First, let me just say. I love makeup. My first job was as a makeup artist at Chanel when I was still in high school. That job led to several decades in the beauty business that started in corporate Chanel and led to positions at Donna Karan and Barney's New York. I later became a consultant to almost all major brands as well as many iconic indie make-up artist lines. The industry was very good to me and I consider myself so fortunate to have had such amazing opportunities.
But now, I'm older, and have had significant and persistent health problems. As a result, I've had to pull back the curtain on what has gone into my body that could have thrown it out of balance and into a complete tailspin.
A new era began for me that consisted of reading back labels, researching ingredients and medications, learning how to cook so I could control what I ate, and making as many products as I could that I used externally. This included toothpaste, deodorant, foot balm, foot spray, lip balm, lip gloss, lip stick, muscle rub, lube, shampoo and moisturizer. All told, this pretty much covered everything I was using on my body and skin.
For my face, I just stopped wearing make up on the daily, which was definitely a difficult adjustment. I buffed instead of polished my nails, stopped coloring my hair and switched from synthetic fragrance and perfume to scented oils.
By removing all of these products and the chemicals that go with them, I reduced the chemicals going into my body drastically. It is said that women put an estimated 168 chemicals on/in their bodies per day. Multiply that out over the course of a year and you are looking at 61,320 chemicals over 365 days of daily, unrelenting exposure.
Our poor bodies.
Just because color cosmetics aren’t under as much scrutiny as personal care/body products are, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking at. As customers become more savvy, they come to understand that “natural” is a marketing strategy, not an accurate account of the ingredients inside their products. And while there has been an increased focus on what goes into our bodies through vulnerable, permeable areas like the mouth, vagina, armpits, and skin, not as much attention has been given to the powders, foundations, eye shadows, etc... we like to wear.
Many chemicals have been outed over the last decade or so. We have the usual suspects in the world of disruptive ingredients like phthalates, propylene glycol, triclosan, parabens, formaldehyde, aluminum, mineral oil, plus everything else hidden in the chemical preservative class and the myriad of unrecognizable, multi-syllable, chemical concoctions that found their way into the products we use every day.
There are good reasons why these chemicals are used in all manufactured products, food included. Namely, most of what we buy/consume would not be shelf stable without them. They would be expensive if whole, natural ingredients were used in their place. And, they keep products from separating, turning color and smelling bad, as I’ve written about many times before here, here and here.
There is one ingredient, however, that hasn't received much attention in the toxic cosmetic chemical round ups. And that's asbestos. You hear it come up more when talking about walls, construction, paint, etc… But, in our pursuit of beauty, we frequently overlook the potential dangers of asbestos lurking in our cosmetics. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral well-known for its cancer-causing abilities. Surprisingly, asbestos has been discovered in some cosmetics, putting consumers at serious risk.
Cosmetics containing asbestos can cause serious health problems, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, when inhaled or applied to the skin. Because of a lack of stringent regulations, thorough testing and lack of transparency in labeling in the cosmetic industry, this toxic substance has found its way into our bodies, potentially on a daily basis.
To protect our health and wellbeing, first we must not only determine our comfort level with the degree of exposure, but also, we need a deeper dive* in reading labels which ultimately educates us to call BS on misleading claims and hopefully motivates manufacturers to be more transparent under the pressure of consumer demand.
*Quick cheat sheet on chemicals to avoid from Eco Watch.