Cruelty Free

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Fashion and Beauty Products

As you may know I am trying to direct my blog in a much more ethical direction, featuring sustainable, locally made fashion and beauty products and brands with strong values that they stick by. 
As you also may know, I am currently studying at Heriot Watt School of Textiles and Design, and this semester I have been delighted to see that as a university they are integrating ethics into the fashion courses, because they realise that fashion is one of the most environmentally and socially damaging industries in the world, and that we as the new generation of workers need to have sustainability in mind with every decision we make in this industry.
With this in mind, after a series of lectures on textiles, I have been thinking about doing more regular posts on the impacts of the apparel production cycle, and also some more on cruelty-free beauty, as when talking with my classmates I am totally shocked as to how few people know about the impact of their everyday purchases. I hope you find this post useful, and let me know in the comments your views on ethical fashion and beauty!

Beauty


Microbeads

Many toothpastes, body scrubs and cleansers contain tiny pieces of plastic called microbeads, which are often used for their exfoliation purposes. Lately they’ve had a lot of press because the US, Canada and hopefully the UK are banning the use of microbeads in manufactured products because of their catastrophic environmental impact. These tiny particles don’t get properly filtered through our sewerage systems, so they enter the oceans in mass, polluting the seawater and causing damage to the lives of sea creatures. They are not biodegradable so exist in our waters infinitely, getting passed up and down the food chain and threatening the health of all animals, humans included, as they are unintentionally consumed.

Animal Testing

It goes without saying, for the majority of people, that testing human cosmetics on living animals is unnecessary and cruel. Most countries, the UK included, outlaw the sale of any hair and beauty products tested on animals, so you’d think there’d be no worries there, however, the laws in China, one of the largest global beauty markets, are radically different in that any cosmetics sold there have to be tested on animals to ‘ensure human safety’ or some BS. That means any brand selling in China, which is, in our global economy, most conglomerate brands like L’oreal, Procter and Gamble etc, test their products on innocent, sentient creatures, which more often than not leads to death.

Toxic Chemicals

Potentially harmful (to health and the environment) chemicals are often hidden behind deceitful names like ‘fragrance’, ‘colour’ or ‘thickening agent’ on the labels of our beauty products, or given highly scientific aliases that the average consumer has no clue about and will be unlikely to look into. Many of these chemicals are carcinogens (cancer-causing), toxic to sensitive skin, cause hormonal imbalance, contain heavy metals or can contaminate water supplies which impact the whole ecosystem. I recommend watching ‘The Human Experiment’ on Netflix to get more insight into the inconvenient truth behind many of our chemical-ridden consumer products. Try and shop from natural and organic brands where possible.

Fashion


Sweatshop Labour

Since the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013, many people have woken up to the horrors of fast fashion production in developing countries, but there is still a long way to go. Many factory workers that make the cheap, disposable clothes we buy from the high street are paid below a realistic living wage and work in shocking conditions with long hours and no breaks. Find out more about who made your clothes at Fashion Revolution, and watch the documentary True Cost.

Unethical Textiles

Those Gucci loafers everyone is wearing this season? Kangaroo fur. They even operate their own python farms for snakeskin handbags. Yup. Gucci is just one of many examples of brands that extensively exploit animals so that they can position their products at a high-end, exclusive, luxury price point. 

Eco-unfriendly Dyeing and Finishing

Dyeing and finishing, at any stage from fibre to end garment, is an extremely thirsty process, with one pair of denim jeans taking around 7,000 litres of water to produce.The way mass-produced textiles are dyed regularly pollutes large bodies of water, threatening the safety of the drinking water, and even endangering marine species. The finishing used to create an anti-crease shirt, formaldehyde, is a toxic carcinogen that if exposed to human skin can cause severe blistering and burns.

The Alternatives

Fake Leather, Faux Fur and new Eco-Textiles
Traditionally, synthetic ‘leather’ or fake ‘fur’ were of really poor quality, but advances in technology mean that you can get pretty close to the real thing, for a much more affordable price and a much greater ethical conscience. I love my faux leather jacket by Mandi Candi Boutique in Dundee, and I’m also fascinated by the new mushroom and pineapple leathers!
Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

Boycotting the Chinese market is a brave step for brands to make in today’s global economy, but to stay true to animal-friendly values, there are plentiful ways to ensure beauty products are safe for human use without compromising the lives of innocent, sentient beings. There are also loads of vegan alternatives for the animal products utilised in make up and toiletries, like milk, honey and gelatine products. I love White Rabbit Skincare for their totally cruelty-free and vegan moisturisers.

