10 minutes with Tamara Brittain
Rainbow Feet blogger, co-founder of The Peridot Magazine and all-round awesome, meet Tamara...
Tamara, can you tell our readers who you are and what you do?
I feel like I am a woman in many hats! I am a freelance illustrator and writer, green beauty and lifestyle blogger (Rainbow Feet) and co-founder of The Peridot mag. Most of what I do is connected to mindful living, natural/organic beauty and eco fashion.
How did you get into beauty?
I think fascination with beauty was always there: from observing my Mum and my aunt getting ready in front of the mirror when I was a toddler; raiding a vanity dresser, to find that strawberry hand cream that smelt so good when I was 6; or cheekily applying my Mum’s eyeshadow when I was a teenager. All of it contributed, and of course my obsession with beauty features in the glossies, that was always the section I would read first.
I used to save up pocket money to get a lip gloss or perfume, and with my first job, as soon as I got my pay check you could find me at the beauty counter picking out an item of makeup or skincare. I always liked reading labels after getting my beauty purchases home. In fact it was somewhat of a fascination and almost like a ritual, I had to read absolutely everything that was written on the box or jar of my skincare or makeup (and I actually still do this, but now I also carefully examine things before bringing them home). Of course the ingredients lists didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time, but I still devoured every letter.
Why organic beauty?
My skin has always been pretty reactive, and going through puberty and the accompanying acne has made things pretty tough. I was going from one product to another, trying to find something that would make my skin better and not worse. When I came across a Lush store and was handed over a copy of Lush times (which was read cover to cover), I started to gain some understanding of what all those Latin cosmetic ingredient names meant.
For me it really is a lifestyle choice. I get organic whenever I can, be it a t-shirt, a tin of baked beans or my foot cream. I think we all are very far removed from what we buy, gone are the days when we could say exactly where everything came from and exactly who made it (although there are admirable efforts in making some of that lost transparency come back). Nothing is ever made in a vacuum, ingredients for skincare are made from something.
If we are talking natural beauty products (and it is also the case for some mainstream products), the ingredients involved are botanicals. This means they need to be grown and harvested, so the same concerns as with our food chain also apply to beauty ingredients. Of course we don’t rub olives or rose petals on our face in the hopes of them moisturising our skin, we use these botanicals in oil form (be they mixed in with water and emulsifier to create a moisturiser, or with other oils blended into a serum, or with waxes to create a balm). It takes over a hundred olives to create 100ml of oil, and each drop of rose essential oil contains approximately 60 roses. Before we even consider extractions methods and the processes used to get that oil out, the potential amount of plant material in each bottle of face oil is staggering. If you are concerned about the effects of the pesticides on bees, soil and our eco system in general, like I am, it just makes sense to want those plants to be grown organically and with the least negative environmental impact as possible.
From a purely selfish perspective, the cosmetic industry seems to be more closely monitored by marketing agencies rather than anything else. While certain chemicals (man-made or otherwise), are safe in small doses, the jury is still out on how they all interact with each other and over long term. I’m using a number of beauty products every day, and there is some sort of layering involved (toner followed by moisturiser, followed by foundation and so on). Since the combinations of products that are used are more or less unique to each person, it is incredibly hard to trace the cumulative effects of these products. Not only do I prefer to err on the side of caution in this case, but also I find that there are plenty of amazing organic products that do wonders for my skin. Results really speak for themselves and I just don't see a downside.
When did you become familiar with Soil Association?
It would have been around 10 years ago when I became aware of organic produce. I was becoming more interested in food and what effects it has on our wellbeing. I can’t quite remember what came first: my organic veg box subscription or discovery of the Organic Life magazine (sadly now out of print). Both made me want to investigate all things organic, including beauty and fashion. This was when I realised that Soil Association certified not only food, but also textiles and beauty products.
What does Soil Association mean to you?
To me Soil association is like a form of assurance that someone independent is keeping an eye on things. In a way it is quality control. When I see the logo, I know that a whole host of things are covered: from effects on biodiversity to better pay for farmers and animal welfare.
What’s next for you and Rainbow Feet?
Rainbow Feet has always been a personal blog, from the start it represented where I was on my green journey. I feel like I am at a pretty good point with the beauty products, I know exactly what works for my skin, the type of make-up I genuinely enjoy using. I’m also in my thirties and my priorities are changing slightly, I want to enjoy the things that I have and celebrate the now. At this point I realised that I need to be a lot more aware of the amount of plastic that I buy, how much waste I create and be a lot more creative in terms of reusing things rather than throwing them out.
I have been watching a lot of environmental documentaries lately, which left me in a kind of weird state of shock. It's so easy to block out everything else that is going on out there somewhere, when you are presented with another electric bill and just general daily grind. You can be presented with stories about ocean pollution and the declining bee population, and you sort file it in your head under ‘I’ll get back to that another day’. The thing is we really don’t have any more days to put things off, we need to start making changes (we needed to start making them yesterday really, but there is no handy time machine unfortunately). I hope my readers will continue with me on this journey, and find some interesting tips and maybe even feel inspired to come up with their own solutions. Of course I will carry on showcasing organic skincare, and eco fashion, as well as sharing recipes and videos from time to time.