What's the industry concealing? BBC Three's Beauty Laid Bare

Beauty Editor Rashida Campbell-Allen gives us her opinion on BBC Three's new three-part series, Beauty Laid Bare and the harsh realities we so often conceal

Rashida Campbell-Allen
15th February 2020

Very rarely do we stop and think about where our favourite foundation comes from, where that fancy packaging ends up once we are finished, how ethical the products are and who the real winners and losers are in the ever-expanding, multi-billion beauty industry.

This is where BBC Three’s 3-part series Beauty Laid Bare comes along to tell us some home truths everyone needs to hear. The series follows a group of 4 twenty-somethings as they travel across the United States from LA to the fields of Mexico investigating different aspects of the cosmetic world.

The series begins with their arrival in LA in their Hollywood villa with each sharing their personal relationship and experience with makeup. From one using makeup to give them confidence and identity to one who completely disagrees with the concept of wearing it altogether, definitely makes for an interesting and balanced watch.

This symbol "means a company has paid into a fund to help recycling. It does not necessarily mean it's recyclable." - bbciplayer.co.uk

In a time when society is apparently becoming more “eco-friendly” and conscientious about the world around us and how our everyday lives impact the environment, I, as well as the show is skeptical about how much the cosmetic industry glosses over the realities and seems to be more focused on making profit rather than making change. One shocking statistic that really resonated with me emerged when they visited a waste site and it was reported that only 9% of “recycled” materials are actually recyclable. That means a tragic 91% simply returns to landfills and is not reused. This really highlighted how much we are misled by a simple ‘logo’ but no actual information or its meaning is given to us. Did you know that small plastic bottles/materials actually can not be recycled due to their size? Because I didn’t.

However in an age when the number of people in their 20s in the US getting Botox has increased by 28%, his recommendations only rang loud alarm bells and spoke to the pressure of social media and keeping up appearances.


The show even took us to the world of cosmetic treatments in which a strange encounter with a well-known cosmetic surgeon Dr Alexander Rivkin, showed off some state of the art technology which could score your skin’s quality, predict its future and recommend what treatment would be best to prevent any deteriotiations. Essentially he was trying to encourage the notion prevention is better than cure. However in an age when the number of people in their 20s in the US getting Botox has increased by 28%, his recommendations only rang loud alarm bells and spoke to the pressure of social media and keeping up appearances. 

Modern culture puts so much pressure and attention on image that the beauty industry arguably exploits and makes its money from this widespread cultural insecurity and often feeds and amplifies issues such as body dysmorphia, self-esteem and confidence.

Indeed make-up has the ability to empower and transform individuals yet as with many indulgent things, it must be done responsibly and in moderation. Following the show, it made me realise how much of our own research we ought to do to really be able to make a difference (e.g. encouraging refillable cosmetics and providing those who source ingredients like Candalilla wax with protection and fair pay) and to stop feeding into these multi-million businesses that make every effort to avert our attention from the gritty truth to instead bright, beautiful and bold colours that tempt our pockets.

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