May
22

Coming Clean Part 2

 

If you missed Part I of Coming Clean which focused on the evolution of the green/clean beauty industry, click (here). Part I will also provide better context for Part II.

In this post, I’m opening up on the evolution of green/sustainable blogging, the obstacles and questionings linked to it, and the transition I made to launch a professional activity as a writer and creative sidekick for businesses instead. As Smells like a Green Spirit has now hit its 10th anniversary, I felt compelled to open up and come clean in order to turn the page and re-orient this space so that it continues to align fully with me on this journey. In Part I, I’ve shared the challenges that indie brands face, this time it’s about the challenges, creative and blogger/writers have faced and continue to, in the clean beauty – but also in the overall « sustainable » lifestyle – space. This post also serves as a process for me to reflect, move on and come to terms with everything.

 

THE PARADOXES OF “GREEN/SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE” BLOGGING

Navigating a space where  « eco-friendly » and « healthy » do not necessarily and systematically align and navigating a space where more brands become less and less accessible.

In the early days of my blogging journey, given the scarcity in the green beauty field, I was dedicated on highlighting every new brand and release I’d come across, as numerous gaps were waiting to be filled. I would relish in sharing eclectic mixes of upscale and affordable brands. I spent a substantial amount of time uncovering new « green gems » and I loved sharing every finding. Many of you may remember that some of today’s IT brands started with a little corner on Etsy. There used to be a time when others would be shopping at Sephora, whilst green beauty lovers would be browsing Etsy for natural cosmetics. 

As years went by, an inner dilemma started arising for me as some brands that appeared eco from head-to-toe were coming at a significantly bigger price point. Not to mention that in the first place, I’d primarily focus on brands that have botanical-rich formulas and fewer synthetic ingredients. Sometimes, I’d find brands with outstanding formulas, but deplorable packaging and vice-versa. You have eco-luxe brands with sophisticated refill systems, and plastic-free packaging but they come at a higher cost. It irks me to lecture people over « sustainable practices » when products literally cost a piece of clothing or the amount of a monthly electricity bill. I have enjoyed multiple products from Alverde cosmetics which are drugstore-priced with a very acceptable formula, void of most controversial and synthetic ingredients. However, Alverde’s packaging is primarily made of plastic. For someone with a limited budget, Alverde is a solid introduction to green beauty in terms of formulas. (sidenote: Alverde has some products that can rival in performance with some high-end brands including a (now-discontinued) cheek blush gel that blew me away). My personal editorial choice was to favor formulas, before checking everything else, i.e. an eco-friendly product that is packed with controversial ingredients or loaded with synthetic ingredients was not going to make it on the blog. Today, certain brands have found a balance (sustainable practices/fair pricing) so that specific issue seems to be less prevalent than 10 years ago.

However the pricing in general for green cosmetics keeps increasing, and becomes less and less affordable which is kind of paradoxical since multiple brands are rooted in holistic practices that stem from ancient traditions which were approachable to most communities. The current economic climate is not helping in maintaining stable prices, and indie brands face multiple difficulties today. I was always in favour of sharing for all budgets. Over the years, some of my favourite serums have had a price increase of 30% in the span of less than a decade and yet, many indie brands are closing down because they can’t keep up with the economic situation anymore. 

It is undeniable that many cosmetics in the beauty industry today come at a higher price. If you browse a standard beauty shop, check out the « serum » section and count how many serums with 3 figures (EUR and USD) are stocked now. Yet, high pricing does not necessarily equal high-performance and quality. A proper understanding of skin health and ingredients mixed with a dash of common sense and a critical mind seems essential now in order to avoid wasting money and products. 

 

The challenges of keeping up with the changes of blogging and turning green blogging into a self-sufficient activity.

I’ve touched on the reasons leading me to start blogging about green beauty and conscious lifestyle in Part 1 (here), so I‘ll do my best to avoid redundancies. A decade ago, creating Smells Like a Green Spirit was the catalyst for a transformative journey for me, both personally and professionally. I combined my love for writing, researching, and green beauty, at a time when eco-conscious blogging wasn’t trendy nor mainstream, and subsequently, not lucrative. 

Throughout the first couple of years of blogging, it was a « product-for-review » relationship, which felt completely normal to me because one of the reasons/goals of the blog (aside from connecting with like-minded people) was to discover green brands and share them with readers and followers since green beauty was so niche and barely advertised or featured by the mainstream press. Not to mention unavailable in most beauty stores. 

