Bad for women and the planet? One of beauty's biggest names responds to its biggest criticisms.

Caroline Hirons is considered one of the most influential people in beauty.

The 50-year-old aesthetician, brand consultant and best-selling author of Skincare has leveraged her encyclopedic knowledge of the industry — from granular details about active ingredients to the big-picture machinations of product marketing — to build a global fanbase on social media and beyond.

The Brit reviews products, sells curated boxes of her favourites, and dispenses skincare advice, all with the same not-sponsored, no-bullshit tone. 

An example? Well, she likens cleansing with disposable face wipes to "wiping your arse but never showering it".

Watch: Inside Leigh Cambell's beauty bag.

Video via Mamamia

As a no-nonsense figurehead in an industry absolutely sopping with the stuff, what does she have to say about some of beauty's most-common criticisms?

Mamamia's No Filter podcast put some to her.

Criticism: Promoting and using skincare is anti-feminist. It's a tool of the patriarchy that keeps women broke, oppressed and insecure.

"We've always groomed. Animals groom; that's what we do. I groomed my babies. I would pick at their bodies and pull bogeys out of their nose and god knows what other things.

"Especially now in an era where [there are] the most big businesses and beauty we've ever had run by independent women, I don't think it's fair to blame the patriarchy for the beauty industry. We have to have some kind of semblance of 'actually, this is what we want to do.' 

"I also don't take on the, 'Oh, if you talk about beauty can't be taken seriously.' I hate that sh*t. I'm the first to push back at a man who says that, because all you have to do is check their [social media] profile and the minute they're talking about horse racing or football, I go, 'Oh, well, I can't take you seriously. You talk about football.'"

Criticism: The beauty industry is bad for the planet. Because plastic. And also chemicals.

The single-use plastics are a major issue, she says. But the blame for that is often disproportionately placed on women and their product consumption.

"Everything uses so much plastic: the food industry, every game and DVD that you will buy, lads, comes in a plastic cover. Why don't you go shout about that for a while? 

"And also, men use all the products. They use the shower gels, they use the body cream, they use a shaving cream, they use deodorant — all in plastic. So laying that at our door as like, 'Well, the women need to sort out the plastic issue', I just think, 'Oh, whatever.' Don't get me wrong, I'm not dismissing the plastic issue. I'm just saying I'm not going to take full responsibility for it, thank you very much."


Ok, but the trend in 'clean, natural' beauty products must be helping, right?

"It's a load of shit... Let's make no bones about it. It came from LA in California where they think essential oil is going to cure something that a vaccine would actually be needed for.

Listen to Mia Freedman's full conversation with Caroline Hirons on No Filter. 

"The irony for me is, how many plants do you think it is going to take to make one 'fresh, clean, green' beauty product compared to something you can make in a lab?... What they don't talk about is the farming. You know, it's really hard to sustainably farm.

"It's all marketing... Everything's a chemical. There's nothing in the green industry that does a better job than a vitamin A, for example, and we can make that in a lab. So why would you pummel the earth? Bakuchiol [for example] is not a retinoid — stop yourself, stop the nonsense. You're giving me a hernia."

Criticism: Beauty brands use young women to sell unrealistic expectations to older ones.

"I think it is [improving] from people who have their own business — Trini [Woodall], Huda [Kattan], Fenty — where there's a woman behind the brand. 

"But I mean, if you think about it, it was only a couple of years ago when Dior bought out their biggest launch of the year, their massive anti-ageing serum for 30 to 40 years plus, and they used Cara Delevingne as the model and she was 24 years old at the time. And they got called out on Twitter, and they totally ignored it. Totally ignored it.

"And I just think now we're going to see the dinosaurs of the industry—  And I used to say that with respect; now I say it as, 'You're dinosaurs, and if you don't get a grip, you're going to lose your business.'

"Don't show me a picture of someone who I could have given birth to who, frankly, I have coats older than, with perfect tits that can stay up on their own without a bra, and without a line on their face, because you've also filtered it. What are you trying to hide?"

Feature image: Supplied/Nicky Johnston.

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