Fierce Nerditude: Lazy Sunday: Choosing to Buy From An Indie Makeup Brand

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lazy Sunday: Choosing to Buy From An Indie Makeup Brand

I know, I'm doing this on Monday again. To be fair, though, I wrote this post on Sunday!

Also, a quick link drop: anyone interested in filling out a quick survey about my blog who hasn't already done so, can do so here. Thanks in advance!

Back to the topic at hand: One of the most common questions I get via email goes somewhere along the lines of "I was wondering if x indie company is legit. Do you know anything about it?" Honestly, though, while I've been reading about indie brands forever, I only started making purchases in February of this year. I haven't tried that many companies (though I'd like to be able to say that I have some day!) but I do have a "system" of sorts to decide if I'm willing to try a company if I stumble upon it, and I hope this helps those of you who have asked me about certain companies in a teach-a-man-to-fish sort of way. This post is long, but hopefully, it'll also be useful.

First off, some quick disclaimers: this isn't speaking about the actual quality of the shadows (different strokes for different folks, after all), but my personal willingness to buy from a company, which often depends on the factors listed below. In fact, a company could be a completely legitimate business even if it conflicts with quite a few of the below criteria: however, I still wouldn't make a purchase from them.
  • Ingredients Aren't Listed and The Seller Won't Tell You What They Are: You should be able to see what's actually in a product with relative ease before you buy it. If you don't see ingredients, contact the seller and let them know. They should be happy to let you know what they are. Hopefully after they know of this concern they'll start listing their ingredients on the listing itself.
  • Ingredients Are Listed Improperly: To know what proper listing of ingredients looks like, look at the ingredients labels that larger brands have (they'll either be on the back of the product, on the box, or on an insert in the box most of the time). If a company doesn't list properly, in your estimation, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't buy from them necessarily. They could have just made an honest mistake. Contact the seller and let them know that you think something may be problematic. They should either have an explanation about why the ingredients aren't listed improperly (if there was a mistake on your part) or they should take the feedback and change the information.
  • They Shouldn't Be Unreceptive/Hostile To Questions: Before I got my navel pierced, I contacted a lot of different piercing shops in my area to find out about prices and their practices. There was one shop in particular that I called, and remember very clearly. When I asked about their sanitizing procedures, the man I was speaking to was incredibly rude (and also happened to be the piercer). He became hostile and said, "No one has ever gotten an infection here. You wanna be the first?" Firstly, that claim is outlandish. How would he know that no one he pierced ever got an infection? Secondly, he didn't answer my question. With me as a potential customer and him as a person who was hopefully part of a sanitary operation, he should have been happy to let me know what he did to keep his piercees safe: the rest of the shops I contacted certainly were (though a few, from their tones, sounded amused, probably because I sounded too young judging from the fact that they ended their calls by asking my age and reminding me to bring ID if I came in). For all I know, maybe he was personally aware of the fact that none of his customers ever got an infection (doubt it), and he was running a sanitary operation (this is probably true, actually). He was even the cheapest/closest piercer I contacted (ten bucks and free starting jewelry/right down the block from my house). I still didn't go there. What I'm getting at by telling this story is that the person creating your makeup has your health in their hands as much as any piercer. It's not "understandable" if they get defensive when you ask about their safety practices. You're putting their products on your face, and probably even your eyes: they should be perfectly willing to assure you that you're making a safe decision in doing so.
  • They Shouldn't Make Unbelievable Claims: I touched on this above. You should feel this one out for yourself; if you feel like a claim about a product couldn't possibly be true, ask the company why this is true of their product. I read one listing for an amazing powder eyeshadow that never creases on anyone. When I asked the seller about it, they had no good explanation for why this might be. SPF also falls under this category. If a small mineral makeup company claims a specific SPF number, then they're making a claim that they probably aren't allowed to make. Usually, real SPF testing entails a product being applied to the actual skin of a person. Said skin is exposed to an artificial source of UV light, until it starts either darkening or burning. This is done on large groups of people and is very expensive. This testing needs to be performed on each shade of each product claiming the SPF number. If the formulation is ever changed at all (even if the SPF ingredient isn't altered) the testing needs to be redone. Only larger brands can afford this kind of testing.
  • Read Blogs and Watch Vlogs: Google "Company Name"+Review. Read up. Also google "Company Name"+Controversy, "Company Name"+Bad and "Company Name"+Haul. If they link to reviews on their own blog or site, read them as well. Do they provide reasonably critical reviews, rather than the ones that just gush (it's understandable if they omit reviews that plainly bash them or don't know about a review from a smaller blog--it's not as understandable if they claim to have both positive and negative reviews, but don't list blog posts from larger blogs that fall on the respectfully critical side). Also remember to read comments. A lot of the times other customers of the company leave comments about their experiences which may or may not reflect the same experience as the reviewer (hey, not everyone has a blog of their own). This could be important, as sometimes reviewers are provided with product samples free of charge or are otherwise solicited for reviews--that doesn't necessarily mean the reviewer is being dishonest, but it should be pointed out that it would be incredibly foolish on the company's part to ask for a review and then give the reviewer anything but the best service/products. Sometimes the company owner will comment, as well: it's important to read their reactions particularly to negative reviews--if someone is rude to a reviewer for giving their honest opinion, is that really someone you want to buy from? Are they a company that sends Cease and Desists to negative reviewers? Also, check blogs that you trust for no-buy lists (Phyrra's "Banished" list is a favorite of mine) and make sure you're informed about why a company might be on their list and if it's relevant to you: for example, I, personally, wouldn't necessarily avoid Madd Style because of its presence on that list. Hauls are useful because they can often let you know about things that listings might not (packaging, turnaround, complications, etc.)
  • Read Their Listings and Policies: There are some phrases that should automatically tell you that a company is bad news. Asinine statements along the lines of, "x ingredient is not approved by the FDA... yet!" is one of them. You have no idea how many listing for glow in the dark things say stupid stuff like that. If they are a US based company, they should be following FDA regulations on ingredients (whether they agree with them or not). If you disagree with certain guidelines, you can feel free to do what you will with a product once it's in your possession; it's your body, after all. In my opinion, however, a company is definitely wrong to imply that these FDA guidelines ought to be disobeyed because, hey, some day those guys at the FDA will see the light and glow in the dark eyeshadow will be perfectly safe. They have no way of knowing that's true, and they shouldn't be telling you that. "No fillers" is a borderline case. There are legitimate companies that don't use actual fillers who use this phrase, but there are also repackagers who are selling unfinished products to you who seem to regard ingredients added for the purpose of adhesion/slip/wear as "fillers." These people are, at best, uneducated about mineral makeup and, at worst, out to make a quick buck off of you. Many (but not all) of the legitimate companies out there will list what they mean by fillers (talc, etc.). If they don't specify, contact them and ask. If they say something telling you that it's "pure, undiluted color" or something like that without giving a real answer, I'd say avoid.
  • Do Your Homework: If you know very little about a company, and even a Google search doesn't yield much, look up the ingredients yourself. Be your own ingredients cop: it's okay! I like to use this list for a reference (it's for the US FDA--if an indie company is based elsewhere, I'd use their local regulatory agency's information as regulations vary and holding foreign companies to US regulations would be silly). 