For several years, whilst the number of visits and readers would grow steadily, the blog did not generate any revenue. When some companies started incorporating affiliate programs, I signed up and began to add links, but it was not systematic. For a while, affiliate links offered an truly appreciable compensation, thanks to a more favourable algorithm (those in the early days of IG know). The amount generated would help cover the website maintenance and hosting costs. As years went by, my blog grew bigger in traffic and I’d invest countless hours working on it and improving its functionalities, in addition to upgrading hosting plans.

With the shift of the green beauty movement which was starting to leave niche green bloggers on the sideline for bigger influencers or bloggers, affiliates were no longer a sustainable compensation for the amount of work dedicated to searching brands, reviewing products in-depth, and promoting them. Every product mentioned is tested and approved by yours truly, I never talked about something I didn’t or wouldn’t use myself.

As reported in Coming Clean Part I, the green beauty industry encountered a huge shift and we saw numerous indie companies break through the mainstream market. Their status changed, their marketing campaigns developed and yet, the situation for green bloggers remained unchanged, because instead of reinforcing the community and supporting green content creators, some brands opted to take the standard marketing route. Those brands, as soon, as they broke mainstream, decided to ditch the green community, and ended up supporting influencers that never cared about them until they invited them to press dinners and trips. The culprit was seeing green brands reach out to green bloggers for a full product review without any compensation while simultaneously pay influencers and Youtubers with bigger audiences to just pose with their product in a picture. It has happened way too often to simply ignore it.

In parallel, other issues started arising such as the changes in social media algorithms where visibility kept decreasing regardless of the content you’d put in, and the frustration of seeing work you put being barely seen by your followers. This is why a little bit of loyalty and support from the bigger brands that were mainly supported by the green community would have been helpful. Alas, some brands seem to have short-term memory.

 

When blogging started to feel like being exploited, creatively squeezed and not valued the slightest.

Back in 2013, affiliate links barely existed for green beauty bloggers, it was not a lucrative activity but as mentioned before, green blogging was a labor of love. I never counted the amount of time and research I dedicated to the blog, as I loved working on it tremendously. However, I came to realise that when a brand you have reviewed for years and supported from the beginning, pays influencers just for one selfie with their product, but won’t even acknowledge your (unpaid) detailed and invested work anymore, it’s plain and simple mockery.

Today, multiple green brands that have risen to stardom and become widely popular and mainstream, resort to influencers who do not necessarily have an appetence for green beauty. I never expected to have the same perks as regular beauty bloggers, but I did find it rather misplaced, and dishonest when established green beauty companies were able to send influencers (who were not into green beauty) on PR/sponsored trips or do paid partnerships with them, yet in parallel, would reach out to green bloggers and solely offer them a product for review/mention. Those double standards are not fair and acceptable.

Without the support of ethical/green brands, green creators/creatives and writes cannot keep up in this space. How can they develop sustainably? The old adagio  « time is money » seems to be acknowledged in numerous activities and professions but fails to be as well respected in the creative and freelance space. The system of compensation did not really evolve – especially for green bloggers/vloggers/writers. The ones showing the most support for them and who by definition are not going to be working with most big corporations? 

In the green beauty community, a product review did not consist in posting a selfie with the product in hand and describing it in a couple of adjectives. Every product tested would go through a certain amount of research. I’ve realised that certain green companies are not immune to falling for notoriety and numbers, instead of engagement and actual value.

“As a small, indie company, we don’t have the budget for paid partnerships” is a phrase that I had been hearing on an almost daily basis.’’ I completely understand it when it comes to small, indie brands, yet I am referring to the companies that do paid partnerships with some and for some odd reasons, don’t offer it to others.  As a “green” blogger, dealing with brand collaborations and partnerships relies on a case-by-case basis. As a result, it is noticeably more time-consuming because you cannot charge a fixed rate. In 10 years of blogging, I did 2 sponsored posts with companies, I was familiar with and I use myself and recommend. I also want to express my gratitude again here, BellaDonna Naturkosmetik and BeautyCleanse Skincare, because both came from the start with the idea of a supportive collaboration.

My inbox used to be filled to the brim with partnership proposals from brands that were not green. I have refused multiple paid partnerships from brands that did not match my philosophy. I have no regret on that because I can’t lie to myself and even less to my readers by promoting something I know I won’t use.  However, despite those changes in the green beauty industry, I carried on blogging and sharing eagerly my reviews and discoveries because green beauty and eco-living is a deep passion of mine. I also did not imagine that the movement, as I originally grew up with, would change so drastically that I would also feel foreign to it. (see Part I).

