Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Ugly Side of Beauty: What's Really In Your Makeup?

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I'm just gonna come out and say it. This is not a rainbows, unicorns and butterflies post. In fact, today's topic makes me incredibly sad. I just discovered that I've been a test subject for the cosmetics industry since the day I first applied lip gloss in middle school. There was no consent form, no yellow caution tape, nothing! I didn't even know I was in danger!

A few weeks ago while researching for a post I was writing for Witty + Pretty, I stumbled across the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website. Now I'd be amiss if I didn't add a disclaimer here...

DISCLAIMER: Ignorance is bliss. If you are perfectly happy applying your makeup each day, knowing nothing of its ingredients or dangers, avert your eyes now. This promises to be slightly disturbing.

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Ok... here we go!

The Skin Deep website allows you to search for any cosmetic, body product or fragrance by brand or product name and then goes on to rank the products according to their toxicity levels on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the most dangerous). In addition to the overall rankings, Skin Deep lists each ingredient separately and discloses the potential hazards of each.

Obviously, I did a hurried search for my favorite beauty basics and got an immediate stress headache when I saw the results.

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Take my favorite beauty product for example - mascara. I'm not a fancy girl. I use CoverGirl's LashBlast Waterproof Volume Mascara. Skin Deep gave it a 5 on the toxicity scale (click here for the full results) because (wait for it, wait for it) this mascara contains ingredients known for organ system toxicity, endocrine system disruption and even reproductive system dangers. Yikes!

Turns out, cosmetics are some of the least regulated products on the market. While you might think that the FDA determines which products end up on the shelves, they actually have no pre-market approval authority over cosmetics and beauty products. In fact, almost 89% of ingredients used in beauty products have not been tested for safety by any publicly accountable institution. This is frightening, especially when you consider that your skin absorbs up to 60% or more of what you paint or slather on it.

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So.. what's a girl to do then? The way I see it, you have two choices...

1.  FORK OVER A BIT MORE FOR THE NATURAL STUFF - The good news is that there are many natural lines on the market! The bad news is that they're usually a bit more expensive! You can find them online (brands like Dr. Hauschka, Lavera, SukiColor Organic Makeup, or Faerie Organic) or there are a few in the drugstore (brands like Burt's Bees and Physicians Formula). Whole Foods even has a small natural makeup section.

2.  GET CRAFTY AND MAKE YOUR OWN - If you dig the DIY thing, why not make your own line of products? Hey, if it works out, you can even create your own label and start a small business! The advantage of this route is that you will save so much money by making your own, not to mention you'll know exactly what's in them! The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a great resource for beginners, and any quick Google search will supply you with multiple recipes to get started!

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to re-assess our makeup bags. But since the world is far from perfect and big corporations tend to put profit over people, it's time to wise up. I personally believe that each purchase I make sends a message about my values and my beliefs. I buy products from companies I trust, and hope that if you join me in doing this, one day the cosmetics industry will be forced to whistle a different tune.

Here's to radiant, nourished, natural beauty!


  1. Ahh! This is one of my worst fears. I've made the switch to eating clean foods and all of my bath and body products are natural as well. It's the makeup that I haven't been able to switch. I'd love to hear if you've found great, natural products.

    1. I'm right there with you... it's so scary to think of all the stuff I've painted on my face over the years! I recently tried Dr. Hauschka's line, which I bought on Amazon. It definitely serves the purpose but it's not what I'm used to. The mascara isn't giving me 'va va voom' lashes, but it's a trade off and I'm ok with that. The powder has a smell that I can only compare to roses (I'm not a huge fragrance girl so it's taken some getting used to), and the concealer is a little thicker than my former favorite. Overall, I've been happy with it, but the price is definitely an issue (confession: I used an Amazon gift card for this round, but next time... yikes). I should be receiving some Faerie Organic products in the next week, so hopefully I'll have more to share soon! If you find anything natural that works well for you, please send it my way as well! Thanks for reading the blog! I just checked out yours and it's great!!