Makeup's ugly secrets

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Author: Rose Marie Williams
Date: February-March 2006
From: Townsend Letter: The Examiner of Alternative Medicine(Issue 271-272)
Publisher: The Townsend Letter Group
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,125 words

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The 35 billion-dollar cosmetic industry is one of the nation's largest and most profitable enterprises, spending more money on television advertising than any other business. Contrary to what most consumers believe, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) neither tests nor determines the safety of cosmetics and toiletries. The cosmetic industry is self-regulating through an independent panel of experts whom it appoints. (1,2)

"Skin Deep" is the title of an investigative report prepared in 2004 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. The EWG examined 711 lipstick products and found that 28% contained ingredients associated with cancer risk from chemicals like butylated hydroxytoluene, Nylon 6, ferric oxide, polyethylene, and titanium dioxide. (2)

Toxins in Makeup

All cosmetic products contain a certain amount of bacteria, prompting manufacturers to add preservatives. Parabens are toxic and allergenic synthetic chemicals used extensively as preservatives in cosmetic products. Aubrey Hampton, of Aubrey Organic Cosmetics, informs us that preservatives are not added to protect the consumer from bacteria, however, but to extend the shelf life of the product. (3)

Toxic metals can be found in moisturizer, lotion, sun block, sunscreen, mascara, eye shadow, rouge, face powder, lipstick, and theatrical and clown makeup. Health effects may include nausea, cramps, vomiting, skin rash, joint and bone pain, mouth sores, cancer, stillbirths, genetic damage, immune dysfunction, brain and learning disorders, and impulsive and violent behavior. (4) These toxins in makeup are numerous and include the following:

Mercury compounds are permitted by the FDA for use in eye makeup at concentrations up to 65 parts per million (p/p/m). Awareness of mercury contamination in fish, vaccines, and dental amalgams is increasing. Old mercury-filled thermometers are being phased out and substituted with new mercury-free thermometers to avoid environmental and health risks. (Several schools have even been forced to close down because of mercury spills from broken thermometers.) Yet with all the evidence about mercury's toxicity, how many women and teenagers have been warned about toxic mercury in eye makeup? (5)

Mercury is both a deadly poison and a heavy metal. The skin easily absorbs mercury, and it accumulates in the body. (3)

Mercury exposure also may cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, or neurotoxicity problems. Phenyl mercuric acetate is a highly toxic chemical used as a preservative in eye makeup, even though it does not protect the consumer from bacteria in products that have become contaminated by use.

Bronopol is used in mascara and other cosmetics. A skin irritant, bronopol has caused blindness and death in laboratory animals at concentrations much higher than used in cosmetic products. (3)

Formaldehyde-releasing ingredients are found in nearly all brands of skin, body, and hair care products, antiperspirants, and nail polishes. Imidazolidinyl urea and DMDM Hydantoin are just two of many preservatives that release formaldehyde, which can irritate the respiratory system, cause asthma, allergies, or skin reactions, even trigger heart palpitations. Formaldehyde exposure can cause joint or chest pain, depression, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, immune dysfunction, and cancer. (6)

Hexamethylenetetramine is a carcinogenic...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Williams, Rose Marie. "Makeup's ugly secrets." Townsend Letter: The Examiner of Alternative Medicine, no. 271-272, Feb.-Mar. 2006, pp. 140+. Accessed 28 May 2023.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A143164538