In the green blogging sphere, it was never about simply posting with a product, but providing proper explanations, informations and sharing meaningful stories. But the past couple of years, the situation worsened and reached a point when even a simple «acknowledgment» of a review would no longer be a reality. Not even a thank you, nor a retweet or re-share which would at least provide some visibility.  I’ve had some times of discouragement, mostly because I started feeling like I was just there to give information and do the work for companies and medias to take away without any consideration.

One episode in particular gave me a taste of how frivolous and disrespectful the beauty industry can be: a Vogue « journalist » copy-pasted the conclusion of a brand review I did. Of course, she did not acknowledge the source (aka my blog) and claimed it as her own. How did it end up on Vogue? The brand had sent the magazine their press/product kit where they had included my review, which the Vogue editor ended up using, but erased my identity. I am assuming that this type of behaviour has become quite standard given the ever-growing scandals around Vogue and other magazines.

Another lesson for me was when a lifestyle shop owner kept asking me for thoughts on beauty brands, to which I happily responded. Yet when she incorporated a beauty section in her store (which included the brands I shared with her), she kept me out of the loop and collaborated with other people instead. I repeatedly mentioned her activity, online and offline, and remained available to her every time she wanted information about green beauty. On her end, as soon as she launched her beauty section, never reached out to me, and never even contacted me again. More than once, I was used by people I trusted and who’d take the all the information they needed from me, and then leave me out of their projects or events. 

Several indie/niche shops would even look for the work of green bloggers for brand inspiration. I have had a shop telling me that most of the brands they selected were because I reviewed them. And yet, I was not hired as a buyer 😉 Fellow green beauty bloggers I chatted with encountered the same experiences. But this just goes to show that green bloggers had/have their influence and place in this beauty ecosystem.

I came to this green beauty community and space a decade ago because I longed for connection (see Coming Clean part I), I am grateful that I got to build genuine relationships with incredible people, and it remains the absolute best part of this journey. Alas, whilst looking for human interactions and sincere connections, I failed to realise that it was not necessarily and/or systematically mutual, and some were only interested in using me to for their network and personal agenda. What I also did not anticipate was that being systematically solicited for free would come at a bigger price: losing faith in my skills and diminishing my worth. I lost faith. I lost enthusiasm. I lost courage. And when I started losing faith, I no longer was able to be organized; I’d struggle to follow up on some potential collaborations and emails, and went on social media breaks because at some point, I needed to regroup and gather some energy again as I felt drained and demoralized. 

I was first and foremost disappointed in myself, incapable of setting up boundaries and standing up for myself, I let myself down too many times, and my inability to set proper boundaries and not give everything to everyone, almost led me to give up blogging altogether. A couple of years ago, women in the movie industry started speaking up regarding the wage gap, calling out the fact that women were paid less than male actors for similar parts; in her Emmy speech, Michelle Williams put in simple words what it means to be valued (which also includes being financially rewarded for your work) : 

« when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value, and then where do they put that value? They put it into their work »

– Michelle Williams

This applies to all work fields, and to this day, I am aware of the work of my fellow green bloggers and I, who’d take a significant amount of time creating videos, visuals and explanatory, detailed reviews and posts. All of this free for brands to use and reuse continuously.

There are multiple green beauty supporters who also over the years, moved on or gave up, due to the lack of support or/and at least, acknowledgment for the work done. Green beauty bloggers/writers/editors contributed to providing material for brands and gave niche brands more substance to consider reaching out to editors, gave them Google referencing when no one wrote about them, and this for years, until there was this shift where green became mainstream. And those same brands end up doing paid partnerships with people who were never into green beauty in the first place, and never accepted or offered this same compensation for the niche bloggers/writers who truly had a passion for the topic and were providing in-depth content. Unfortunately, too many brands took those services & dedication for granted, saying they have little ressource or it’s not part of their policy – only to pay influencers with no knowledge or support of their segment.

On my end, it drove me to self-doubt because I could not understand those double standards and lack of fairness. Was I good enough? Is what I am sharing of any use? Yet, this inner voice kept telling me to carry on, onwards and upwards because I am passionate about holistic beauty, fair fashion and wellbeing. If it had not been for the encouraging words and messages from people reading by blog or following me on social media, I’d have very likely given up altogether, because the self-doubt would have crept up and sucked away all the enthusiasm and joy.  And they served as a reminder of my modest impact. The messages of people coming to me to help them switch and opt for kinder and more eco-conscious brands, it has been a honour and joy to be able to provide guidance or at least, share suggestions so that they can embark on their own journey. Thank you. To every single one of you who takes the time to read, to leave messages and comments whenever you found sth useful on my little corner of the internet.  I am grateful for you.