Sustainably Sourced Natural Fibres

I think an absolutist, ‘veganzi’ attitude toward natural animal and vegetable fibres such as cotton, silk and cashmere is unrealistic, because these textiles come from a huge variety of sources, some more ethical and organic than others, and not in every case are animals treated inhumanely or killed, so its worth doing your research, and consuming only in moderation. I love Cross Cashmere for their total supply chain control and thorough knowledge of the cashmere fibre and how to create lasting, sustainable products.


Ruth @ Urbanity xxx

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Honey Pop Club

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a beauty subscription box for a while (mainly because its nice getting little treats and mini presents to myself through the post!) and running up to my 20th birthday last month I saw that one of favourite fashion bloggers, Amanda from Honey Pop Kisses, had released The Honey Pop Club, a monthly subscription box promoting indie brands. This month’s theme was self-care and self-love during the holiday season, so I thought I’d treat myself. The best part is that any beauty product included each month is totally cruelty-free!  Read on to see what was inside the December box…


White Rabbit is a vegan, cruelty-free skincare brand based in Scotland, one I’d never heard of before which was really lovely to discover. This daily moisturiser is a thick formula that feels super creamy yet light enough to use as a base or primer under make up. Totally love this product so far!

Next up we have a cute little hardback notebook from Sun Jellies by Scottish designer Karen Mabon, which I’ve already filled with notes for my university project over the Christmas break, and an adorable chubby unicorn pin from Glasgow streetwear brand Abandon Ship Apparel.

Finally, the Honey Pop Club subscription box this month included a couple of postcards, one with fabulous Ru Paul quote, a Honey Pop Club sticker and a Veronica Dearly greetings card (There will be a framable quote from an inspirational woman in each month’s box). Its totally fitting because I bought back some artsy notecards from Moderna Museet in Stockholm earlier this month so I’ve started a little collection on my bedroom wall! 

I aim to do lots more blog posts in 2017 on veganism (which I’ve totally let slip this month and I 100% blame mince pies), cruelty-free beauty and ethical fashion, so stay tuned, and have a happy new year!

Ruth @ Urbanity xxx
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Damn Rebel Bitches

Its not often that a perfume campaign makes any sense at all, let alone resonates with actual, real women. Forget retouched snaps of glamazonian goddesses with action men on a billion dollar yacht, I’ve found a perfume that not only smells good but does good too. Damn Rebel Bitches by Reek perfumes is a bold, unmistakable scent that encourages Bitches to Unite. It looks to the past for inspiration, playing homage to the historic heroines of Scotland, yet is forward thinking in its marketing, with all-natural, rebellious badass women who aren’t afraid to make a statement. 


Damn Rebel Bitches is a handmade, cruelty-free artisan eau de parfum, memorialising the formidable women of the Jacobite uprisings, inspired by scents from these women’s lives. A truly feminist fragrance, and based right here in Edinburgh.






I had the chance to sample Damn Rebel Bitches for myself thanks to Bethany Grace and thoroughly enjoyed the unique packaging for the product. The scent itself is wild and totally different to my usual picks of Flowerbomb by Viktor and Rolf or Daisy by Marc Jacobs. The Reek perfume (launched with Urban Reivers) smells of blood orange and hazelnut with notes of spice and malt; truly intriguing. Whats more it lasts pretty much all day, even with me running around various locations on a photoshoot. So don’t let the £75 price tag put you off- Damn Rebel Bitches is a real investment, for Christmas and beyond, plus its totally vegan and never tested on animals- a win-win for me.

While writing this post I was really intrigued by the ideas behind the perfume but also the logistics- how, where and by whom is it made? It is really admirable how Reek is leading the way in terms of transparency unlike many other cosmetics brands and perfumers.  Their eau de parfums are hand made and hand poured by Sarah McCartney, leading self-taught scent scientist who was inspired by her extensive experience writing for Lush, and has now built a fragrance empire, 4160 Tuesdays. I love learning about the creative artisans behind products, it really adds another dimension to the brand story.

Get involved-sticker the world with the Damn Rebel Bitches message here or wear Bitches unite on your t-shirt here.

Ruth @ Urbanity xxx

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Grassroots Health



I was recently sent some skincare products by Edinburgh company Grassroots Health from their Natural Body Range. Everything is 100% vegan, cruelty free and natural, as well as perfect for sensitive skin as its all unscented. Plus, you can use November discount code 10BRNOV for 10% off across their website! Read on for my review of the Grassroots Health Lotion Bar, Shampoo Bar and Soap…


Natural Unscented Lotion Bar

While the skin is a little damp, melt some of this lotion bar into your hands and massage all over the body. Although it feels a little thick and sticky, after a few minutes dry skin absorbs the nourishing Coconut oil, Candelilla Wax, Shea Butter, Sweet Almond Oil and Vitamin E. Plus it comes in the shape of a beautiful rose, woohoo!

