To Bee or Not to Bee?

Should We Keep the Bee Out of Beauty?

Bees are amazing. The more I learn about them the more respect I have for them and the more committed I am to protecting them.

Until recently, did I ever question ingredients like beeswax and bee products such as honey? Honestly? No. I, like so many others, was brought up to think of honey and beeswax as natural, healthy products (which they are). Why would I question that? But then, a few years ago, I started questioning everything and in the process learned volumes about what we do to animals in the name of food, health, and beauty. Few things in my life have had the impact that this information has.

So, what is the problem with beeswax which is in so many beauty products? Companies like Burt’s Bees (see more information about Burt’s Bees below) have built a reputation around healthy “bee”auty products, so what’s the problem? Beeswax is everywhere. It is almost always an ingredient in lip balms, mascara, and lipstick, and you know how much of that we all use. Few, if any, companies will share their practices for procuring the beeswax, probably because, like the factory farming of food animals, the big picture isn’t pretty.

Some people will look at me like I’m crazy for even asking these question. Why shouldn’t we use beeswax or honey? The bees don’t die (or do they?). The most basic answer was well stated by Alice Walker, “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.” If you are vegan, you have probably heard this before and live by this philosophy. If you are not, you might want a bit more information about how beeswax and other bee products are commercially produced before you decide.

Here is just a sampling of what we do to bees to procure their natural products. In the process of making beeswax, honey or any of the other bee products (royal jelly, venom, etc.) some bees are accidentally and, in a number of situations, purposely killed. As with many animals we use for our own purposes, we artificially inseminate the queen with sperm obtained from decapitated bees. While bees work hard to produce their main source of food (honey), we take that and replace it with a white sugar syrup to sustain them through the winter.

Rather than get into all the details (and there are many more than most of us are aware of), I encourage you to visit one of these sites www.vegetus.org or www.vegansociety.com or google one yourself (there are plenty of them) to learn more so you can make an informed choice about whether to use products that contain honey or beeswax.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. We won’t even talk about what we are doing to nature by trucking in bees to pollinate large monoculture crops (which is the way we now grow most commercial produce) and what this type of farming does to both honey bees and the native bee population. And, what about pesticides? For more thought-provoking information on these issues, go to www.vrg.org

Want to know more about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)? – a study into why honeybees are disappearing in record numbers, see this PBS information. PBS did a terrific show on it in October 2007.

The bottom line is that it is easy to take certain ingredients for granted. What is rarely shared with us, however, is how these ingredients are procured on the scale needed to meet the needs of such a massive industry. In too many instances, the details are glossed over or ignored completely. In these cases, it is up to each of us to find out for ourselves and follow our own conscience.

Note: As an aside, and for those of you who do not want to support companies that test on animals, you will want to know that Burt’s Bees was bought out by the Clorox Company in late 2007. Clorox tests on animals. It is scary when these smaller companies with a mission are eaten up by large companies. Think Tom’s of Maine and Colgate. Similar story. By continuing to support companies like Burt’s Bees and Tom’s of Maine, we are supporting the practices of the parent company.

“Ginger is your personal 'What Not to Wear' style guru. Combining charm, wit and keen insight, she brings out your inner beauty for the world to see. As she gets to know you, she helps you choose colors, clothing, and makeup that suit *your* personality, not the latest fad or fashion magazine. The best compliment I receive these days is, "OMG, you look so good! You're glowing." I couldn't have done it without Ginger's help and support.”

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