The past few years were quite rocky, as the industry shifted and I struggled finding my place in this reformulated « clean beauty » and “holistic” space. Subsequently, my blogging activity significantly reduced, and so naturally, I lost a position as a brand ambassador for a company I supported consistently and enthusiastically since its beginning. They diplomatically told me that they wanted to give my spot to a beauty editor or influencer but that they would remain open for collaborations. But there were no collaborations that ensued. It made it official to me: I am not an influencer, nor even eligible. And so it is.

I love writing and investigating, researching, but influencing is not me. If you look at my blog posts, I don’t keep it short haha. I long to be as articulate and precise as I can, playing with words, and as much as I’ve tried, videos and pictures take a backseat in my world. Whilst my content on the blog drastically reduced the past few years, I still have near a hundred saved drafts because I never stopped working and researching.

 

  When the mold of being the typical eco/conscious blogger is not a good fit.

Just like brands are now formatted into a clean beauty aesthetic, the same phenomenon was bound to apply to bloggers and influencers. I am at this stage of my life, uncomfortable with putting everything into boxes and labels. Even in the realm of « ethical/sustainable influencers/bloggers”, there has been these past few years an underlying and ineffable pressure to fit into a certain mold: think ‘crisp/clean’ aesthetic with beige/white settings, minimalistic home, vegan-centric, almost impersonal. There’s a push to make people look the same, talk the same, think the same. That uniformization is not working for me. Today’s  ‘ethical blogger starter pack’  is not one for which I am a good fit. I’ve already addressed it in part I of this series, I’m aware that I am not « in » for the current clean beauty sphere, and now that within the clean beauty industry you can see filters, heavily edited pictures and lots of wooly marketing claims, it’s even more obvious. Certain influencer practices such as ‘unboxing’ also no longer feel relevant to me. I am also not comfortable showing myself frequently, so you can see how this clashes with the current influencing era.

I am also not fond of performative activism and this tendency to look for a “role model » as most public figures are fabricating their image. Everyone is flawed. And putting someone on a pedestal may lead inevitably to some serious disappointments and disillusions, or worse, to cynicism. I care about the environment, but I don’t scold and I refuse to guilt-trip and shame people. The onus is on consortiums/groups, and big industries to make radical and systemic changes. There’s a lot of pressure on people and indie businesses already. It’s the big fish that need to be tackled once and for all, and I refuse the sanctimonious and condescending approach being pushed by some eco activists. I have been learning about environmental-friendly practices for years, but ultimately, I do believe that toxic personalities and behaviours are as (if not more at times) concerning as environmental toxins. 
It is OK to question, not to take everything for the gospel truth, to emit doubts. There needs to be space left and given to have mature and deep conversations, for instance on electric cars as lithium batteries raise clear ethical concerns, same goes for wind power and so on. There are « side effects » to everything, and in many cases, a clear, crisp solution does not seem to exist. But in this world of frenzy and instant gratification, there is a violent push for quick fixes and instant ‘solutions’ , but that’s not realistic nor a healthy behaviour. There are too many polarizing positions, barely any place left for nuance, rampant censorship, vitriolic comments, online bullying, and what I once knew as a warm, hospitable online place no longer feels that way.
As years go by, I have also been reaching full saturation with social media apps. I have no intention of using TikTok, I use Facebook/Meta sporadically and those who follow me know that I have taken some big IG breaks lol.

The more society seems to be pushing virtual, the more I want to ground and connect to reality. Internet used to be an escape from the real world, now it feels like I need to take a break from the Internet. Again, I struggled finding a balance to fit in that space. While I am predominantly plant-based, I am not vegan; I am politically homeless; I am baffled every time another « organic white tee » or « recycled sweatshirt » brand emerges when there are literally hundreds of them now; I am appalled when I see sustainable feminine hygiene brands blame periods for polluting the environment; I am not attracted by the ‘Bali lifestyle’ and I am completely unaligned with some of the biggest holistic/environmental/social justice influencers/organisations today because some of them are complete frauds, but I leave it to the truth to come out at the time it is ready.  Now, that is just the tip of the iceberg haha.

I also don’t want to be subjugated to an algorithm and put content just for the sake of posting something. To me, it feels like a form of pollution too. Things go at such a frantic pace, too many « trends » to follow, and most of them don’t resonate with me at all. Why add more stress to an overwhelming, overconnected, and overstimulated society?

