Friday, August 8, 2008

Toxins in Cosmetics and Personal Care Products

“They’ve lived a hard life; you can see it in their face.” How many times have we heard someone make this comment about a person who looks older than their age?

Aging, along with wrinkles, sagging, dull skin and various other signs, is a very personal experience based on two factors – intrinsic and extrinsic features. Intrinsic aging depends on internal factors such as your health, your genetic makeup, even your ancestry. Extrinsic aging is affected by factors external to your body such as pollution, cosmetics, climate, and many others.

The old adage “You are what you eat” by Brillat-Savarin has been modified for use today. “If you wouldn’t eat it; don’t put it on your skin” has become the new war cry of those opposed to the cosmetic industry’s seeming lack of concern for the health of their customers. This sage advice has become prevalent in the last decade or so. People are becoming more aware of not only what they are putting into their bodies; but, also what they are putting on their bodies.

Slathering killer cosmetics on our faces and bodies has been with us for eons. The Egyptians used a combination of malachite (green ore of copper), galena (lead sulfide) and kohl (soot, fatty matter, and metal [lead, antimony, manganese or copper]).

The ancient Greeks plastered lead all over their faces. This “cream” was supposed to clear up blemishes and improve the colour and texture of the skin. It was so popular that lead-based face masks became a must-have beauty treatment.

It would appear that not much has changed since those times. The amount of chemicals and toxins in our modern-day cosmetics and skin care products is so high that been stated by biochemist Richard Bence that 4 lbs. 6 oz. of chemicals a year is absorbed through the skin by cosmetic-wearing women.

Cosmetics worn on the face are not only absorbed through the skin. They can also be absorbed by inhaling particles through your nose, tiny particles entering the eyes to be absorbed by the mucosa lining, and/or eaten by such things as chewing on your lipstick and swallowing.

A study conducted by the University of California among 58,000 hairdressers, cosmetologists and manicurists showed these beauty-care workers had four times the average rate of multiple myeloma (a malignant bone tumour).

Some of these chemicals to be aware of are mercury (eye make-up), lead (lipstick), aluminum (lipstick), propylene glycol (personal care products), sodium laurel sulfate (shampoo), placenta (skin care), phthalates (nail polish remover) and petroleum products (skin cream, shampoo).

Instead look for products that are composed mostly of plant essential, oils or derivatives. A good rule of thumb is “if you can’t pronounce it – you don’t need it.” Of course, the best defense against unsafe cosmetics is to read the label and investigate the ingredients you find listed there. There are two excellent web sites that can help you sort through the insanity so you can decide whether this cosmetic is a product you want on your skin. - helps you to determine which cosmetics and personal care products are safe. The results of an intense cosmetic ingredient study are available here. – will give you all the ingredients in various personal care products and which ingredients are safe and which are not. Not all labels give you all the details and “Campaign for Safe Cosmetics” helps you determine which product contains what.

Perhaps the safest way to wear cosmetics is: Don’t – unless you really have to. After all, who wishes to share the same epitaph the famous Irish beauty, Marie Gunning (the Countess of Coventry) whose death in 1760 had many calling her a “victim of cosmetics.”


kathi #1190807 said...

Another great blog, Pippa! I love it for many reasons, the main one being that we (Univera) are about to come out with a line of skin care products. That was one of two big announcements at our convention in July. The other is the cardiovascular line. Stephen Cherniske has an updated version of the "you are what you eat" line that is one of UVs directives -"It's not what you eat, it's what you absorb." Very applicable to what you are saying about cosmetics. Once the line is out, I'll check the sites you have listed. Thanks! kathi

Anonymous said...

Hey Pippa, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your blog, most informative. I'm not much for wearing make-up myself but after reading this I'm going to replace what little make-up I do have that isn't safe for those that are. I'll keep checking back for more news each week. Thanks for all your hard work to help keep us in the loop & safe. Shannon