We speak with Internationally renowned, award-winning, cruelty-free MUA Jaineesha about her transition to vegan makeup and sustainable living.
What is your ethnic and professional background?
I am a British born Hindu, Gujarati. I am a vegan make-up artist mainly working with Asian brides within the South Asian wedding industry. I’m also very passionate about creating awareness around taboo subjects such as periods, colourism, and gender equality. I’m passionate about talking about how to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle and sustainable living within beauty but also day-to-day practices.
What are your main values as a make-up artist?
So I initially started within the industry in 2011. I’ve always had a passion for makeup, but I never looked at the impact that the beauty industry had on the environment and also how the products were being made. In 2017, I came across the term cruelty-free beauty as I started researching on how the products are made and what the production line could look like.
To put it in plain simple language I was absolutely shocked that our products are being tested on animals to be put onto the shelf so that we can apply them. I’ve always felt that beauty is a luxury and not a necessity, therefore it shouldn’t need to be at the expense of the environment or animals. I managed to change my personal care and my bridal kit which I would use on clients to 100% cruelty-free by 2018. It wasn’t an easy switch because at that point it was really difficult to find out which companies tested on animals, and which didn’t. I had to email companies because information wasn’t as easily accessible as it is nowadays. Usually you can go onto the website landing page and find a logo that will tell you about the company’s ethics.
The cruelty-free change initially came because my little sister went vegan overnight and it made me think about the products that I was using on myself. So once I had a 100% cruelty-free kit I did start thinking ‘why should I be applying products that may have animal products within them especially because I am vegetarian.’ The whole process started over again and I managed to get 100% vegan kit by 2019. It’s been an investment and it’s not been easy as the quality of the products and the finish that I can create with the products is really important to me.
What inspired you to act as a catalyst for more sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share?
So my sister watched a documentary about the way the animals are treated within the dairy industry and she shared her experience with us and decided she would become vegan. We are already vegetarian in the family and instead of thinking about my diet, I thought about the products that I was applying on myself and also on my clients. I do feel we should be voting with our money and that’s why I think we should be researching how products are made and each company’s ethics. By the time I managed to have a completely vegan kit for myself and for my clients, it started filtering through the rest of my life.
I started looking at the cleaning products, and what I use for my laundry, the types of clothes that I’m wearing, and the type of food we were eating. Now I pretty much eat a completely plant-based diet and have felt that it’s been better for me, but also I’m hoping that it has a positive effect on the environment.
Being South Asian do you find any backlash about your career choice from family friends or society at large? How did you overcome it?
Becoming a make-up artist definitely wasn’t something my parents thought I would pick. When I first mentioned it they were quite keen that I would attend university. I wanted to do makeup at university but they urged me to pick something else. So I went for Psychology which I did enjoy at the time, but once I finished university I think they saw that my heart wasn’t really in it and just let me pursue what I wanted.
I think generally my parents are very happy with the path I chose. I do know that my friends and family are very proud of what I do, not only because of the business itself but also the awareness that I am able to create through it.
How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable?
It’s something that’s happened over the past four years – I don’t think it can happen overnight. I found making small switches has been easier rather than completely changing everything. I also believe that using what you already have first, is probably the most sustainable option.
If we were to buy anything new, we look at eco-friendly options that are more sustainable, but also buy less and try to upcycle what we already have – it is definitely something that we enjoy doing. I found it has been kinder to our bank balance and also kinder to the environment. We have actively changed our diet and gardening has become quite a big part of our life now, which it wasn’t this time last year and we are thoroughly enjoying it. All of my beauty products have changed from what I used five years ago.
Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate emergency among South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving these issues?
I think the South Asian community as a whole is a very adaptable community. So many of us or our parents or grandparents have moved to different countries for a better life, or have been displaced and have done their absolute best to give a better future for the generations to come.
I do also think they have done the best they can with what they have at the time. I do think the climate change topic overall, isn’t spoken about that much, but I know I like to speak to my friends, cousins and family about it and share our views about what we think, what new habits we’re trying to make.
I think money is quite a large part that plays into switching over and also it may seem like a not so modern way of living. I remember when speaking to my mum initially about new things that I was doing at home or trying out her response was ‘oh that’s what I did when I was younger and that’s what I saw my grandparents doing.’ So I do think sustainability is actually deep rooted within our culture and has kind of gotten lost or forgotten along the way, due to displacement or moving to a different country or not living within extended families and also being influenced by western cultures to some extent.