WHEN INFLUENCING CROSSES CERTAIN LINES

I don’t seek confrontation, I long for appeasement and when I come across content that I disagree firmly with, I tend to disregard and move on. For the sake of clarity, I’ll give concrete examples of what kind of content makes me deeply uncomfortable in the realm of sustainable and ethical blogging.

The past couple of years, I’ve come across posts from ethical influencers on « zero-waste periods », and I couldn’t help but be stunned by the tone and content presented. Those posts were admonishing women using pads and tampons instead of a silicone menstrual cup. They urged “everyone to switch to a cup”, emphasising on the « big amount of waste » that periods generated. Some of those posts were even sponsored by menstrual brands…

Being paid to tell women what to use because menstrual cycles are “polluting” is an approach I simply can’t get behind. This kind of peremptory tone makes me deeply uncomfortable. Intimate hygiene and reproductive health are NOT causes of major waste, pollution and climate change. Not even the slightest. There are people who have troubles using cups, some who can only use pads, reusable pads, while others switch to period pants, or tampons. This is your choice to make and whatever you opt, it is not going to save or ruin the environment. Pushing the topic of environmental issue into women’s periods is uncalled for and frankly, anti-feminist because there’s enough pressure put on women. Blaming a biological phenomenon and labelling it as a cause of pollution for the sake of selling a specific product is dishonest and an outrageous marketing ploy. It is great to highlight feminine hygiene company that use sustainable materials, organic cotton, and hypoallergenic fabrics, but no need to start creating a hierarchy on saying this method is better than the other, and shifting the blame on women’s reproductive health. 

During the pandemic, I’ve also seen ethical influencers also urge everyone to get the Covid vaccine and calling people who did not get it, irresponsible, selfish and even monsters, thus creating more division in our fractured society. Again, some were even partaking to some paid campaigns. Whatever you decide to do, I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate for people who have no credentials, to tell you what to put in your body. Nowadays, many influencers get political and vocal on every topic, and on many accounts, with very little or no credentials to do so, perhaps because the term « activist » sounds more appealing than « influencer »… 

How can an influencer have such brash views when even doctors were not agreeing on the matter? Let professionals speak. Weigh the pros and cons. Think for yourself.  But calling for shunning people out is not something I can get on board with. It has nothing to do with being « anti or pro » as society loves to shout nowadays. I respect everyone’s choice. I know my limits, I cannot speak to an audience and confidently say « take this drug/vaccine/plant » because

a. I am not a medical practitioner nor sa cientist

b. Bioindividuality is a reality and what works for one can be detrimental to someone else. It’s the same for a vaccine, a drug, a supplement, a beauty product etc. 

c. There are moments, when time and distance are needed before formulating certainties. Again, this is clashing with our current hyperactive, fast-paced society.

d. I don’t blindly believe/follow what governments/politicians or organisations say because I have witnessed how the system treats people with disabilities. Politicians when they mess up and lie are never held accountable hence why lying is so easy for them, it’s void of risks. Great things only happen when people stand up for themselves and care for each other. I can only speak from personal experience and I don’t intend to change that. I encourage everyone to think for themselves.

The business of « influence » is just not for me, it lacks humility and transparency. Today, influencers are solicited on all parts and I understand that those who have made it their full-time job are willing to just accept the majority of paychecks coming their way. To each their own, I am trying to avoid ending up in a position like that. Let me reiterate that I am sharing my personal experience, and the challenges and interrogations I’ve had may not have been encountered by others. Other bloggers/influencers have found their successful way of navigating this ethical blogging/influencer scene. 

Baseless trend-following, stirring drama for visibility, cancel-culture and censorship in the realm of influencing. 

In 10 years of blogging (but 8 active, year-round blogging) I had one « bad » collaboration with a brand a couple of years ago. A brand who sent me a few products to try and after a positive experience with the products, I created a full post on them. When a reader asked me about the fragrance origin in the product because she has specific sensitivities, I immediately enquired with the founder to have more specific details. But things took a strange turn when the founder gave me contradictory responses in the span of a few days. She kept postponing, explaining that she needed to ask her chemist, but shortly after changed her version again and refused to respond. Following this, my instinct was telling me that something was off, and I felt no longer comfortable keeping the review on the blog – even though my personal experience with the products was good. I explained to the founder that I was going to remove the post due to her inability or refusal to disclose if the fragrance was synthetic or not – unless she’d allow me to add on the post that she refused to say if the fragrance was synthetic or not. I never disclosed the identity because I am aware that this unfortunate experience may be a singular one. Someone else won’t have any issues with the brand. Mistakes can occur and emitting strong judgements on one incident can wreak more havoc than necessary. In my opinion, the brand was disingenuous and hiding some issues, and I did get confirmation on that later on when several people from the industry (bloggers/stockists/and formulators) also encountered similar issues with said brand.  

