plus ça change

plus ça reste la même chose?

Or is there some hope of mellowing in one’s old age? Previously, was I just being harsh, and in error in thinking I was being harsh but fair, being cruel (and overly “fruity”) to be kind? See other posts in the EWG category, and other MakeupAlley interactions reported therein.

OK, on the other hand, I still persist in thinking that adult humans should bear and take responsibility for their actions. If you’re old enough and deemed to have the mental competence to have a credit card, to go to war and kill people, to drive a car and risk killing people: then there is no reason (or excuse) for not taking responsibility for informing and educating yourself. Not just on makeup and skincare; but on all manner of things in life, and their implications and consequences and associations. And makeup and skincare and suchlike there too, and all manner of other things that might individually seem small, petty, and  trivial (hence “nuttiness”) but that add up together and are integral parts of (what ought to be) a coherent consistent whole that is life (or, to finish up that analogy, that whole, wholegrain, wholesome fruit+nut bar).

So: living ethically.

But there’s also being, ethically.

An ethical obligation towards kindness. Being charitable. Giving the benefit of the doubt, putting oneself in someone else’s shoes (however hard that might be), exercising tolerance, thinking of others. Loving one’s fellow-man (and beast, and plant, and rock—even trolls!).

A conversation today:


What are your thoughts on goodguide [GoodGuide: Green, Healthy, & Safe Product Ratings and Reviews] and the EWG CosDA [Environmental Working Group: Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database]?

I’ve been consulting both and tend to trust EWG a bit more instinctually. I’ve seen comments from others who are distrustful – why? I understand that there are plenty of scientific unknowns but it seems transparent in telling you what it’s basing its rating on.

But I’m totally intrigued by the potential of goodguide now that it’s an app and you can just scan all kinds of things as you’re shopping. It seems like it could quite possibly give boycotting real teeth as it requires minimal effort on the part of consumers just to scan things. Also highlights three areas, thus gently urging consideration of all three (health, environment, social impact). This is asssuming they keep adding lots more products, but they do have lots already.


well, it’s a start; for other resources to combine into decision-making, see my notepad


Thanks for the links. I’d be interested to know your reasons for preferring those over the two I mentioned. Probably too many to list but I’d be interested to know what you think the drawbacks are to those two. Untrustworthy? Very faulty science?


basically, yes: fear-mongerers who prey on the ignorant and, especially in the US, on people who have little to no scientific education; and who look for one single source for information & guidance, and want someone to trust.

– misreading and misreporting of research
– misrepresentation: vested financial interests disguised as purity & independence

I’ve written more about this elsewhere (here & off-MUA); would encourage instead *true* independence: of individual mind. This is 2012, not only do we have public libraries & public university libraries (while they still exist), but the whole Internet too. So do your own research, educate yourself, don’t take things on trust or belief.

But: those two are still a useful start. And the EWG can be a good place for getting journal references. not just to see how badly they’ve been misread by the EWG and in the popular press, but to track down those primary information and data sources.

Always read the label carefully, and trust no-one: case in point, “ingredients you can see and pronounce”; very tasty bars though = the proof is in the pudding


Thanks for the reply. I do admit I want a resource I can (mostly) trust as it seems to take plenty of time just to use two. Well, maybe after I’ve switched over to safer products it won’t take as much time. And again I’m intrigued by the power of the many in this field, though maybe power always goes along with some dangers…. Anyway, just my thoughts, thanks again for yours.


yvw: sorry not to be more use. I’m afraid I’m more inclined towards scepticism than trust/belief/faith when it comes to this sort of (scientific, argumentative/reasoning, factual) stuff. And more into “knowledge is power: so empower yourself” than “power is knowledge: so bow down to, fear, or resist Them.”

But: I’m a professional nerd. My job involves research. I do a lot of it, and outside work too, so I’m used to it and to doing it fast and I enjoy it. I know there are lots of people out there–probably the massive majority–who aren’t as nerdy. I totally understand how someone who’s not in my situation would find that research (and the research-behind-the-research of educating yourself) takes way too much time and effort and is basically a drag.

