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We live in a world where vegan manicures are “extreme beauty treatments”

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Remember when the word extreme was reserved for severe situations and sports drink marketing?

Harpers Bazaar posted a recent beauty review for vegan manicures and pedicures, and had no trouble labelling such a procedure as being outrageous. Indeed, they consider having their claws painted with cruelty free and formaldehyde-less polish as intense as other treatments that were tested, like eyebrow tattooing, vitamin IV drips, and hair contouring (how invasive). Apparently, forgoing animal use and the toxic cocktails we’re used to is on the same playing field as permanent body modification and medical intervention. Why is that an option that doesn’t include animal parts, animal testing, or harsh chemicals is more out-there than the customary crap we’re being sold?

As well as removing animal products and testing, the Faby polishes tested nix the “big five” toxins that are industry standard; DBP, tolune, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor. Yup, pretty “extreme” to think people wouldn’t want harsh plastics and preservatives on their living, growing body parts anymore than they’d want to wear animal byproducts. So while we can echo the “eeks” exclaimed at each, this is what we’ve all come to expect from the cosmetics we covet. The test guru feels “oddly smug in the knowledge that my nails will soon be in tip-top, toxin-free shape,” but I can’t help but reflect on what should be total discomfort for where we’ve all ended up, and not the need to convince people into believing in the vegan solution. Save for forgoing nail treatments altogether, animal and chemical free products should be the expectation.

The HB test subject illuminates that the average misconceptions about vegan beauty likely keep people away; that it can’t look as good, that it can’t perform as good, and that it will be shockingly different from non-vegan practices somehow (they were seriously surprised a hand-massage remained). The testers bias is never hidden, with the word “honestly” precluding each insult to the idea of vegan nail care that’s dropped. Their disgust for the revelations about what is hiding at the end of non-vegan fingertips isn’t hidden, either, but opposition to cancer-causing additives is as standard as vegan shaming at this point. So it ends up being laid out as a choose your own adventure of sorts; continue to harm others and yourself for fab nails, or take on the “extreme” choice of doing things so slightly different than the way you already do things, also for fab nails.

The tested salon says the number of requests for natural treatments has risen, but with vegan prejudices like this piece telling consumers that we need animal products to look our best, it’s hard to imagine morality will help people make the shift. The reviewer gives her tips a decent pass, saying they look on-trend and expensive in the end (oh, the frivolity). That’s thrown away quickly though, when short durability and high cost is later considered. Again, having infallible colour last for weeks at a time, for pennies, isn’t questioned for it’s absurdness. All that to say that before anyone has time to read this through to the end in time for reflection, they’ll likely settle on considering vegan nail care “extreme” from the get-go (ie. the title).

It’s not extreme to want transparency from the companies we support, and to use our dollars wisely to vote for those who do not contribute to animal exploitation or employ the use of hazardous chemicals. It’s much more extreme to subject ourselves to violence in the name of beauty, and to further the idea that sitting out on it will render worse consequences than the treatment itself (like chipped nail polish). I think it’s extreme to kill animals and harm people, and that vegan manicures and pedicures should be the new norm.

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