In The Beauty Breakdown, ELLE talks to beauty obsessives about their desert-island beauty reccos, the experts on their speed dial, and everything they’ve learnt in their pursuit to achieving happy skin. This edition features Campbell Ritchie, a make-up artist who is an advocate for vegan and cruelty-free beauty. Her work has featured on several ELLE covers. She has worked with celebrities like Livia Firth, Angela Lansbury, Naomi Watts and Toni Garrn.
ELLE: What lead you to champion vegan, cruelty-free beauty?
Campbell Ritchie: I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life. When I was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer 15 years ago, a guru had no trouble convincing me to go vegan and give up a few other foods that were causing trouble in my body. I remember thinking to myself, “How can I give up cheese”, but I was a 30-year-old young mum who was given four months to live, so this was non-negotiable. A few years later, I was diagnosed with skin cancer. We caught it early, but on further investigation my toxicology report revealed so much aluminum metal, animal probiotics (from the dairy I had eaten), and traces of plastic. Some of the cancer-causing toxins in my body were directly related to the products my mom used to put on me as a child—these are big global brands which everyone still trusts. Do I sue these companies? No. Do I work with them to better their product? Yes. It’s frightening to know that we are putting this stuff on our kids every day, and companies are guilty of green washing. I want to be able to use my voice not just as a celebrity, but as Jane Goodall says, “being the voice for the voiceless”.
It’s my job as a make-up artist and mission worker to educate people about clean beauty. I feel proud when I can help a celebrity client discover a beauty brand that’s making a difference. There are so many small brands out there who aren’t using animal ingredients, have reduced packaging, and have a mindful mission statement leaning towards sustainability.
I remember working with Maya Hawke, Uma Thurman’s daughter when she was starting out as an actor. I asked her about her favourite skincare and make-up, and she had a long list of products. I said to her that she can use alternatives that are just as good, and then I explained to her how her preferred mascara brand tested on rabbits. She was horrified, and promised to clear out her make-up that very evening. And that’s the point, I have this opportunity to educate and plant seeds of thought in people’s minds.
Campbell Ritchie’s ELLE covers
ELLE: What are your thoughts on the fact that most people believe that clean, vegan beauty products aren’t as effective?
CR: I disagree with that statement; there are so many incredible brands out there that have been clean or vegan for a long time, but they’re not shouting about it. I’m talking about Bare Minerals and Hourglass, they both have really incredible products that last. I just started working with a brand called Bite Beauty, they are clean and are moving to being completely vegan (a couple of colours aren’t vegan). Their Supercharged Micellar Foundation is beautiful; it’s sheer but buildable and mimics skin. I also love Chantecaille—it’s my mission to be their brand ambassador. There’s another brand called Axiology, their Lip to Lid Balmies that’s like a crayon with a simple, biodegradable wrapper. Milk Make-up by my gorgeous friend, celebrity stylist Zanna Roberts Rassi and Weleda (‘a German favourite’) are other great brands. These are my go-to brands even for shoots and red carpet events.
Campbell’s personal make-up kit
ELLE: What are your go-to beauty brands?
CR: Suntegrity for tinted sunscreen, Alba Botanica for reef safe sunscreen and Bite cosmetics for sheer buildable foundation. I love everything at Marc Jacobs beauty. I also like Bare minerals Mineral powder foundation, Inika for its mascara and finishing powder, Axiology Lip to Lid Balmies, Beautycounter Gold concealer pen. Chantecaille has the most beautiful products, they have thought about everything from packaging to product ingredients to giving back to foundations—love the brand.
Two of my favourite hair brands are actually Australian, Kevin Murphy and Mr Smith. My friend also has another love hair brand called KeraCell. For skincare I trust brands like Dr Barbara Strum, Olive + M, Clark’s Botanicals, Hemp Me (an Australian brand from Melbourne), Dr Murad, Lina Hanson, June Oils, Chantecaille and Inika Organic (another Australian brand).
Her go-to cruelty-free skincare products
ELLE: As a professional, what’s your approach towards make-up?
CR: The skin has to look real because ultimately everyone wants flawless skin that still looks like their own skin, just a more polished version. I’m so grateful to my mentors, Kevyn Aucoin and Val Garland for teaching me that. As a make-up artist, I spend almost 20-30 minutes prepping skin and only 10 minutes applying make-up—everyone is shocked to hear this, but they love how they look at the end.
It’s so important to get the prep right, and I often use oils to moisturise skin. I’m a huge fan of face oils—Olive + M’s under-eye oil has changed the way I think about under-eye products. I also use rose water face mist, that’s actually inspired by my grandmother who lived in Sweden, and made her own rose water. The story goes like this—she fell in love with a Bulgarian prince in the 1920s. When he invited her to his palace, she took some roses from him gardens back home to Sweden. She potted these flowers and started making the most divine rose water from it—I also think she used some special alkaline water for it. Somehow I still have a bottle of this—it’s super hydrating and literally smells like a bed of roses.
ELLE: Do you create your own DIYs as well?
CR: I do! In fact I should have been a chemist, but when my mom said I need to be good at math I decided to become a ballerina, but after my injury, I turned to make-up. I may start bottling up my grandmother’s rose water soon too. For DIYs, avocados are a staple—it’s probably the first solid food I ate as a child. I eat half of it and mash the other half into a paste and apply it on my skin. It has the slightest tightening effect, but it is also so creamy and moisturizing. I’m also quite old-fashioned and love putting cucumber slices on my eyes. I sometimes use berry compote to stain my lips and cheeks, my grandmother did this during the war—she also used beets to stain her cheeks and tea to make her legs appear tan. I apply vegan sour cream on my face to cool skin or soothe hot flushes. I’ve also been using leftover ground coffee as a body scrub, especially for my legs. I feel like it helps because I don’t have as much cellulite as a 44-year-old woman would—a good diet and exercise help too. I also use a lot of (ACV) apple cider vinegar—in smoothies, to clean, to cook, as a hair rinse and to calm a pimple.
ELLE: What are some of the tools you use to be more informed about brands that are greenwashing?
CR: I use the Think Dirty app. You just enter the product name or scan the barcode and you’ll know everything about it. It’s quick and convenient, and there’s no excuse for being ignorant anymore. You can also go to the source, visit the brand’s website and there will be a disclaimer about animal testing—it’s often hidden but the law requires them to state it on the website. You can also email the brand and ask them about ingredients in the products.
There are several other apps that can help you out too, like Bunny Free, Cruelty Cutter, EWG Healthy living, Detox Me, Cosmethics, and Chemical Maze.
You can also watch the documentary Toxic Beauty. There are some great books on the subject, like A Consumer’s Dictionary Of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter, Toxic Beauty by Dawn Mellowship, The Beauty Of Dirty Skin by Whitney Bowe, Goop Clean Beauty by the editors of Goop, and there’s another book called Toxic Beauty by Samuel S Epstein.
ELLE: How do you start your day?
CR: I practice Deepak Chopra’s meditation followed by the Wim Hoff breathing technique. In the beginning, Hoff’s method makes you feel light-headed because of all the oxygen you’re bringing into the body, but you slowly adjust to it. Then I take a cold, (so cold it can sometimes feel like it’s burning) shower. As Wim says “a cold shower a day keeps the doctor away” This is followed by yoga and some more meditation. Then I’ll read or go for a walk on the beach, I’m blessed to be out of the city and in Southampton. Right now, I ‘m reading so many books, Greta Thunberg’s book No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference, Soul mission and Becoming Supernatural by Dr Joe Dispenza.
Photographs courtesy: Campbell Ritchie