Shea butter, cocoa butter, sugar, oils from Baobab, Moringa, Argan and Marula, and even Mica, all come from natural resources around the world. It’s one thing to include these ingredients in a product and call it “natural,” but it’s an entirely other thing to make sure that these ingredients are sourced in an ethical manner. If consumers had more awareness about what really goes on behind the scenes in the manufacturing of beauty product ingredients around the world, they might think differently about how they choose to spend their money.

Finally, how are you hoping to inspire people in terms of fair trade beauty products? 

Choosing certified Fair Trade beauty products, products formulated with Fair Trade certified ingredients and brands that follow Fair Trade principles in their business model could mean the difference between life and death for many underprivileged individuals – mostly women and children. When you support manufacturers who practice Fair Trade policies, you are sending a message that there is a demand for ethical, sustainable products that respect human life and the environment.

And as far as our lotions, potions, lipsticks, and rouge, it’s the same thing. Fair Trade beauty products certification ensures that a product and the components used to create it are safe and clean (aka non-toxic), responsibly, and sustainably produced.

By being cognisant of our collective purchasing power and taking a moment before mindlessly clicking “add to cart,” we’re campaigning for change and helping people around the world. That’s worth its weight in gold.

Beyond becoming a more conscious consumer, try spreading the word about Fair Trade cosmetics and skincare to your friends and family. Turning those in your social circle onto a cool new lotion, scrub, or facial cleanser to shine a light on the importance of shopping for Fair Trade beauty products.

Let’s all do our part—one eye cream, mascara, and lipstick at a time!

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