    Other tips:
    • Ask Someone: Seriously, this post wasn't to discourage you guys from asking via email or comment; I just thought I'd give you some insight into my own thought process when examining an Indie makeup store. Whether it's me or some other blogger with more experience, most people are happy to share whatever info they have (including me!) Finding out about good or bad indie makeup can often be a very word-of-mouth sort of affair.
    • Test Communication: Try asking a question to gauge their answers. Are they as helpful as you'd like them to be? Do they respond quickly? This can, hopefully, give you an idea of how communication will be after the order is placed (which can be a really important factor with indie stuff).
    • Check Their Turn-Around: Is it too long for you? Are you okay with getting your makeup in a week? Two? Three? This is especially important for those who usually buy from big brands with quick shipping. Turn-around can be annoying to get used to, but it's important to be patient as a lot of indie sellers put their items together as orders come in.
    All in all, there are a lot of great indie brands out there and supporting a smaller business is a great thing to do, but it's also important to remember that not everyone who ventures into indie makeup has the most honorable of intentions. Just be careful and you should hopefully be fine!

    So guys, do you take the same things into account that I do? Is there anything important you think I missed?

    I hope this has been helpful. For more info on Lazy Sundays, click here. To submit a question, either leave a comment or send an email to me at fiercenerditude@hotmail.com.
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