For most women, using makeup is just a part of everyday living. From her teenage years onward, when a woman becomes conscious of her looks, she usually feels the need to enhance those looks though the help of makeup. There is no single reason why women use makeup. Of course, the main reason is to look good, but there are other reasons, like using makeup to cover a flaw, expressing creativity, or serving as a form of therapy to feel good about oneself.
Whatever the reasons a woman may have for using makeup, there is an angle to makeup that we often neglect. It is one important side we often neglect; one we should ask makeup companies to address, and that is the safety factor of certain ingredients that most companies add to their makeup.
What’s on Your Face?
Manufacturers create their makeup out of chemicals, additives and agents which either serve to enhance the texture of the product, make it last longer, or to impart some chemical action on your skin. The reactions caused by these chemicals, natural or artificial, can often have adverse effects, and can even be hazardous to your health.
Do not be taken up by tall claims by manufacturers that their makeup is“all natural and safe for most skin types,” because even some natural extracts can be harmful when added to the skin. Although this article may not be for the squeamish, if you are the sort of person to view information objectively and make an educated choice, you would do well to learn some shocking facts about what goes into your everyday makeup.
Let’s take a look at the 10 most common and unhealthiest ingredients you can in the makeup that you use on a daily basis.
1. Lanolin: How Filthy is Your Sebum?
Lanolin seems like a harmless substance, but this may not be so. Lanolin is extracted from a waxy substance called sebum that coats a sheep’s body under its fur. Sebum is a secretion of the skin and is produced as hormonal oil, just as in all other animal skin, including human beings. Lanolin can contain contaminants like dust, pollen, sweat and even fecal matter.
Lanolin has moisturizing properties; hence, it a major ingredient of most moisturizers, shaving creams and shampoos. There are over 100 well-known brands of lipstick that use lanolin as one of the ingredients. However, with lanolin, there is the hygiene factor that comes into play. The purification process of lanolin is complex and varies from company to company.
These facts about lanolin are not likely to be highlighted by the manufacturers of the cosmetics that contain it, so ultimately we are left to guess and hope for the best, that the lanolin has been purified thoroughly.
2. Squalene: From a Shark’s Liver to Your Lips
This is a substance that is also used generously in many cosmetics. This may come as an unpleasant surprise, but if you are a woman and have been using makeup for over two years, it is highly likely that you have had considerable exposure to this extract of a shark’s liver on some part of your body or the other.
Squalene is easily absorbable by the body, and blends well with different oils, so it is a popular ingredient, used in balms, sunscreens, facial moisturizers among other cosmetics. Although a manufacturer is likely to mention on their product literature that squalene is used, they are not likely to highlight the shark liver oil part, so you will be none the wiser.
Toxicology studies have revealed that squalene has a low level of acute toxicity and is not likely to cause any serious skin irritations or allergies, but the very idea of applying an extract from a shark’s liver on one’s skin could be repulsive, especially if that person is a vegetarian. So, regarding using cosmetics that contain squalene is entirely up to the user’s preferences.
Another angle is from the point of view of conservation of wildlife. Today, even hunting of sharks has become regulated, so there are many wildlife conservationists who may be against the use of squalene for these reasons, and several cosmetic companies have discontinued using squalene for the same reason.
3. Ambergris: Whale Feces on Your Face?
Revolting as it may seem this substance is exactly as described. Ambergris in its natural formis endowed with a marine-like, fecal odor. The unique property of this substance is that with age, it acquires a sweet, earthy scent similar to the fragrance of rubbing alcohol, without the volatility of alcohol. This is why ambergris is much sought after for use in the perfume industry.
Even though this substance has been replaced by a synthetic substitute, ambroxan, several companies still use ambergris for manufacturing perfumes. In fact, ambergris has been historically used for food flavoring, an aphrodisiac and incense. Today it is used in perfume. This substance is valuable, and it can cost up to $20 for a single gram of ambergris.
Here again, the makeup manufacturers may not mention on their labels that they use ambergris, and even if they do, they are not likely to explain the actual origin or nature of the substance.