And of course you’re welcome to your thoughts, and good luck with the “safer” products!

Here’s a compromise: use and abuse MUA. If you find a product that seems like a good idea (and that the Goodguide and EWG approve of), check out the MUA product reviews, do board searches, and ask on the boards–here or any other relevant board, like the Skincare one–about specific products. Ex. “I’m looking for a new cleanser and I found this one, what do you all think?”

Using MUA will give you a multitude of reviews, views, opinions, and thoughts; plus comments, criticism, and interpretation of what others (ex. the EWG) have said about a certain product and research behind it; plus comments etc. reading the actual journal articles and other scientific data involved.

Essentially, treat MUA as a central summarizing and syndication tool. I admit I’ve been doing that for years (probably about 10, when I include the years of lurking), and I’d still consider MUA as one of my main resources for obtaining research references in lots of things, like sunscreen.

Hope some of that helps… and otherwise, good luck and happy hunting!

O (to whom I leave the last word, for there are wise words here):

Thanks, that makes sense. I have just started using the boards and so far it’s going well 🙂 I also find the reviews useful so I don’t buy junk that doesn’t work.

P.S. It’s not that I think power is knowledge. I think power (and lots of people making similar purchasing choices is power) can force change, which I believe is much needed in the field, whether through regulation changes or changing company practices to meet demand.

P.P.S I also wonder about MUA getting powerful…but from what I’ve seen so far it’s pretty genuine, just people who like this stuff.


  1. anna3101

    I can totally understand when people don’t want to spend hours searching and researching buying new cleanser. Our life is way too short… I prefer to invest my time once, on checking out various brands, ingredients and what they do, as well as what e-shops are out there and what are the pitfalls to avoid, rather than doing that each time. Just as with privacy agreements… Better to use a couple of services but read what you sign carefully than have 10 mail accounts without even casting a glance at what exactly you allow them to do with you. That’s my own opinion, but if someone thinks otherwise, I can deal with it too 🙂
    I do have a feeling that you judge people – who are not as “pro” as you are – a bit too harsh 🙂 And I’m wondering if you are really giving a bit too much power to MUA… I’m not a die-hard fan of Skindeep, actually, I only go there for cases when there are mixed opinions and I would like one more view on a particular ingredient. But I really feel sad when I hear people say that it’s only X that is right and good, and if you are even as much as considering Y, you are by definition either stupid, or ignorant, or both, or “not willing to educate yourself”. You can only be really sure about something if you are scientist, sorry, not even if you are a scientist, as they are also of mixed opinions on so many subjects and you never know who pays their bills. In a world where truth is so hard to grasp, I think we should try to be as tolerant as we can. What do you think?

    • gingerama

      Right. So we’re on the same page–we’re imperfect beings living in an imperfect world, so we cannot be and act perfectly.

      That also means many people are indeed stupid, ignorant, ill-informed, uneducated, or some combination thereof. And usually too proud and vain to admit it, and to admit their own limitations and deal with them. I know and admit my limitations. I’ll often add “to the best of my knowledge” where appropriate. More people should do that.

      Yes, I judge people. Harshly. That’s reasoning, rationality, epistemology, and ethics for you. To put it simply: in the areas of truth, justice, and individual action: there is right and wrong. Full stop.

      And yes, as stated in the original post above, we’ve also got an ethical duty towards love for fellow-man (and beast, and planet); on whatever moral basis, religious or otherwise. But that tolerance has limits, and those limits are compatible with an approach of “doing the best you can” as far as you can, as far as you are able; and having the wisdom, humility, and humanity to know and admit your limits (both in acting ethically, and in judging others’ ethics).

