By Jess Handley

The old philosophy that “beauty is pain” has been culturally revered in many parts of the world and is still trickling through into our retrospective societies today. Any runway model that walks the ramp in nine inch heels, the South African woman who feels her scalp being pulled as her braids are restructured, or on the rare occasion the Chinese woman who is still told to bind their feet will tell you this is true. Beauty may be painful, but there is a distinct line between painful and poisonous. The truth is that many of the beauty products on the market today, ranging from foundations through to hair care products contain chemicals that can have nasty side effects for those that use them.cosmetics

Many make up and body care products will throw in phrases onto their labels such as “made with organic,” or “many natural ingredients,” and although this may be true, this does not negate the fact that there are other ingredients that are not natural included in these products. Parabens, for example are used as preservatives found in many products, and have also been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity. Triclosan is a particularly nasty ingredient that has been found in antibacterial products, hand sanitizers, and deodorants and it is linked to cancer and endocrine disruption.

Unfortunately the crux of this issue is that the makeup industry is so heavily under regulated that many of these ingredients seep through the system and into the user’s skin. And as the number of brands and products increases, the harder the industry becomes to regulate. As mentioned before, at the retail end of the process many of these products make claims about “natural-ness” and “organically produced” (whatever that is supposed to mean) which makes for a huge smoke screen as to what is really going on. The only way around this conundrum is for consumers to read the ingredients of the beauty products that they purchase, and avoid the ones that contain large amounts of toxic ingredients.

Some of the more commonly used toxic ingredients include:

Hydroquinone: Used for lightening skin. Banned in the UK, rated most toxic on the EWG’s Skin Deep database, and linked to cancer and reproductive toxicity.

Lead: Found in lipstick and hair dye.

Mercury: Found in mascara and some eye drops. Known allergen that impairs brain development.

Mineral oil: By-product of petroleum that’s used in baby oil, moisturizers, styling gels. It creates a film that impairs the skin’s ability to release toxins.

Oxybenzone: Active ingredient in chemical sunscreens that accumulates in fatty tissues and is linked to allergies, hormone disruption, cellular damage, low birth weight.

Paraphenylenediamine (PPD): Used in hair products and dyes, but toxic to skin and immune system.

Silicone-derived emollients: Used to make a product feel soft, these don’t biodegrade, and also prevent skin from breathing. Linked to tumour growth and skin irritation.

Sodium lauryl (ether) sulphate (SLS, SLES): A former industrial degreaser now used to make soap foamy, it’s absorbed into the body and irritates skin.

Talc: Similar to asbestos in composition, it’s found in baby powder, eye shadow, blush, deodorant. Linked to ovarian cancer and respiratory problems.

Toluene: Known to disrupt the immune and endocrine systems, and foetal development, it’s used in nail and hair products. .

Triclosan: Found in antibacterial products, hand sanitizers, and deodorants, it is linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. Avoid the brand Microban.


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