Conversation is key – it might seem like a big change, it might seem like an inconvenient change, it might seem like it’s more money savvy to stay living the way you are, but what I found is that
We should just keep talking about it, sharing ideas of how we can be more sustainable and talk about how our grandparents lived in the habits that they had.
What have been your greatest successes and learnings?
I think my greatest learning probably has been understanding that my grandparents actually lived a very sustainable life. They grew their own veg, upcycled pretty much everything, they fixed everything that they could – there was no such thing as single use and sharing and caring was a big part of life. I’ve also really love the fact that we are actually so much in control of the effect that we have on the environment. We can adapt new habits such as gardening, growing your own veg, shopping at a refill store, buying cruelty-free and vegan beauty that will all help to have a positive impact on the climate. Many popular beauty brands still test on animals, use harsh chemicals and are packaged in unsustainable packaging.
Many popular beauty brands still test on animals, use harsh, unnatural chemicals and come in unsustainable packaging. A lot of these brands are actively promoted by influencers. Do you think a more vegan and sustainable lifestyle, particularly when it comes to makeup and beauty, is going to gain momentum?
Absolutely, I think over the past few months and especially during the pandemic, we have seen a big switch more companies are talking about it. I think sometimes it might just be to gain more sales, but I do think a lot of companies are trying to do their best to change and have the least impact on the environment.
I think we do forget that change doesn’t happen overnight and we can’t expect beauty brands to change their habits overnight. However, I do look at companies such as Estee Lauder and L’Oreal to make large changes more quickly than small brands, as they have the funds and resources to be able to do so. I do also hope that more influencers pick brands that are doing their best to be more sustainable, however
one thing that I’d love to say to people reading this is try and follow influencers that have the same ethics as you in mind when promoting.
How can sustainability be made “sexier” in the beauty industry, whilst ensuring the process doesn’t become another prey to greenwashing?
I think it’s getting there. I feel like people who didn’t even know what vegan, cruelty-free meant last year are now buying products that are.
When I first started letting people know that I had a cruelty-free makeup kit and had change my products from Mac and Bobbi Brown to brands that were cruelty free, I did have quite a few clients say that they didn’t want me to use those products on them because they didn’t trust the longevity even though I had done all the research and trials beforehand.
I’m not sure if sexier is what it needs to be, I feel that the right education will help the penny drop for a lot of people like it did for me. Also something that is sexy now may not be sexy 20 years down the line and we want to make sure that sustainability, cruelty free beauty and vegan beauty is something that sticks. Hopefully in the next 20 years that is the only type of product that will be available.
Are there any particular brands or sustainable businesses you encourage people to use?
Generally a lot of small brands will be cruelty-free and maybe vegan. There’s such a huge list of them now and there’s more and more brands coming up every day. My favourite ones are Tarte which are cruelty free and have some vegan products, Nude by Nature, Lush cosmetics, Pixi beauty, & Illamasqua just to name a few.
How do you check if a beauty brand is actually sustainable?
I think sustainability is different for everyone. For me, the main points are if they are cruelty-free and vegan. After that I will look at packaging however, for some people they may want to look at the actual ingredients and if they are organic and how they’ve been sourced. People could look at the carbon footprint of the product.
I think the best place to start is to check the FAQ section and the information that is available on the website and if you are still unsure and you have certain questions, email the company and check if they have the information that you need.
Another way to check if a brand is cruelty free is to check if it’s been sold in China. Many large brands like Tarte and CoverFx and Urban Decay don’t sell in China. However large brands like Mac and Bobbi Brown still do.
What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment?
I think this is difficult because we can get so easily sucked into what our friends are doing, what we see on the TV and social media. The main thing is to be true to yourself and do as much research as possible and don’t give into trends. I don’t feel like you need the new best thing around. Nowadays there are so many beauty brands that are cruelty-free and vegan at such a cheap and affordable price, so make sure you’re going with them rather than what you’ve seen on the last Instagram ad.
Find out more about Jaineesha here: https://linktr.ee/Jaineesha
Instagram: @jaineesha_ & @jaineesha_mua
Image credits: MoonCup Ltd @emma_croman.