Let's kick off our 'Meet The Founder' series by introducing Marisa Robinson - animal ambassador, advocate, cruelty free beauty addict and the brains behind Wild & Cruelty Free.
Congratulations on launching Wild & Cruelty Free - an online destination for Vegan and Cruelty Free Beauty. What inspired you to start this new venture?
I have been a beauty blogger, trialling and reviewing the latest beauty products, for over 10 years and in that time I have evolved a lot in terms of what products I use and my values. In 2018 I hit a crossroads with my love for animals and my love for cosmetics, and there was a huge disconnect when I learnt of how many animals are still used and killed each day for cosmetics testing. I couldn't continue supporting and using products from brands who knew animal testing was taking place in the production process or deliberately selling into countries, like Mainland China, where animal testing is sadly still a requirement by law.
So I switched to Cruelty Free Beauty and adopted a pescatarian (eating only seafood) lifestyle and that was the start of me living more aligned to my values and advocating for the rights of innocent animals undergoing testing for our vanity.
I dedicated countless hours to researching and determining which brands were truly cruelty free and it was a rabbit warren of misinformation and false leads. But I didn't give up and any brand or product that I owned which was still tested on animals was either given away or thrown out (thoughtfully, of course).
This cull felt like the best and most empowering detox of my life and like I was really walking inline with my values and living as my most authentic self, or so I thought.
While I was doing all the right things as a consumer and promoting cruelty free beauty products, I was still living quite naively to the cruelty and harm animals face each and every day in factory farms, for the production of dairy products and the fish I continued to eat. The Dominion documentary shed a lot of horrific light and after being rattled to my absolute core, I could no longer support consuming any animal derived product or ingredient in any way, shape or form, including beauty products.
So at the start of 2023 I switched to living a completely Vegan life which meant another cull of makeup and skincare products that weren't vegan. My personal beauty collection and the products I accepted for trialling was getting smaller, but I was becoming much happier knowing that everything I owned and used was cruelty free and more sustainable to the planet and our furry friends.
But getting to this point hasn't been easy and there has been a lot of time spent ensuring I was using ethical brands and products. This is time that I know a lot of people don't have, with many shopping for convenience, not necessarily for what is ethical and right. When you shop at a shopping centre or department stores it is also not clear as to what products are free from animal testing and unless you know what to look for on the packaging, it can be very overwhelming and confusing. You are hypnotised by the bright lights, shiny objects and while the sales people are really helpful and mean well, they are promoting products to meet their KPIs, not to spare the life of an innocent animal.
I wanted my favourite tried and tested Australian vegan and cruelty free beauty products to be more accessible. I want to continue educating and inspiring people to make the switch to cruelty free products and I am making it easier to shop for them by creating a platform where they can buy directly from the source. I have done the hard work, the research and the testing to help remove confusion and now they can shop from Wild & Cruelty Free - a trusted online store with a considered edit of vegan and cruelty free beauty products.
With so many amazing and ethical brands on the market, how do you choose which ones you stock at Wild & Cruelty Free?
For me it isn't about stocking every cruelty free or vegan product ever made, it is about creating a considered edit of brands and products I personally use everyday and trust with my whole heart.
That's not to say I am not open to trying new brands in the future and considering them for the store, but right now I have my wish list of brands I want to stock and I will aim to stock those first before moving onto others.
What makes a product truly Cruelty Free?
A Cruelty Free product means that the product hasn't been tested on animals at any point in development, production or manufacturing. This means the ingredients that make up the product haven't been used in animal testing and the finished product has also not been tested on animals.
To me being Cruelty Free also means the brand doesn't ship into countries where they know testing is a requirement by law. If they know that the testing is going to take place before the product can hit the shelves, in my opinion that is just as bad as testing the product on the animal during production and they are still contributing to the problem.
When it comes to Cruelty Free brands there is also the case of a parent company who is not Cruelty Free (eg. L'Oréal) owning a brand that is Cruelty Free (eg. NYX Cosmetics who is also is acknowledged by PETA as a cruelty-free brand). Should you support and purchase NYX Cosmetics who are Cruelty Free and don't test on animals even though their parent company does? It's a tricky one and I am in two minds about it. On one hand, by supporting NYX we are telling L'Oréal we will only shop their Cruelty Free brands and hopefully that will inspire change throughout the business. But on the other hand the money still ends up in L'Oréal's pocket and they are using that to continue to make products and support animal testing. It's a grey area and a decision consumers will have to make with their own discernment.
So what makes a beauty product Vegan?
A vegan beauty product, whether it be makeup or skincare, doesn't contain any ingredient or substance derived from the body of an animal or by-products in the formulation or production process. For example, beeswax is a derivative from bees and is known to be used in lip balms making those lip balms not vegan. Lanolin is from sheep wool and can be used in moisturisers and body balms which means they are not vegan. More recently goats milk, camels milk and donkey milk is also being used in skincare - more examples of products which are not vegan.
We also need to be mindful of Carmine being used as the red pigment in colour cosmetics. Carmine is the result of beetles being killed and crushed to create this colour pigment - definitely not vegan.
In most cases brands who are proud to be vegan are very transparent about this on their packaging and in their marketing. If a brand isn't clear about their stance veganism or if it is really hard to find this information on their website, I email and ask them to confirm this information with supporting evidence. If I don't receive a clear response or if I don't hear back I personally won't support that brand.
You mentioned spending countless hours researching to determine which brands were truly cruelty free. What resources do you recommend to help people find cruelty free products?
During the research phase I relied heavily on Cruelty Free Kitty, Ethical Elephant and the Beauty Without Bunnies directory on the PETA website. I also created my own online Cruelty Free brands directory which you can check out here.
You have just launched Wild & Cruelty Free online but what plans do you have for the brand in the future?
I have such big goals and dreams for this! The big goal would be to own an animal sanctuary - that would be a dream come true! But I have lots of other goals and milestones including masterclasses, workshops, pop up shops and having a retail store which people can visit to shop vegan and cruelty free beauty products.
1. Favourite TV show...
I watch YouTube more than TV these days but The Office (US) will forever be my favourite show. Season 5, episode 14 - that’s all I’m going to say!
2. The makeup product you can't live without...
I love the Ere Perez Carrot Colour Pot in Healthy. It blends beautifully and can be used on the lips, cheeks and eyes - I love a versatile, multi-purpose beauty product.
3. You never leave home without...
Putting on SPF, my phone and my Frank Green water bottle - you've gotta stay hydrated!
4. A life changing event or experience...
Having WLS changed my life and health in so many ways and it is the best decision I’ve ever made (consult your doctor if you are considering it). I would also say my wedding day, not that it changed me but it was the happiest day of my life and holds so many treasured memories and special moments with loved ones, some who are sadly no longer with us.
5. What lights you up?
Nothing makes me happier than when someone tells me that I have inspired them (either personally or through my content) to make the switch to cruelty free beauty. That when they shop they actually look for the leaping bunny logo or that they no longer want to use brands that test on animals. This is why I do this. This is my purpose and through Wild & Cruelty Free and my social platforms I will continue to make a difference.