      The issue of truth is indeed related, though it’s been muddied by stupid people stomping their big feet all through it. Misusing and abusing quantum theory, half-baked in a direction of extreme deconstruction and relativism. That seems to be permeating through to popular discourse, especially in the fluffier holistic market; bringing together a resurgence of late-60s Flower Power (and a first generation to be free of World War II memories) with the relativism fashionable in academia through the late 1970s-early 1990s: Derrida and co. Fashionable especially with a certain generation of French and other Continental European thinkers (ex. Derrida). Partly as a way of avoiding ethical absolutes with their repercussions for responsibility, right and wrong, and absolute truths regarding what happened in Europe in the 1930s-40s; and how certain countries (ex. France) dealt with those post-war repercussions.

      For a more recent, critically important example: the Breivik case in Norway.

      So: yes, we’re agreed: “we should try to be as tolerant as we can.”

  2. anna3101

    By being tolerant I do not mean tolerating evil. It’s one thing to kill hundreds of innocent people (or even one person, and even not-so-innocent) and another one not willing to make research on choosing one’s cosmetics. I can understand judging people for something that causes harm and pain to others. What I cannot understand is when people are judged by what they wear – or how much or little they know about a particular topic. It is their life and their choice. For as long as it does not kill or hurt others, why bother? Why not just live and let live?

    On another note, have you heard anything from Weleda or Lavera? The more I think about this whole subject, the less I’m inclined to buy their products… It looks like they are becoming big players on the market – and big players, sadly, love to cheat.

    • gingerama

      1. I think you’re missing the point: these are ALL questions of ethics, and yes, they should ALL be reasoned through, questioned, criticised, and judged the same way. That’s not to say that one shouldn’t bring other factors to bear–such as misinformation, poor education, ignorance, stupidity–but only if these are factors beyond an individual’s control, for which they are not responsible.

      2. Not causing harm and pain to others: well, that is precisely why I rant and rave and rage against L’Oréal for greenwashing, fem-washing, and glossing over human rights. Why Greenpeace and every decent feminist rails against Dove for their “campaign for real beauty”: starting with rainforest-stripping, going via land-grabs, forced evictions, use of indentured no-rights labour; then onwards and upwards to animal testing; then to idiocratic patronizing ad and marketing campaigns.

      And then the average woman on the street doesn’t know, doesn’t care, and/or will block her ears when you point these things out: and say “but this is the only mascara that works on me, it’s JUST MASCARA FFS.”

      And that’s where I’ll say NO. It’s never “just” mascara.

      3. I’ve said it before, and doubtless I’ll say it again. This is 2012. In those countries where people have free choice on consumer disposables (like a variety of mascaras), they also have good education, compulsory usually through to 16 or 18. And public libraries. And the entire internet. There is no excuse for any fully-functioning human being to be unaware or ignorant. The same goes for politics, current affairs, international affairs, environmental issues. Where food comes from. What happens to waste. How water systems work.

      Bwing human isn’t an automatic right: it’s a responsibility that involves learning, and earning others’ respect. The only “right” here is a basic one in common with all living things: the right to life. That’s not a “human”-specific right, though; what grants anyone the right to be considered and treated as a “human being” is behaving like one. Doing something extra beyond being born, growing, consuming, and dying. Bringing to bear those extras that are supposed to make humans different from other life-forms–all that reasoning, questioning, curiosity, perception of past and future and implications and consequences, and further thinking, reading, writing, preservation through physical artefacts to enable knowledge-transfer across generations. Funnily enough: once again, we’re back to thinking and education.

      Unfortunaely, I have to say I’ve seen and read about behaviour from other species–dogs, dolphins, bonobos–that are at a far higher standard than, say, the gaggles of teenage girls in Sephora on a Saturday afternoon.

      4. Not heard anything from Weleda or Lavera: why don’t you ask them too? The more people ask, the better!

      • anna3101

        I see your point and agree wholeheartedly about L’Oreal and other evils of this world. But for me there is a difference between someone who doesn’t know about animal testing but once they hear about it, they take action; and someone who doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know. It’s cruel to judge people for ignorance without giving them a chance to change.
        As for Weleda and Lavera, I wrote to them and so far I don’t like what I see. I will make some more research, but I’m 99% certain these will have to go from my shopping list once and for all. It’s a sad fact of life – once a company grows big, it becomes greedier and more of a liar. I’m afraid that’s the case. I did get a reply from Lavera, but it was so full of generalizations and “we don’t really know ourselves” stuff that it really made me very upset and angry.

