The term “fair trade” pops up pretty frequently nowadays. It’s everywhere from produce stickers and chocolate bar labels to bags of coffee, dried grains, and wine. But when it comes to health and beauty products, how does fair trade come into play, and why does it matter?
The Choices We Make
Sadly, many skincare and beauty products use agricultural components that are tended to by marginalized workers. One of the many goals of shopping for fair trade products is stomping out the neglect and abuse of underpaid and overworked laborers.
Sure, you can buy a tinted moisturizer or lip balm on the fly at a discount store without giving it much thought, but the choices we make as consumers matter. Literally every purchase we make affects supply and demand, and when it comes to beauty products, let's face it—there’s a lot of cheap junk out there.
Beyond being unsafe and harmful to the environment, many cosmetics and skincare makers take advantage of poor farmers and perpetuate the suffering of workers who are exploited in makeshift factories. Besides providing cut-rate wages, some of these entities exploit children, as seen with the child labor frequently used to produce shea butter, mica, cocoa butter, and carnauba wax.
Making a Difference
Choosing certified fair trade beauty products could mean the difference between life and death for many underprivileged individuals—most frequently women and children.
When you support manufacturers who practice fair trade policies, you send a message that there is a demand for products that are made ethically, sustainably, and with respect for human life and the environment.
And as far as our lotions, potions, lipsticks, and rouge, it's the same thing. Fair trade certification ensures that a product and the components used to create it are safe and clean (aka non-toxic), responsibly, and sustainably produced. The World Fair Trade Organization requires that vendors follow certain guidelines in order to obtain fair trade certification. Companies must verify that their ingredients are purchased at a fair price, they must provide safe working conditions, and be transparent and accountable in their dealings.
Additionally, the WFTO asks them for a commitment to non-discrimination, gender equality, and freedom of association. They need to create opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers and ensure that they do not use child or forced labor. Another biggie: They must demonstrate that they respect the environment, going beyond using flowery language to market themselves as “green” or “earth-friendly.”
Be Part of the Movement
By being cognizant of our collective purchasing power and taking a moment before mindlessly clicking “add to cart”, we’re campaigning for change and helping people around the world. That’s worth its weight in gold.
Beyond becoming a more conscious consumer, try spreading the word about fair trade cosmetics and skincare to your friends and family. Turning those in your social circle on to a cool new lotion, scrub, or facial cleanser is an easy way to shine a light on the importance of shopping for fair trade products.
Let’s all do our part—one eye cream, mascara, and lipstick at a time.
This article was written by Anna Maria Giambanco DiPietro
Anna Maria is a copywriter based in Santa Barbara County, California. She draws from her experience as a beauty and wellness professional, plant-based cook, and graphic artist to create approachable, educational content. Anna Maria is also a wine writer with WSET Level 2 with distinction certification.