Natural Unscented Shampoo Bar

I’ve never used a shampoo bar before, and usually opt for salon brands to protect my bleached hair, but this was quite a refreshing change, and although it doesn’t give that illustrious shine from the adverts, it truly does clean and cleanse the hair with a soapy lather, which I suppose is the purpose of shampoo!






Natural Unscented Soap

Made from organic ingredients, this is a really great moisturising body wash that gives you a lasting clean feeling unlike many mass-produced shower gels. Whats great about the palm oil used in Grassroots products is it is not produced on land that has been taken from the rain forests, nor where any orangutang have been made homeless. 


Here is some great information from Grassroots Health all about the qualities of they ingredient, and why you should treat your skin to natural products rather than nasty chemicals:

Coconut oil

As well as bringing relief to dry, itchy irritated skin coconut oil will aid in the skins healing and repairing abilities, to help bring back a youthful appearance.  Coconut oil penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin and helps to strengthen the underlying tissues.

Possesses antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial, antioxidant properties.  

Soothes dryness and irritation, good for fighting wrinkles and signs of ageing.  

Contains medium chain fatty acids which are absorbed into the skin, directly utilized for nutrition and energy, providing all the energy your skin needs to heal and maintain itself.  

Its is easily absorbed, keeping the skin soft and supple without leaving it feeling greasy.

Olive oil

Living with dry skin conditions can be difficult and annoying. Olive oil is a known remedy for all kinds of skin complaints, moisturising dry patches and penetrating the skin without clogging your pores.  With is potent antioxidant power and anti-inflammatory properties, Olive oil makes an excellent companion to other oils in our range.

Naturally anti-aging, Olive oil can assist in improving the skins tone and texture, combatting the signs of ageing.  Olive oil is extremely nourishing, replenishing oils lost by the skin as we get older, giving the complexion a smoother, plumped up appearance and minimising wrinkles.

Olive oil is suitable of all skin types, from babies to the elderly as it is hypoallergenic, which means it wont cause a nasty reaction when applied to the skin.

The skin can absorb all the goodness from Olive oil providing relief from eczema, psoriasis, and many skin allergies.

Olive oil is rich in anti oxidants, which contributes to healthier skin by reversing oxidation and repelling damage causing, unnatural free radicals responsible for breakouts, diseases and other health problems.

A natural source of vitamins, Olive oil contains nutrients vital to helping you feel and look your best.

Rich in Vitamin A and E, Olive oil can boost your immunity and help improve the appearance of you skin, as well as containing beta-carotene, which helps stimulate new cell growth, promoting a more youthful appearance. 

Shea butter​ 

Shea Butter is a skin superfood that comes from the seeds of the fruit of the Shea (Karite) tree and that is naturally rich in vitamins A, E and F. It offers UV protection (it is SPF ~6) and provides the skin with essential fatty acids and the nutrients necessary for collagen production.  Shea butter is a favourite choice for body products.

Shea butter is also known to reduce inflammation. A 2010 study found that due to the cinnamic acid and other natural properties found, shea butter was anti-inflammatory. One compound in particular, lupeol cinnamate, was found to reduce skin inflammation and even potentially help avoid skin mutations.  This also makes it beneficial for people with a range of skin issues.

 Shea butter is used to cure rashes at skin level, cure scars, stretch marks, burns, athletes foot, stings, insect bites, muscle fatigue and even arthritis to name but a few.  Rich in vitamin A and E, Shea butter also packs a healthy dose of catechins, a vitamin that protects the skin from harmful UV rays, free radicals as well as from damages it suffers from the environment.

Palm oil​ 

Palm oil contains toctrieriols, which are members of the Vitamin E family.  Vitamin E, a strong antioxidant that helps skin to fight free radicals that damage the skin and cause fine lines and wrinkles.  The common form of vitamin E, tocopherol has long been used to treat many skin ailments and is found in many anti-aging products.

​Palm oil also contains a re-fatting agent that helps restore the hair and skin’s natural oils, providing a deep moisturising action that leaves skin soft and supple.

​Candeillia wax

​Candeillia Wax is a plant alternative to Bees wax which makes it a great alternative for Vegans.  Made from the Euphorbia antisyphilitica (an upright, leafless growing succulent approximately 2ft high).  The plant grows in dry, hot conditions and well drained calciferous soils. Found in abundance in and around Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert.

