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Five reasons why shoplifting beauty products might not be that bad


TextLakeisha Goedluck

Own up, we’ve all done it...

NB: It goes without saying, we do not endorse any criminal activity. Here, we explore some reasons why people might steal beauty products, but please do not steal. 

Most people are familiar with the eighth commandment: “Thou shalt not steal.” But despite knowing right from wrong, this still isn’t enough to stop the urge to pocket an item without paying for it. From grabbing a couple of grapes at the supermarket to stealthily nicking a pair of shoes, stealing is practically a rite of passage – and swiping make-up seems to be everyone’s go-to offence. 

Teenage girls and women, in particular, have been using their five-finger discount to lift a lipstick or two for ages. Social norms will say that this behaviour is wrong, but on closer inspection, is shoplifting cosmetics really that bad? From arguably serving as the ultimate feminist act to inspiring Reddit threads that foster a strong sense of community, here are five reasons why getting that ‘free’ mascara may not be as bad as you think.  

IT’S A RITE OF PASSAGE 

So, you made it through school without stealing a pot of Barry M Dazzle Dust. Congratulations! You’re definitely in the one per cent. Nothing says teenage high jinks like a group trip to your nearest Superdrug with the intent of getting that kohl pencil you’ve had your eye on, but don’t want to part with your babysitting wages to buy. Stealing make-up during those teenage years may seem as inexorable as menstruation, but why are so many of us inclined to do it? 

“When I was 14/15, I used to buy a sandwich at the self-checkout in Boots and sneak eyeliners and mascaras through,” says 27-year-old Jennifer. “I mainly did it because make-up is expensive! It also made me feel like I was getting one over on the adults.” As for 17-year-old Ellie, she’s never stolen make-up but feels the pressure from her pals to do so. “My friends make it look so easy and (they) get a load of good stuff.” Just like alcohol and class As, then, the impetus to steal make-up seems to be caused by a heady mixture of teenage angst and peer pressure – reasonings that are usually far beyond our control. 

FILMS SAY IT’S OK

Since it was first invented, film has both reflected and shaped human life. A quick Google search for “inspirational movie quotes” will leave you with food for thought for days, therefore, it only makes sense to do as they do in the movies, right? Spanning from coming-of-age flicks to blockbuster action thrillers, stealing can often be a pivotal aspect of the plotline. 

 In the 2003 drama Thirteen, Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed star as teenage tearaways Tracy and Evie who seriously get up to no good. Tackling issues surrounding family drama, underage sex and self-harm, the two initially become friends after stealing a stranger’s wallet and going on a shopping spree. In a similar vein, 2013’s The Bling Ring sees a group of teens embark on an elaborate heist based on a real-life operation – ringleader Rachel Lee was first busted for the theft of $85 worth of Sephora products. And in case that’s not enough to convince you, check out the scene in Ocean’s 8 (2018) where Sandra Bullock’s character Debbie Ocean smooth-talks her way to a free bag full of cosmetics from Bergdorf Goodman. (That’s one way to ensure that you’re ready for your close-up, eh?)

IT BUILDS A SENSE OF COMMUNITY

The beauty industry has always sparked a sense of togetherness. Whether it be the QVC mums of the 80s or the modern-day vlogging generation, uniting over a shared interest in translucent powders is nothing new. However, in recent times, make-up has brought strangers together in a more unconventional fashion.  

Social media and the prevalence of forums such as Reddit have changed the way people connect with one another. Online communities where users share make-up tips are of course widespread, but it’s the darker side of the web where things get really interesting.

Back in 2017, there was a subreddit called r/shoplifting entirely focused on – you guessed it – the art of stealing. Anonymous contributors would post images of their ‘hauls’ and detailed explanations of how exactly they procured the pictured items, while like-minded thread members would offer advice and share their own experiences. Essentially, it was a love fest centred around hustling lipsticks. The thread existed for eight years until it eventually got shut down, but other smaller threads have surfaced ever since. Top tip: if you’re really desperate to find a large web-based community of thieves, then Raddle.me may be just the ticket. 

IT’S A FUCK YOU TO BEAUTY STANDARDS

Since the dawn of time, women have often fallen victim to patriarchal standards of beauty. Large corporations have profited from women and young girls feeling the need to adhere to an unachievable standard of perfection sold to them through advertisements. From Germaine Greer to Betty Friedan, the feminist discourse that explores the corrupt relationship between consumerism, femininity, and desirability is extensive.

However, in today’s age, the rise of social media has meant that this state of affairs has both worsened and waned. On the one hand, the influx of influencers has caused ideas surrounding beauty to shift so much that cosmetic surgery has become the new norm. On the other, hashtags such as #fyourbeautystandards and #lovetheskinyourein has meant that women finally have a platform to collectively fight back. 

While the impact of social media activism can be far-reaching, to really put the middle finger up to big businesses, many modern-day feminists suggest simply not paying for make-up. In a piece for Medium, writer Alana Levinson argues that using testers (or stealing) is the best way to ‘shop’ from consumers like Sephora. “I like to see the store as a kind of free-floating powder room that’s always stocked with the best products that cost nothing to use,” she writes. Basically, sisters are sampling it for themselves. 

TWO WRONGS MAKE A RIGHT? 

In case the decline of the planet isn’t enough of an indicator, us humans can be really selfish. So, it’s all well and good stealing for our own gain, but we’re not the only animals at risk where the make-up industry is concerned. 

Humanity has a long, dark history of participating in vivisection, otherwise known as animal testing. Performed on conscious living beings with a central nervous system, cosmetic ingredients are tested on animals to ensure that they are safe to be sold. Usually, substances are applied to the skin or eyes and then the subjects are measured for toxicity levels, any irritancy and potential damage to organs. 

Understandably, there’s been a huge backlash towards companies that engage in such barbaric practices – but it’s still not illegal for them to do so. Brands such as Benefit, Estée Lauder, and Maybelline directly or indirectly test on animals according to PETA, so, although two wrongs don’t make a right, stealing from these brands won’t weigh so heavily on your conscience. Alternatively, if you’re keen to keep your morals intact, support newer, cruelty-free companies such as Lush, Glossier, and Fenty Beauty.

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