In today’s « culture », it’s become lucrative for some to air their dirty laundry in public, or to call out indie brands or people over x,y, z and often, solely for clout. Drama boosts engagement and visibility, follower count increase, but simultaneously there are real people behind indie companies. So if I have an issue with one, and it’s not something that I, a hundred percent, believe it should be disclosed for all to see, then I keep it to myself or as private as possible. None of the self-proclaimed industry watchdogs online call out the big brands. I do wonder why. 

I have also considerably simplified my social media usage: I unfollow quietly, maybe at some point I will follow again (or not) but there’s no need to make a fuss about it or stir up useless drama or animosity. It’s liberating to seek peace and simplify life.

As a blogger who got to witness and experience the mutation of the green beauty movement, within the macro of the beauty industry, it became more and more common to discover plagiarism amongst brands, defamations and slandering, founders rivalry, (sometimes founders would ask bloggers or retailers to take sides, to boycott x and y for z reasons – mostly over personal reasons). I was deeply uncomfortable in those moments, and preferred taking a step back.  The rise of ‘cancel culture’ has fragmented the online community. Literally everyone is  « cancellable » today, and as it was comically presented in a video skit on IG, « it is easier to cancel a person than a gym membership ». I’ve seen personally how defamation can destroy people, and when fairness and justice seem to go into oblivion. I know how easily and quickly lies can spread, unlike truth which will emerge at its own timing, and not necessarily when we « need » it the most. I am not fond of this tendency to see everything from a binary prism, or jumping into bold, quick conclusion when you don’t have enough information and background for such behaviour in the first place.

We keep hearing words such as “inclusive” « “diversity” and so on, yet simultaneously, debates and discourse are no longer tolerated, censorship is rampant on social media especially on topics regarding health, women’s bodies and politics. People who are sceptical and critical of cosmetic surgery get labeled as ‘haters’, yet we have an entire generation seeing Kardashians as representatives of beauty standards, we are living in such confusing and ambiguous times hence why clarity and discernment seem to be amongst the greatest gifts we could receive. 

I follow all kinds of views, inclinations, and origins. On beauty/health: I follow chemists, old-school formulators, toxicologists, holistic practitioners, doctors and pharmacists, spiritual entities, brand founders etc. because I actively work to remain curious and stay out of an echo chamber. I disagree on many things with some of the accounts I follow, but when I see intellectual honesty, divergences in opinion become less relevant, because I get to see things from a different lens and perspective. 

I believe one can learn from your mistakes and move onwards and upwards – a process which starts with accountability. And accountability is something that seems to be neglected in our current culture. Two striking examples come to mind:

The Nuu deodorant recall in France last year, is a prime example of how irresponsibly, some beauty companies behave, and how far they are willing to go for quick buck. Countless of big French influencers and vloggers (food/beauty/fashion/lifestyle) were promoting this « eco-friendly and natural » brand, it seemed like they were paying every influencer they could find as long as they had a large audience. Numerous complaints and reports started emerging from consumers who were having cysts following consistent use of that deodorant, and instead of being fully transparent and taking responsibility, the brand deleted comments on their social media and gaslit people by saying that were working on a new formula already before the recall, a recall which only happened because they were exposed by consumer protection organizations and the amount of complaints was significant enough to reach the national administration of drugs in France . 

While this is fortunately not the norm, deflecting responsibility has become a tactic these past couple of years to cover bad management of companies. Truth is, the ‘influencer strategy’ does not systematically pay off, in particular when it’s primarily focused on high follower numbers rather than genuine engagement with a target audience. Recently, a reputable review platform on all things photography received a letter from a famous camera brand commanding them to remove every content that featured their product – why? For being honest and giving the pros AND cons behind each product reviewed. That camera brand was throwing lavish influencer parties and giving free cameras to Instagrammers and Youtubers whose activities were not even in the field of photography. However, the brand blamed independent platforms for their own mishaps and errors. Honest reviewers and bloggers are being targeted with threats and lawsuits. 

