My Vegan Glow-Up

Truth be told, I have never been all that worried about the fashion or beauty industries — except for where animal rights are concerned. I’ve written countless articles and reports about animal cruelty within these industries as they relate to animal testing, the fur trade, and other very unpleasant facets of fashion and beauty. I spent a lot of time researching who was using truly vegan ingredients in their products as well as which companies I, and by extension the animal rights activists and vegans within my sphere of influence, should avoid and refuse support monetarily. When I say a lot of time, I mean a lot of time. We’re talking years, here.

A lot of us kooky animal rights activists have fought long and hard for there to be cruelty-free options for men and women in both clothing and the products they apply to their bodies. It wasn’t until quite recently, though, that a vegan gal or guy had a complete range of options that they could feel confident were 100% cruelty-free and without animal by-products. There’s been such an explosion of new vegan beauty companies and clothing lines that I have begun research into these businesses for a new book to help vegans and animal rights activists make the best choices for themselves — and the animals.

If you’ve ever done research for such a project, you probably know that there’s an inevitability of using yourself as a test subject. I wrote to dozens of online vegan beauty vendors to ask for samples for the purposes of researching and writing a how-to book on ethical beauty and sartorial options. My PO box could hardly keep up the demand from the generosity of these companies, and I soon found myself with a cluttered bathroom counter, standing before my mirror thinking ‘crap, how does one contour?’.

Now, I’m not saying I never wore makeup before this time — I’ve always had a cruelty-free powder on stand-by and have previously purchased ethical lipsticks and the like for special occasions like the birthdays of loved ones and the odd New Year’s Eve party. Standing in front of my mirror with all my unpackaged samples, however, I realized I had no clue what I was doing. What in the world is eye brightener? Why does one need to prime one’s face?

What happened next was me grabbing my iPad and a bar stool from the kitchen island and watching dozens of YouTube instructional videos. Hesitantly, I would pick up a fragrant cruelty-free primer and apply it under my eyes the way the fellow on the video showed me. I picked up the delicate brushes I’d purchased on my own from a reputable business and carefully introduced nuance and mystery to my features simply by tracing them along various parts of my face with appropriate color choices. When I was done, I locked my tablet and stared at myself for a good full minute.

I looked like a clown. I smiled and giggled at myself and used my fingertips to try and blend this better, nip this away, etc. The results were more comical than beautiful, but my heart swelled with emotion, because I’d met my goal. I had done what I’d intended to do. I’d proven to myself that anyone could wear a full face of beautiful, cruelty-free products, and that, my friends, is empowering, even if you do look like a clown.

It wasn’t the fault of the products, of course. I took a shower and tried again. I began to put a little bit of natural-looking makeup on before going to work in the mornings, and soon learned how to even accomplish such a thing. Within a week, I had grasped the basics. Over the past several months, I’ve gone from garish to glam, if I do say so myself, when I do have the desire and take the time to apply a full face of makeup.

My friends were so floored at first that I didn’t know whether to be incredibly flattered or a little offended. I didn’t need to wear makeup, of course, and they assured me of this themselves even while admiring my YouTube inspired looks — pulled off by a vegan, using vegan products.

The stereotypical image of the female vegan/animal rights activist is a cruel caricature summoned by people who have a regrettable propensity to ignore what harm they may cause. I’ve heard many women and men defend their usage of ethically irresponsible (if not downright deplorable, depending on the company) products because there are no cruelty-free alternatives. When shown proof to the contrary, I’ve often gotten an impatient eye roll as they assure me that there’s no way the cruelty-free alternative could actually be as good as the “real thing”. When I ask them for reasoning behind this thought, I never (to this day) have received anything grounded in facts.

I feel comfortable with myself when I look in the mirror regardless of whether it’s my own “naked” skin, dark circles under my eyes, the odd blemish here or there, or whether it’s my “glow up” face, flawlessly applied hyper-pigmented lip color. I’m no model. I’m not even the type to want to put my face out there on Instagram or the like. What’s been most empowering to me as a vegan and animal rights activist is that I’ve proven to myself that there are hordes of affordable and gorgeous alternatives to brands that exploit animals that anyone, no matter who you are, where you’re from, how you identify, what your preferred style is, etc., can make the switch. I always knew this, of course, but with looking at the scattered products on my bathroom counter and my own occasionally polished face, I’ve set out not only to prove it to myself, but to others, as well.

FOLLOW SHENITA ETWAROO : twitter.com/shenitaetwaroo


Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on May 12, 2017.