Freelance Life

What does a Conscious Beauty professional look like?

Whether you identify as an ethical, green, holistic, organic or sustainable beauty professional, what makes one a conscious artist is having a practice built on a belief system defined by a strong moral code. Founding member and holistic makeup artist, Sjaniël Turrell breaks down what it means to be a conscious beauty professional.


sustainability education for beauty professionals

Table of Contents


At CBU, we chose to identify our belief systems and moral code as makeup artists under the word ‘Conscious’ since the word represents conscious thought going into every aspect and impact of our craft, but the list of words used to describe individuals who align their ethics with their work are varied and perhaps confusing as there is no industry standard – we are in new territory here.


However you may have arrived to read this article, it is becoming clear that the need for positive and impactful change is necessary in all creative fields of work and that more and more people are seeking out ways to improve their ethical impact.  You may have been searching for a community such as this one, that champions and guides you into implementing your own moral codes into your everyday or, perhaps, you have a valuable client who has asked you about using more ethical and environmentally friendly products when working with them.   Whatever your reason for landing here – the question at hand is “What makes a conscious makeup artist?”


Having worked in the ‘green beauty’ field exclusively for close on 8 years now, getting to know many incredible and influential humans along the way, it has become more and more apparent that for many, aligning yourself as ‘Clean’ or ‘Cruelty free’ as a makeup artist has become some sort of ‘badge’ to wear. Most of the clients I work with personally are involved in the wellness or sustainable fashion sectors in some way or another and use conscious beauty products themselves. Too often I have had feedback from commercial shoots they’ve done with makeup artists who identify as ‘having a clean beauty kit’ only to find out that only one or two products used on set actually fit that bill.


As CBU, we have set out to clear up the confusion around, and also set an industry standard for, what a ‘conscious makeup artist’ looks like.  The one thing that rings true for all 5 founding members of CBU is that the products we choose to use and the way we choose to work is based on our ethical and moral convictions and a call for change across, not only our industry, but all industries.  This has never been about being ‘ahead of the game’ or what’s in or ‘woke’ right now – it is a complete lifestyle which transcends work to personal life and vice versa.


3 Main ‘Points of Compromise’

There are 3 main ‘points of compromise’, as I like to call them, that will make you suddenly ‘see’ everything in a new light when it comes to beauty and the cosmetics industry and probably inspire change in the way you do things.

1. Ethics

Ethics seems to be the easiest one to grasp in today’s world – who wouldn’t want to make sure that their products are cruelty-free and not being tested on animals, for example?  

Most big conglomerates are well aware that if their products aren’t in some way cruelty-free or vegan certified, that they will start losing customers – a great deal of awareness has been brought to this sector of the industry and more artists are committing to using only products in these certified categories, but it goes much deeper than simply vegan or cruelty free.  

  • Do you know where and how your products are produced?  
  • Are the people producing them earning a decent living wage?  
  • When you think about ingredients are you only concerned about animal derived ingredients or do you understand that synthetic ingredients are made of petrochemicals that are harmful to the environment and also destroy animal and human habitats?  

There is also the aspect of working in an ethical way. There are so many questions to ask and the answer to most of these questions in the mainstream are not very positive.  Knowing the ethics of the brands you use is an imperative part of choosing which products you fill your kit with and that information will be easy to find with brands that have nothing to hide – these include FULL ingredients lists, a story behind the brand or their manufacturing methods and social or environmental impact programmes they’re part of.

2. Health

Health is a little trickier to decipher as you may not know or ever have considered that your beauty products may be impacting your health in any way.  

I’m not simply talking about your skin here – although a skin reaction is a sure-fire way to get you to pay attention.  I’m talking long-term hormonal or autoimmune issues that you may never have linked directly to cosmetic ingredients.   The reality is that almost all mainstream makeup brands rely on thousands of synthetic man-made chemicals to create sought after textures and colours because it’s cheaper and easier than doing so with natural-occurring chemical ingredients alone.  


The majority of these chemicals have not been subjected to long-term safety studies as they relate to overall health and yes, many of them can and do absorb into your skin (as with sunscreen chemicals)  and deeper into your bloodstream and organs.  Now, as some scientists believe, these amounts may be negligible for negative impact on your wellbeing or not yet ‘proven’ to be detrimental, but considering how many products we use every single day, plus the overall pollution in our modern environments from the air we breath, the type of light we’re exposed to, the food we eat and quality of water we drink, our bodies are definitely feeling the impact. 


Chronic and autoimmune diseases are at the highest level in history and many have no known or clear cause.  Natural and organic brands that adhere to the COSMOS standard of certification ensure that only a very strict list of safe synthetic chemicals are allowed to be used in formulation and these are the brands that we champion and recommend you focus on when filling up your kit.

3. Sustainability

Sustainability is another important talking point – we know that the Earth and all it’s ecosystems are in a dire state of emergency and that this is the biggest issue of our generation –  living more sustainably is not merely a novel and positive lifestyle choice, it is essential. 

When it comes to working as a makeup artist this means making conscious choices around the tools you use; buying biodegradable and organic disposables such as plastic-free cotton buds, rounds and wipes or getting into a routine of reusable and washable buds, wipes and spoolies which are becoming more and more readily available. 

Educating yourself about which materials degrade and grow faster in the environment (e.g. bamboo), learning how to separate and recycle your empty product containers and using Terracycle programmes are just some of the ways to work more sustainably.

 Most organic and naturally certified brands will have some sort of sustainability programme in place, from developing and using better packaging to implementing better manufacturing practices, off-setting their carbon footprint and supporting social impact schemes.  

This is the one area where large corporations can afford to be on track and are making changes and this is certainly a positive for smaller enterprises that cannot afford to invent and engineer their own and can therefore adopt these new inventions readily.  

However, intelligent packaging alone does not a conscious product make – ingredients and ethics matter.

Top Tips for Developing Your Practice

Putting these points into practice can be challenging and expensive, the following are some pointers on how to implement change in the most practical way. 

  • Start to incrementally change your products one section at a time as the need arises. 
  • Don’t dump old products – finish products that you can use and replace them with better alternatives. Waste is not a sustainable practice.
  • Ask retailers if they offer professional discounts for makeup artists. 
  • Don’t stock up on entire ranges from a single brand – no one conscious brand caters for everything (this applies to professionals). 
  • Read, watch and learn from other makeup artists to find out which products work well for different on-set needs.
  • Try samples wherever possible before buying. 
  • Share and swap products and PR samples with other conscious makeup artists and friends – oftentimes a product expires before it’s empty, so filling up and dividing into empty (disinfected) containers is a good way of understanding product textures without too much investment.  
  • Don’t be swayed or enticed by pretty packaging – if you’ve chosen a path of conscious beauty don’t be lured back to popular brands that don’t tick your ethical boxes. 
  • Be aware of greenwashing – big brands know that ‘clean beauty’ is en-vogue and will make claims that aren’t necessarily backed up by their ingredient’s list. 
  • Depending on which sector you work in, not everything will be available for your needs in clean cosmetics – buy the best option you can find. 
  • Be honest about the products you use – in some situations you cannot avoid using synthetic products (i.e. specific bright colours or effects), be clear about what you’re using and why, especially if it matters to your client. 
  • Connect with a like-minded community – our age of social media thankfully makes this easy. 
  • Research and learn continuously – there is so much information out there and so much to learn.


Above all, have integrity and use best practice – if you say you are conscious and ethical, then be that. 

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