All that Glitters is not Green: How to read between the lines

fashion-magazine-vichyssoise-of-verbiage1I really like fashion magazines.  There is a kind of art appreciation that happens while grazing through the seasonal spreads.  There’s often a story being told: Young, lithe girl finds herself in a dark forest in the middle of summer, wearing a bizarre conglomeration of haute couture and accessories au naturelle.  In this context, her bird’s nest bra looks….not out of place.

Fashion magazines are one part fantasy, one part delicacy, and ninety eight parts currency. They are not here for our aesthetic edification.  They exist soley to make consumers out of us, which is why I think it’s nice to view them exclusively in artistic terms, to appreciate the inspiration and vision that goes into the few extravagent vignettes tucked between the copious and predictably pandering advertisements.

Once in a while, I’ll read the copy, too, just for kicks.

The May 2009 issue of Elle magazine features “Face of Cover Girl” Drew Barrymore, and is calling itself the “Blue Issue” with a focus on designer eco-chic.   Intrigued, I dove in and was shocked to find a several page spread on green cosmetics!  Apparently, a large panel of makeup artists was chosen to vote on green picks, and the spread features the winners.


I had a mixed reaction: I was unsurprised by some of the winners (Physcian’s Formula Organic Wear for mascara and bronzer–two of their products which I’ve blogged about myself), and surprised to NOT see some of the greatest green lines on the market.  Dr. Hauschka, for example, was represented only by their clay mask, and 100% Pure (the cleanest line ever invented) was missing? Instead, there were several “winners” that I thought were “losers”.  I was glad to see the magazine devote pages of precious ad space to the concept of clean makeup, but that’s all it was: AD SPACE.

I thought about the magazine on and off all day.  I realize that a magazine’s first obligation is to advertising, not content.  (A number of “winners” had coincidentally rolled out large ad campaigns in recent months, including Physician’s Formula) While a concerted effort went into featuring lines which are branded as green, I doubt anyone went a step beyond–and say, looked at ingredients. (The green pick for tinted moisturizer was Josie Maran’s, which features a slew of questionable ingredients, including BHT, which pulls off a whopping 7 out of 9 offense on the Cosmetic Safety Database.  BHT is just another nasty substitute for toulene…ewww.)

That said, I noticed a few new “green” products which bear investigation.  The moral?  You have to find your OWN winners.  Never trust glossy pages with your health.  It’s not what they’re there for, and it’s certainly not what they’re good at.  They’re good at making you look, and making you buy.  If you don’t believe me, I’ve got a bird’s nest bra I’d be happy to sell you.

Check out Elle’s Blue Issue, and make up your own mind.  The underwater images are gorgeous, even if the Cover Girl isn’t green.

Images courtesy of Flickr’s Vichysoisse of Verbiage and Elle Magazine


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