Ambergris is supposed to have curative powers and has been used in the medical field as a cure for several ills. Although the concept may be repulsive, the harmfulness of ambergris has not been proven. So ultimately, it us up to you, as the end user to check the label, and make a decision whether you want to use it or not.
4. Diatomaceous Earth: Dead Algae for Cleaning Your Dermis
This substance is popularly used in cosmetic formulas for acne treatments, facial cleansers and exfoliates. Diatomaceous earth is nothing but the fossilized remains of single-celled algae known as diatoms. A disgusting fact about this growth is that it is also responsible for creating slime in wet and dirty places. Diatomaceous earth has the appearance of a sedimentary rock. It is not a rock, however, but a cluster of dead algae which has become fossilized over a period of a few million years.
The rock that is formed from this dead algais well-known for its abrasive nature,and it can be crumbled easily, which results in the formation of tiny, sharp grains which serve to remove dead skin, but is not harmful to a person. So here again, it is up to you to decide whether you are comfortable using dead algae on your face, because this is not likely to be highlighted on the label.
5. Guanine: Fish Scales That Shimmer Like Pearls
Used in the manufacture of shampoo, nail polish and other personal products, the base of this substance is fish scales. Guanine has many uses. It is produced by processing the scales of fish and has become a popular product in the cosmetics industry. Crystalline guanine,when used to manufacture products like shampoos, imparts a pearly, shimmering effect.
A similar effect can be observed in nail polish and eye shadow. The issue about guanine is that it is mentioned on product labels as CI 75170, or better still, to give it a fancy name, you may see it mentioned as a natural pearl essence.
The fact of the matter is that the consumer is cleverly not being told properly, what the substance actually is. Even if you are okay with applying fish scales on your face, eyes or lips, there is always the possibility of developing an allergy to the substance, especially if you experience allergic reactions to seafood. It could even result in serious skin conditions like acne, rosacea and eczema.
6. Cholesterol: Bad for Your Arteries, Good for Anti-Aging
Used liberally in face creams and moisturizer – yes, it is cholesterol. This may be a difficult fact to digest, but cholesterol is actually collected by cosmetic companies and used lavishly to smear on your face. Cholesterol is a waxy substance which tends to build up inside blood vessels and clogs them, restricting the blood supply to and from the heart and the other various organs of the body.
For some reason, cosmetic research has declared cholesterol to be a beneficial substance for skin conditioning and emollient properties. Cholesterol is believed to help the skin to retain moisture, and thus exhibit anti-wrinkle properties, so it is used for the production of anti-wrinkle and anti-aging creams.
However, there is no real proof of the authenticity of this claim, but if you care to look at the labels of such creams, you will be able to see for yourself that these companies do indeed use cholesterol. With the knowledge of what cholesterol is capable of doing inside our blood vessels, one should really think twice about applying it to the face. In fact, the extended use of cholesterol-based creams could result in acne and other skin-based medical conditions.
7. A Bad Reputation: Get the Lead Out of Your Makeup
We know that lead is bad for us. Over the years, there has been a lot of opposition against the use of lead in any substances that are likely come into direct contact with the skin. Lead has been long since banned from being used in paint and other pigments. Lead is poison, a neurotoxin – there are no two ways about it. The presence of lead beyond permissible limits in the human body can lead to birth defects, physical impairment, miscarriage and even brain damage.
A recent survey b the FDA a few years ago revealed that over 400 popular brands of cosmetics in the U.S. contained lead in concentrations over the permissible limits – up to 7.19 parts per million.
How did this happen? The thing is that these companies were perhaps outsourcing procurement of materials from certain third world countries where the regulation for lead content is not up to the mark. The ideal means of ensuring that you do not get lead-contaminated cosmetics is to buy products that use natural dyes and pigments.
8. Mercury: This Poison Doesn’t Belong in Your Mascara
Mercury is an ingredient which is commonly used for the manufacture of skin-lightening soaps and creams. It is also widely used in the manufacture of eye makeup cleansing products and mascara. In Asian and African countries skin-lightening soaps and creams are extremely popular. Wherever there are dark-skinned populations in Europe and North America is where they are also widely used.
