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the Beauty Biz Gives Animals the Brushoff
Although cosmetic companies claim otherwise, mounting evidence indicates animal hair makeup brushes are anything but cruelty-free.
By Susanna Speier
hen Emmy-nominated hairstylist a n d m a k e u p a r t i s t Pe g g y Hannaman-Jones used to ask colleagues on the studio set, “What do you think happens to animals when they make a makeup brush?” she noticed their general tendency to migrate to the opposite end of the makeup trailer. Because really, who wants to focus on such an uncomfortable subject? But Hannaman-Jones hated thinking, every time she picked up a makeup brush, that an animal might have been harmed. Although various manufacturers had assured her that the animal hair used for makeup brushes had been shaved off the source animal, much as sheep’s wool is sheared, she had her doubts. Searching for Evidence “The first step is to figure out where it is coming from,” said Pierre Grzybowski, FurFree Campaign manager at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who


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believes that companies have an obligation to inform customers which animal their makeup brushes use. Natural hair makeup brushes in the US may be made from many different kinds of animals, including squirrel, badger, raccoon dog, pony, sable, goat, weasel, fox tail and ox. Animal hair cosmetic line representatives interviewed for this story stated that their products were derived from animals who had been shaved or sheared, rather than killed, for their hair. None, however, were able to provide photographic evidence of sheared and/or shaved animals ostensibly not harmed in the manufacturing process. “I find it very hard to believe that animal brushes are being made in any way that doesn’t involve killing the animals,” said Grzybowski. “We’re still investigating exactly where these hairs come from, but based on preliminary research

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we suspect that some of the hair is tied into the fur industry in some way.” In other words, if Grzybowski is correct, animals are suffering and being destroyed to make women look beautiful. HSUS has definitive lab evidence that raccoon dog hair is being used in makeup brushes sold in the US—a fact confirmed b y o n l i n e a d v e r t i sing—and that sometimes raccoon dogs are skinned alive in China. An internationally sponsored report that was updated in 2007, “Fun Fur? A report on the Chinese fur industry,” details with photographs the grisly production methods. These practices were also documented by the Beijing News in 2005. However, there is currently no clear evidence linking the practice to the hair used in making makeup brushes. “Here is what I want to see,” said Grzybowski, “I want to see evidence of these operations where the animal’s hair is being

taken off and they are not being harmed. Show me the shaved animals that aren’t being killed and I’ll believe it. I’ve never seen it. If this really were the case and this truly was a selling point, then they would have made this evidence available to the public.” Furthermore, Grzybowski added, it’s logistically not feasible. “I would pay money to see someone try to shave a badger,” he scoffed. Creating Alternatives Lack of compelling evidence was enough to convince Hannaman-Jones, an animal-lover, to create her own line of brushes. Although prevailing industry wisdom was that synthetics would be less effective, she had confidence in her design concept. “In seminars they teach you that animal hair is used with powders and crèmes, and synthetics are used for liquids,” Hannaman-Jones explained. But after cutting and testing more than 300 prototypes, many of which she cut by hand, the Sherman Oaks-based designer came up with a synthetic that worked beautifully at picking up powders. Her Branded J Collections uses Taklon, a filament made from nylon that is dyed and baked to make it softer and more absorbent. Branded J brushes come to a fine point at the end because, she concluded, “What matters is the way it is cut.” Branded J isn’t the only compassionate brush designer. Urban Decay was one of the first makeup companies to develop a 100 percent synthetic makeup brush line. In their search for cruelty-free natural hair for their brushes, cofounder Wende Zomnir and her Urban Decay partners soon discovered that, “The animals aren't running free, frolicking in an open field. The thought of animals dying or living in a cage so [consumers] could have makeup brushes” was so


distressing that they developed Good Karma Brushes, also made from Taklon. Consumers tend to think of anything coming from nature as being the better option, but concern for animal welfare prompted Hollywood makeup artist Paige Padgett to stop purchasing animal hair brushes. Given the fact that “almost every makeup line how has a synthetic alternative,” it was easy for Padgett to make the switch. “Companies are finally starting to get on board and make synthetic stuff,” she noted. “Options that were not available two or three years ago are available now.” Synthetics have other benefits, as well. In addition to being easier to clean, synthetic brushes are “better for crèmes, crème concealers, crème eyeshadow, foundation and moisturizer,” noted Padgett. And they’re easy to work with, she said. “Every consumer can easily use synthetics.” Padgett is particularly enthusiastic about reasonably priced EcoTools, which have the added advantage of being available in major drugstore chains. Follow the Bouncing Bunny In a confusing labeling campaign reminiscent of organic food certification, “We have two versions of our bunny logo,” said Ann Marie Dori, senior coordinator of Caring Consumer at PETA. The cruelty free label “indicates only that the company adheres to a no animal testing policy; and the cruelty-free and vegan version indicates that in addition to not testing on animals, the company uses no animal derived ingredients in their products,” explained Dori. The non-vegan companies, she added, are “not 100 percent cruelty-free in the fullest sense of the word,” but since “they have taken a significant step toward eliminating animal suffering [it is] important to recognize the meaningful steps that any individual or company takes to help animals.” Exacerbating the confusion, the logo of the Leaping Bunny Program, which is administered by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, acknowledges companies that have pledged to eliminate animal testing from all stages of cosmetic product development. It has stricter animal testing standards than PETA’s bunny logo, but does not

address animal derived ingredients. A May 2009 Gallup poll reports that 35 percent of Americans are morally opposed to buying and wearing animal fur, a concern that likely applies to makeup brushes derived from animals. PETA's Caring Consumer Web site encourages those consumers to ask their favorite makeup companies that still use real animal hair to switch to Taklon fibers. Since we purchase these products in an effort to be gentle to our own bodies, it makes sense to extend that tender care to other living creatures.

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more. £, also available at Aveda, Aveda stores. hen Emmy-nominated hairstylist and £ Branded Jartist Peggy Hannaman-Jones makeup Collection,,on the studio used to ask colleagues also set, “What do you think Beauty Supply, available at Frends happens to animals when they make a makeup brush?” she noticed 5270 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, their North Hollywood to migrate to the general tendency 91607, opposite end of the makeup trailer. Junkie, 818.769.3834; and Makeup Because really, who wants to focus on this uncomfortable online at, subject? But Hannaman-Jones hated thinking, and coming soon to a every time she picked up a Tarzana location. makeup brush, that an animal Duane Reade, Rite By Susanna Speier Aid, Target and


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might have been harmed. Although various manufacturers had assured her that the animal hair used for makeup brushes had been shaved off the source animal, much as sheep’s wool is sheared, she had her doubts. Searching for Evidence

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