Candeillia wax locks in moisture and helps protect skin from the elements, allowing for a smooth application with a wonderful glide consistency, rich in nutrients and easily absorbed through the skin creates an instant barrier, locking in moisture. Candeillia wax reduces inflammation in many skin disorders and skin allergies.

 Candeillia wax is made from the plant Euphorbia antisyphilitica

 Almonds

Rich in Vitamin E, monosaturated fatty acids, proteins, potassium and zinc besides a number of other vitamins and minerals, makes this oil extremely good for your skin and hair.

Sweet Almond oil comes exclusively from the edible almond tree.(Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis) selectively cultivated for their sweet taste.

A mild, hypoallergenic oil, light in texture and can easily penetrate deep into the skin, softening and moisturising.  It Can aid in the relief of dry, itchy, irritated skin, especially eczema and psoriasis.

​Camellia seed oil

Also known a tea seed oil, is the actual green tea oil.

It comes from the seeds of the camellia sinoisis, the plant from which all the tea is made.  The oil is extracted from the seeds and is an outstanding natural hair conditioner and moisturiser, which makes this an excellent addition to our shampoo bar.

Ruth @ Urbanity xxx
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Vegan December Challenge

So I’ve been vegetarian for years, but last year I went vegan for around 6 months. Why didn’t it last? 


On one hand, and most obviously to those around me, it was my eating disorder. For me, bulimia was directly caused by prolonged malnutrition from anorexia. In the most basic terms, excluding any psychological factors, I had starved my body and therefore it wanted me to store food ready for the next famine, so when I did finally give in to my cravings and eat properly, I wanted to eat anything and everything, as quickly as possible. 

Therefore, when I embarked on a vegan diet, arguably a restrictive way of eating relative to a traditional western diet, it triggered those same instincts as those early days of recovery. In short, it led to a huge relapse into bulimia. 

Controversial though it seems, and perhaps lacking in self-compassion as my therapist might suggest,  that is still not a valid excuse. Although of course I needed to take it slow and reel it back in at the time, it doesn’t mean my morals are gone forever. Now more confident and certainly more clued up after nearly a year’s worth of research, i want to take on the challenge again, and review it at the end of December to see how its working alongside, rather than against, my recovery.




One of the biggest things for me was cheese. I never even ate much of the stuff before I made the change to vegan (clearly anorexia is not closely linked with a love of cheese!), but as soon as I made the switch to exclude dairy products, there was nothing I craved more than a big fat block of cheddar, melty mozzarella on pizza, crispy grilled halloumi or fresh feta in a greek salad.  I’ve heard countless people, myself included, arguing that “I could go vegan, but I’d miss cheese too much!” This is partly because (as a lot of research suggests) processed cheeses like those mentioned contain chemicals that cause real addiction, and like with cocaine, withdrawal symptoms are real too.


Why is dairy unethical?

1. Humans are the only creatures on earth that drink milk in adulthood, and the only ones to drink the milk of another creature. Not your mum, not your milk. Simple as that.

2. Calves of dairy cows are cruelly ripped away from their mother at birth. Dairy cows are forced to mechanically breastfeed with natural hormone cycles.

4. Many dairy cows and chickens are factory-farmed with very low quality of life and zero time outdoors. They actually develop real mental illnesses and huge behavioural problems.
5. Male chicks are quite literally ground up and killed in their masses as they are of no use to the industry.

And what about health and the environment?

I won’t go into it of course as this is not a food blog nor a science blog, but what I will say is that there is very little evidence that a plant-based diet isn’t the best, easiest and cheapest way to achieve optimum health for the majority of the population, as well as hugely reduced levels of toxic emissions leading to climate change.



For all the Netflix junkies out there, here is a list of some eye-opening documentaries that hammer home this theory. If straight-up horrifying slaughterhouse footage (if you’re more iron-stomached I urge you to watch Earthlings) ain’t your thing, check these out:

Food Choices

Hungry for Change

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (1 & 2)

Food Matters

Food Inc.

Vegucated

Forks over Knives

Fed Up

Cowspiracy (my personal favourite)

I’ll leave you with this: “When consuming animals is no longer a necessity, it becomes a choice.” 

In today’s world abundant with food choices, with most of us living in a westernised society where is is not necessary for survival to hunt for meat and fish, the only thing keeping us from questioning the status quo is our own choices. Not willpower, not fad diets, not being a hippy, but making informed choices on whether we still want to consume the way we do despite all the evidence that it goes against our morals. And admitting that we, as humans, no longer have the birth right to dismiss all other sentient beings as being on this earth to please our tastebuds.


Ruth @ Urbanity xxx
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