Mercury salts inhibit the production of melanin in the skin, which creates a lighter skin tone. You can find both inorganic and organic Mercury in cosmetics. Inorganic mercury, such as ammoniated mercury, which can be found in skin-lightening soaps and creams. Organic mercury compounds, like ethyl mercury and phenyl mercuric salts serve as cosmetic preservatives in eye makeup, cleansing products and mascara.
However, you should not be taken up with the tall claims to fairness that these companies make. Excessive exposure to mercury can result in Mercury poisoning, also known as hydrargyria or mercurialism. As a result of mercury poisoning, loss of vision, hearing or even speech can occur, accompanied by a lack of coordination.
Extreme cases of mercury poisoning can result in death. The best way to avoid being exposed to mercury through cosmetics is to use branded, well-known cosmetics. Never compromise on the cost, because saving a few dollars could turn out to be a costly affair in the long run.
9. Fragrance: What are You Breathing?
It may come as a real surprise that fragrance in a cosmetic could contain harmful substances. The hazardous part of exposure to fragrance is that it takes a direct route into the body though the air passage, and thereby into the lungs. By inhaling the volatile substances that come with a fragrance, you are also inhaling vapors that could be toxic to some extent and it could make you sick. If fragrances get accumulated in the body, it could lead to asthma.
Some of the fragrances that you need to avoid are methyl, propyl, butyl and ethyl parabens. Parabens are particularly unhealthy substances. They are used usually for the preservation of cosmetics and to extend their shelf-life. However, this particular group of organic chemicals is dangerous, because the chemicals of this group have the capacity to penetrate the skin, and are believed to have a harmful effect on hormones. Parabens are also said to be carcinogenic.
10. Dyes: How Safe Are They?
Here is a really common ingredient which is used in the manufacture of all types of cosmetics. A dye is actually not really an essential ingredient, in the sense that it does not have any cosmetic effect. It is only used to improve the aesthetic value of the product by making it look good.
However, there are dyes and there are dyes. Most branded cosmetics contain dyes that are approved by the relevant regulating bodies. Many cosmetics are made using dyes that are not permitted, thereby introducing the possibility of serious health issues like skin problems, acne, rosacea and even more serious illnesses like brain damage, nervous disorders and cancer.
A surprising fact is that many of the dyes that are used for manufacturing cosmetics are not allowed for use in the food industry. So there is no logic behind using them in cosmetics, but it happens. Unfortunately, the regulations on dyes used in cosmetics are not as stringent as the laws governing dyes in cosmetics. As a thumb rule, you would do well to avoid dyes containing sodium lauryl sulfate and parabens. Tar-based dyes should also be avoided.
You might then ask how do you find cosmetics that do not contain harmful dyes? The answer is quite simple – just ensure that the cosmetics that you use contain natural extracts for dyes. You will then and only then be rest assured that the makeup that you use does not contain dyes that can harm you.
Do Some Good for Yourself
Here, we have addressed a burning issue revolving around something that is used to a lesser or greater extent everyday by women all over the world. The makeup industry in the U.S. is a huge, multi-billion-dollar business. However, you need to be aware of the inside story of what goes into the manufacturing of most makeup, and the unhealthy or undesirable substances that may be used to create it.
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly health-conscious. From Pilates and aerobic workouts to special organic, vegan diets and yoga, people are turning to natural remedies for leading a healthier and more meaningful life. There is no point in taking such measures, like removing the toxins from the body through healthy eating and exercise, to simply replace these toxins with substances present in your makeup. So, how can you ensure that you are using makeup that is safe and free from toxins and unhealthy substances?
You need to make a special effort to find out more about better alternatives to makeup where natural and organic ingredients are used. If you try, you will be able to identify an entire class of organic cosmetics available which use natural ingredients This type of makeup may be costlier, but in the long run, you will be investing in good health by putting out that little extra bit of money, and avoiding makeup that contains harmful ingredients. .You may not be able to identify the myriad of harmful substances in the makeup that is available in the market. However, by being sensible about the makeup you use and insisting on natural products, you will be able to ensure that you can use your makeup knowing that it won’t make you ill.