By Morwenna Kearns
There are simply heaps of amazing vegan-friendly, ethical and eco-friendly beauty brands out there – a rainbow of options for make-up and skincare, from head to toe and everywhere in between. Hair colour and nail polish and lip gloss, oh my! And, believe me, I have tried a lot of them.
But what of the tools of the trade? Make-up brushes were traditionally made using real animal hair, a somewhat iffy practice ethically for many people and obviously not compatible with a vegan lifestyle. Synthetic brushes, on the other hand, are made using plastics. It's a bit of a conundrum for the eco-friendly beauty-lovers amongst us.
Luckily, it's getting much easier to find brushes that tick more ethical boxes. I tried out a selection from So Eco, a brand that promotes itself on high-quality accessories from responsibly sourced materials. Sustainable bamboo makes up the handles, the ferrules (the metal bits) are made using recycled aluminium and the brush bristles themselves are Taklon. This is a synthetic fibre, used in both make-up brushes and artists' paintbrushes, and is easier to clean than animal hair bristles.
The kit (£15) came packaged in a biodegradable and compostable box with a little window made from corn starch rather than plastic. The adhesives used on the packaging are water-based and solvent free and the ink is vegetable-derived, so it can all break down quite naturally.
I tried So Eco's round foundation brush, lip brush, angled contour brush and tapered blending brush, all smartly turned out with ivory-coloured handles and ferules in a rose gold shade. Suddenly my make-up bag looked a lot more glamorous.
Not being used to such professional kit (I said l love make-up; I didn't say I'd learnt any more about applying it since I was 15) I had to get used to applying foundation with a brush rather than my fingers, but found it eked out small amounts of liquid to provide great coverage. The lip brush was also useful to apply various colours from a colour corrector palette instead of lipstick, easily wipe-cleanable between green and orange shades and good for both blemishes (small) and eye bags (large). The finishing and blending brushes both carried powder well.
The aspect that stood out most was the softness of the bristles – genuinely kitten-gentle – and the sturdiness of the construction: you'll find no hairs moulting from these brushes.
So Eco supplies is kits in sturdy wraps made from unbleached natural cotton (which can presumably be thrown in the washing machine when they inevitably get covered in cosmetics). These have an ingenious design whereby they're a handy wallet to protect your brushes when travelling and, with a quick flip and refastening with Velcro, a stand as well. However, I found the wrap a little bulky for my already groaning make-up bag and generally find the less extra stuff the better, environment-wise.
Whether bought separately or as kits, So Eco's brushes are very affordable and look more expensive than they are – so much so you might be tempted by higher-end beauty brands.