        • gingerama

          Fair enough–and sure, give people the chance to change. It can be a long and painful process. Especially working through the guilt and sense of one’s own foolishness, which inevitably means redirecting anger elsewhere, onto others. That all takes time.

          I have every sympathy for people working through that process, and moving towards a more ethical life one step at a time. This does take time. I know that all to well. An example: my own. I’ve been vegetarian off and on for over 30 years, and consistently for the last 23. I’ve bought cruelty-free as far as possible. From time to time, mainly in my vain and vapid 20s, I cheated with some makeup. I tried out animal-tested mascaras. I’d tell myself (and anyone who asked) that it was to compare, to see if they were indeed any better than ones that were cruelty-free. But I felt guilty about that: mainly about my money going to companies I loathe and despise. My next step was to donate an equal sum of money to anti-cruelty charities every time I bought, say, a Lancôme mascara to test out. Then I stopped using Maybelline: when I first used them, they were cruelty-free, but their status changed.

          It took me till very recently to change my last remaining items: you’ll laugh: razor. I used a Gillette Venus (usually disposables, worse still). That’s Procter & Gamble. I’d found nothing that worked as well: that rounded anti-nick head. Then I discovered the Preserve razor: cruelty-free, made from recycled yoghurt-container plastic, one handle plus blades than you change (saves on plastic). Phew.

          I am now entirely cruelty-free on the whole beautification front. I’ll never be completely sustainable and ethical. Without either becoming a survivalist or doing the most ethical thing for the long-term preservation of the planet: killing myself. That’s life: complication and compromise, doing the best you can, while being aware that you’ll never be perfect.

          As seen recently with A-Derma–companies can change, so I have to be ready to change too, keep an eye out for any changes and take-overs. That happens to fit with my job (which involves a lot of research). And that’s a big reason I have this blog and maintain it. Because not everyone can do that research; they might not have time for it and (almost certainly) do it slower than I do. So consider this blog as a public service. Ditto for lots of other blogs out there, and for large discussion sites like the Essential Day Spa forum, MakeupAlley, and Skincare Talk. We’re all adding to the information freely available online, and aiming to help others by sharing that information with them: our knowledge, our findings and research, our practical experiments and reviews.

          Thats also why this blog is independent. I do no product placement and carry no adverts (I actually pay to be ad-free…). I write on here in my own spare time (OK, elsewhere too, but that’s another story or two). I do not work in the beautification industry: not only is my blog independent, but I am too. That independence gives me freedom. Hopefully to others too–and maybe even encourage them to blog too, that is: corresponding on here, commenting elsewhere, and eventually writing their own blog!

          • anna3101

            Actually, it looks like we both have the same view, only express it differently 🙂 I have to admit I was guilty of years of using tested cosmetics – it never occurred to me that the tests are still in practice and I never wondered how they actually look. For all of that, I’m very ashamed and glad to have it in the past.
            I’m starting to be seriously worried about the “eco” brands though. I was not satisfied with Lavera’s reply and decided not to buy their stuff anymore, but then I had a look at Logona (another brand I use) and they are also available in Hong Kong! Is that some kind of a global conspiracy? How can it be that cosmetics certified BDIH are sold in China? I’m still waiting for reply from Weleda and sent a fresh email to Logona. I will need to make a list of all the eco cosmetics available in Poland and check whether they are present in China and avoid them – I guess there’s no other way.

        • gingerama

          that sucks, on Lavera and Weleda 😦
          Sorry you’ve had such poor responses from them. It’s so frustrating. I’ll be trying again next week, emailing them. Fingers crossed.
          Keep up the good fight!

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