I have always wondered about the sustainability of eyeshadow palettes and other makeup products. The Naked3 palette from urban decay is one of the most popular palettes because of its great buildable colors and beautiful packaging. I remember buying one for my friend when the palette was launched and she really loved it. It is an awesome present to get or receive from anyone. However, breaking news, most eyeshadow palettes, including the Naked palettes are unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly. Let’s consider why!
Most eyeshadow palettes are made of plastic and also use many different unsustainable ingredients. In terms of packaging, the Urban Decay website did not provide any information about what type of materials are used for the palette and the eyeshadow palette. According to some of my outside research, the brands that are switching to more sustainable packaging have said that it is difficult to achieve 100% sustainability with eyeshadow palettes. One of the main issues with eyeshadow palettes is the use of mirrors. The reflective material used on eyeshadow palette mirrors makes it hard for it to be recycled and so it is considered unsustainable. I see that the Naked3 palette does have a mirror inside it and that makes it hard for the palette to be recycled. Additionally, the eyeshadows are usually stored in small compartments in the palette, and those usually cannot be recycled too.
Aside from the mirrors, the Naked3 palette also uses synthetic fiber brushes. Synthetic fibers are harmful to the environment because it is a microplastic that can escape many filter systems and enter the ocean. It is also one of the fibers that pollute not only the ocean but it also enters the digestive tracts of animals because it is so small.
When I looked at the ingredients for the actual eyeshadows, Urban Decay has it all listed out and each shadow in the palette has its own ingredient list. Some of the things that stood out to me were the words paraben-free, sulfate-free, and phthalate-free. These words do not mean much on surface value because the Federal Food and Drug Administration does not require beauty companies to get their products approved and certified by the FDA, including products that contain paraben, sulfate, and phthalate. In fact, these ingredients are treated the same as the other ingredients in cosmetic products. Thus, it is difficult to determine whether these ingredients are included in the palette or not because there are no specific regulations or controls placed on cosmetic companies for using parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.
I could not find any information on how the Naked3 eyeshadows are made, so I did a search on how eyeshadows are generally made. On this YouTube video, I learned that eyeshadows require a base power and liquid mixture, and “secret gel-like ingredients” are added into the mixture, which is then blended for 30 minutes. After the mixture is blended, the cosmetic company will choose pigments and that are pressed into the mixture. Finally, the pigmented shadow is pressed into a container to place into the palette. Cosmetic companies usually test their products and unfortunately, many of the time these products are tested on animals.
Urban Decay states that their eyeshadow palettes are cruelty-free which means that it is not tested on animals; however, that does not mean the separate ingredients are not tested on animals. Joseph Rauch writes the following in his blog, “According to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the FDA ‘does not specifically require the use of animals in testing cosmetics for safety’”. It may also mean that “The testing occurred in a different country than the one the brand is based in (usually China because it requires animal testing)” (https://blog.publicgoods.com/what-does-cruelty-free-actually-mean/), and this tells me that just promoting the phrase cruelty-free is not enough. Since there are no legal regulations on animal-tested products and Urban Decay did not provide certification of any kind that proves their cruelty-free statements, so I find it hard to support their products because many cosmetic companies use labor from China to manufacture their products.
Due to Urban Decay’s lack of transparency about the production of their eyeshadow palettes, I decided to search up who generally makes eyeshadow palettes. After some digging, I stumbled upon this article, “5 Disgusting Reasons to Avoid China-Made Cosmetics” which states that many cosmetic companies use cheap labor from China to produce their makeup products. Many cosmetic companies use China’s manufacturers and that is considered unsustainable because China has unjust labor practices. Employees in Chinese factories are paid low wages, work long hours and their work environments are often unsafe and unsanitary. The labor practices in China are horrible and it wouldn’t be surprising if Urban Decay did use labor from China. Once again, there is no direct evidence that Urban Decay is using labor from China because no information is provided from their website. The overall lack of information on production processes and ingredients, in general, shows the lack of transparency on Urban Decay’s website. I had a lot of trouble searching for information and I think that may be because Urban Decay is hiding some important information from us. In order for me to continue to support the brand, I will need more information about the products that Urban Decay is producing and some information about the labor practices that Urban Decay has.