Independent reporting, writing, blogging is being challenged right now, and it should not be the case. There is a growing popularity in « citizen journalism » precisely because there’s a blatant lack of integrity by some then-reputable medias and journalists. Corporate medias has unfortunately become an insult to intelligence and free agency. 

To circle back on the case of green/indie blogging, I am mentioning Galina (her Substack here) and Nath formelry known as Beautycalypse (her new website here), two incredible people I’ve got connect with thanks to the green beauty community and who I call friends. Both have also addressed the disenchantment and dissolution of values such as of loyalty and integrity, blatant during the shift of the green beauty industry (Galina’s article for beautyindependent here). The multiple issues that impacted indie brands and niche shops also impacted green bloggers/writers, creatives, niche shops, not just indie brands. Today, It’s too late, it can never go back to what it was, but the silver lining is that it’s on to everyone who wants to make a difference to fully align their words with their actions. It’s precisely that alignement that will lead to something positive (and bring more success to all parties). Hypocrisy, double standards and misalignments, lack of fairness, lack of loyalty, and egocentrism kept growing in the space, so perhaps it’s for the best, that it all imploded. Now we’re all free to do what we truly want on our own terms since the space as we knew it at its inception is no longer there. This green beauty space had a lot of cracks and ultimately it just exploded. I think today, it’s liberating not to be affiliated with any “movement” anymore. I will however cherish the wonderful memories and experiences I had and  the people I met and still connect with whilst that movement truly meant something.

 

         SHIFTING THE VISION OF INFLUENCING AND REALIGNING WITH MY PURPOSE

Blogging evolved into influencing and I could not keep up with that transformation. I failed at it, and it’s not meant for me clearly. I almost gave up blogging altogether because I felt lost, unsettled and discouraged.  Blogging has also changed over the years, from a written format to videos, and now Tiktoks, aka ultra-short visual formats. It’s not for everyone and I still value the written form, it’s my preferred medium of expression.

No matter how much I tried – even by standing by my ideas and values – I failed at fitting into this influencer realm as it is set up today, but I am absolutely OK with that. I failed but I learned multiple lessons which have now allowed me to realign with myself and move forward the way I can continue to grow and become a better person – both personally and professionally. The sentiment I have today is that society is going to be morphing into new marketing ways. Influencers are modern-day, human « billboards» and it’s a matter of time until new advertising tricks emerges. I may be wrong on that prediction, but I am certain on the fact that influencing is not for me. That case is settled. I am going back to what has always been the leitmotiv in my life: writing and reading. Dissecting information, researching, sharing, all whilst keeping an open mind, clear eyes and full heart.

What I do now:

My transition as a writer and consultant.

Today, I am a writer, sometimes a ghostwriter (when I am in charge of a brand’s blog section, PR kits, translations, product descriptions), and under my name for other publications. I have for example, written articles on hyaluronic acid, essential oils, nordic plants, lipsticks, green tech, compostable spaces, essential oils, skincare tips, beauty rituals, etc. for companies. For some brands, I also help them redirect their strategies, connect them to retailers and stockists that align with their vision. I also do consulting, having been contacted for a couple amazing initiatives and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like to call myself a creative sidekick and cheerleader for independent brands; brands that value integrity and genuinely aim to provide something to people. People with dreams, passion and and integrity. To allow them to focus on pretty much the rest of their business. 

It’s a tailored, custom-made plan each time, because I don’t believe in a « one-size-fits-all-approach », today it’s pivotal to sharpen and embrace your voice and vision, create/develop a brand that feels like you, and not a copy-paste version of another one that is currently popular. What will work for one brand, may not work for the other, and in this ocean of uniformized brands, remaining strong in your values and identity will make you stand out – sooner or later. 

I feel for anyone who’s just getting started on « clean/green » beauty because it has become a conundrum. I find it 10x more difficult today than it was a decade ago, because we’re bombarded by false claims, fake personas, dishonest claims, paradoxical informations and simulacras of ethical companies. It takes a lot of time, research and critical thinking today to weed out the beauty space and find the right products adapted to your needs. This is why I had started those workshops in early 2020.

The workshops 

I did two workshops, in 2020 (February 2020 just before hell broke loose). The topic was oils. The workshop did not aim to tell you which brand to buy, but was intended to help you figure out what types of ingredients/oils are suitable for your skin and provide you tools and tips on how to make conscious purchases. 

