Hello, and welcome to the hardest ethical makeup review I’ve had to so far on ‘Pretty with Principles?’. Kat von D was actually the company, and person, who made me realise how difficult this process could be.
This entire personal investigation began after I picked up a friend’s makeup brush (I tend to go through other people’s makeup bags if they are left in any vicinity to me; a bad habit, but I suppose better than going through their bins or medicine cabinets) and was surprised to be told it was vegan. I kind of assumed all brushes were vegan now; it had not really occurred to me before that people might actually be applying makeup to their faces with any animal’s real fur. I then went to Barcelona and, as I always do when going to any country which has a Sephora, spent an excessive amount of time perusing the black and white aisles. I do feel that the only appropriate amount of time to spend in Sephora must be at least verging on excessive. I left feeling satisfied that I had discovered a new (for me, Kat von D has been creating excellent makeup since 2008), vegan makeup brand, and hurried back to tell the people I was with. I was met with a rather patronising ‘Kat von D is an anti-vaxxer, so I’m actually boycotting her too, but it’s a good start…’ Nightmare. Not only did I have to buy vegan, cruelty-free makeup, but even the beliefs of the CEO had to be in line with mine. I felt I had to do a bit more snooping, this time not through other people’s makeup bags, but proper research. And so, it seems, you had a similar experience. Why else would you be here?
Firstly, I want to say that I admire Kat von D as both a person and businesswoman SO MUCH. I am in awe of the company she built, and the ethos behind it. Her makeup is bold; it’s about expressing your personality rather than enhancing beauty to a socially acceptable level. Kat von D herself is absolutely inspiring in her self expression; her live streamed wedding was out of this world, her gothic mansion is completely unique, she’s a vocal animal rights activist, she broke a Guinness World Record for giving the most tattoos in 24 hours in…I could go on forever. She draws all the artwork on her products, having been a tattoo artist since 1998, when she quit school at 16 to become one. When Kat von D became a vegan, she felt that her makeup had to be in line with her beliefs. PETA have written an article entitled ‘More reasons to love Kat von D beauty‘, and in February the brand won, for the second time, the peta2 Libby Award for Best Cruelty-Free Cosmetic Company. There are articles written about her entitled ‘What can the beauty industry learn from Kat von D‘ . She’s amazing. Which makes the whole anti-vaccination situation so difficult for me.
In an Instagram post Kat von D wrote about her pregnancy, and how people were judging her for how she was bringing up her child as a vegan, giving birth with the help of a midwife, not vaccinating her child. Up until the last point, I completely agreed. Kat von D should not be criticised for the way she chooses to give birth, or what she wants to feed her child. Her child, her choice. People have even gone so far as to say her having a child is ‘undoing her veganism’, increasing her carbon footprint. Ridiculous. But. Not vaccinating your child does not only put them in danger, but others who cannot be vaccinated (such as really young children, very sick people, those with immune system problems). This is known as herd immunity; ‘the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease‘. Your choices surrounding vaccinations affect, to a certain degree, everyone you come into contact with. Snitchery, an amazing youtuber/beauty blogger posted a really interesting video, which explains this, as well as her own stance on this topic. This article was written by a paediatrician, and gives an insight into the frustration medical professionals feel with the anti-vaccination movement.
My sister was born at the exact time that Andrew Wakefield published his, now completely discredited, report linking MMR vaccinations to autism. This is the incident most people think of when discussing anti-vaxxers. If you don’t know much about Wakefield (currently dating Elle Macpherson… the world is a weird place), this article is very informative. My mum explained the dilemma she felt in whether to vaccinate my sister as at the time the report had not yet been fully debunked. But she did her research, talked to a qualified doctor (Wakefield has since been struck off the medical register), and vaccinated my sister. It boggles my mind that people can still support Wakefield (he apparently has a great following in America, with President Trump being one of his supporters). To be clear, Kat von D does not count herself as an anti-vaxxer, and has made no reference to Wakefield. I respect Kat von D far too much to believe she has made an uninformed, unresearched decision. It seems her fears come partly from watching anti-vaccination documentaries (she has said that it was also a documentary, ‘Forks over Knives’, which lead to her becoming a vegan) , and not trusting the large pharmaceutical companies behind the vaccinations, as explained in this excellent article by Anna Merlan. While I would also agree that massive pharmaceutical companies are not trustworthy and are in general just trying to make money, Merlan explains clearly why in terms of vaccinations this is not the case.
If the company Kat von D created had been named something else, not a problem. But as Snitchery pointed out in her video, Kat von D’s name is her brand. Her brand is her. When she turned vegan, her brand turned vegan. The artwork on her packaging is drawn by her. This is part of the reason I admire her so much, but it also means that what she does cannot, in my mind, be separated from her company. So, I have decided to not count Kat von D as a makeup brand I can buy for now. This makes me so upset, as Kat von D makeup is incredible quality, and the company’s ethos and general ethics are everything I support. If you are looking for cruelty-free makeup, or are focusing on the company rather than people associated with it, do buy it!! Try it!! You have to make up your own mind as to what you value, what matters to you, and what you disagree with; no one else can decide this for you. Please let me know what you think, message or comment below!!