I loved this moment of conviviality thoroughly, unaware the one month later, we would all be propelled into a proper dystopian era. Now, I am leaving this possibility of doing other workshops open, I have the topics and I my head is brimming with new ideas and concepts – but I am not going to force it. Until I find a proper opportunity to create new events, I’ll convert the type of information I’d share on workshops in my newsletter. 

 

WHAT YOU’LL SEE ON MY BLOG AND IN MY NEWSLETTER

The « Keep your Green Spirits Up » newsletter 

I moved it to Substack because it allows me to insert more interactive content as opposed to Mailchimp (expect fun gifs and occasional video clips;) 

I transferred the current Mailchimp subscribers to a free plan, but there’s also an option to support my work with a paid membership. The paid membership will contain guides and all my tips to not fall into greenwashing so that you buy what feels most like you and will serve you best. I’ll be adding more perks soon including personal guidance to help you simplify your beauty routine. Discernment is key. It’s time for me to synthesize 14+ years of switching towards conscious beauty because today the market is saturated and numerous brands are fooling consumers with marketing ploys. From the look of it, it’s also not going to change anytime soon.  In my decade-long blogging experience, I can assure you that an expensive product is not strictly and necessarily going to perform well because the number of companies favouring marketing over quality and efficiency is staggering today. Hence why I am redirecting to become even stricter in my picks. I am entirely focusing on curating brands and avoiding marketing traps. I’ll be sharing my findings and tips.

It will be independent and raw. This is also why that content can’t be shared fully on Instagram and social media. Right now, Meta will go as far as to censor topics on health, history, lifestyle, philosophy etc. and it’s only a matter of time before it declares that holistic beauty or anything related to indie businesses in general are fake or irresponsible news. Not to mention that we don’t know how the Digital Act in the EU will play out.  Therefore, I refuse to be solely dependent on an app that does not support independent businesses and creatives, and pushes forward wooly, fake and morally-dubious accounts. On Meta, you can get rewarded for lying and projecting an utter fake image of yourself or brand – and it’s something their « fact-checkers » deliberately ignore. An app that rewards grifters, liars, and thieves for pure profit without taking any accountability. 

It’s the content I am ready to share, I’ve come to peace with the evolution of the industry and if I long for change, it has to start with myself. I am also learning to navigate things on my own without seeking validation of a group. Today, I feel comfortable no longer « belonging » or fitting into a group or a movement, things are constantly evolving, and at such a rapid pace, I am learning to be fine on my own and getting rid of the « people-pleasing » attitude I carried for a long time. It’s been an internal work that is leading me to more peace.  It’s not easy, sometimes it’s isolating, but it is necessary.

Just like mentioned in part I, I can’t give in to cynicism, but I am also no longer naive. The green beauty/eco-friendly and conscious lifestyle is being taken into a direction that does not align with me. I perfectly understand if some of you no longer feel like following this, it’s not for everyone, but I am also excited to showcase a larger spectrum of my interests and competences and experience new discoveries on this journey. 

I am grateful for all the amazing people and brands I have connected with and thanks to experiencing those downsides throughout my blogging journey, I really got to see who and what is worth cherishing. I was fortunate to experience for a long time the camaraderie and warm atmosphere in the green beauty scene and I am keeping only the positive. Thankfully, there was a LOT of it. 

You are always welcome to keep messaging for thoughts or recommendations, I still love to help out and interact with you, that has been a constant joy throughout the years.

On the website, I’ll continue to posts in my blog page, more related to indie beauty and fashion. There will be reviews but tackled differently. I have been championing brands for years and I will continue to do so, but at my pace and on my terms only. Both the blog and newsletter will serve as conductors to engage more in-depth discussions, to get a wider frame and an opportunity to think outside-of-the-box. A place for open conversations, free of labels, where the ego takes a backseat, to restore intelligence, wit and joy. I may ask more questions than I have answers, and there are plenty of questions that should be asked. I long to work on selecting, processing informations and keep developing my own critical mind and thought. Discernment is the word of the year for me lol. I am in this constant state of « learning and unlearning », my opinions are flexible, my values are not. As I just said, I have more questions than answers, and significantly more questions than judgements. I am ready to share my voice.

There will be philosophy, beauty, wellness, literature, art, music, conscious lifestyle, pop culture references, and history all meshed in this new Substack space, and it will be a more multidimensional peek into my voice.

Speak to you very soon, and join me on Substack (here). The first post will be about the curious case of « formula cloning in tinted SPF serums ». Turns out that we’re being sold the same product just in various packaging and price points. Vivienne Westwood’s « buy less, but better » has never rung more true. 

Take care,

Liz 💚

 

 

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