Now that you are aware of what the different forms of natural cosmetics are, it is important to understand why it is so imperative for you to be using them.
What does makeup really do?
Did you know that practically anything applied to your skin is, at least in part, absorbed by your body? This form of product administration is known as “topical application”, and while this is a term most often used in reference to medication such as creams and disinfectants, it can just as easily be applied to beauty products and everything else you put on your skin. Why do you suppose children are ever being told not to draw on their hands with felt tips and sharpies? Because the toxic ingredients in those pens penetrate the skin, pass into the bloodstream and proceed to poison the body. The very same thing happens with cosmetics.
I do not mean to imply that whenever you apply foundation to your face, by the end of the day the whole layer of product will find itself beneath the surface of your skin. The reason being that the principal purpose of makeup is to enhance and benefit the outer layer of skin, therefore, heavy skin absorption would take away from the effect and, consequently, quality of the product. However, while designing a formula where all the ingredients infiltrate the body is a delicate process, creating a product in no way absorbable is close to impossible. Although the exact amount absorbed depends on the combination of ingredients, molecular size, quantity of product employed etc., some percentage of the cosmetic’s components will almost always be ingested.
Why is this so dangerous?
All of the above would not be nearly so unpleasant if the products absorbed were beneficial for the body, natural and unrefined. Unfortunately, with regards to the generic and especially popular brands, a significant part of the ingredients included in their products will have been chemically refined or of synthetic origin. Furthermore, many of these nasty ingredients will be recurring across brands. Therefore, by ritually applying the same makeup, or a range of products with repeating ingredients, the small amount of chemicals absorbed accumulates within the body. Some of these toxins may be filtered through the body and exit through the excretory system, however, many are further absorbed by our body tissues, essentially poisoning us.
While to begin with the consequences of this consistent assimilation of chemicals can pass unnoticed, as time goes on the amassed toxins will begin to take effect and can lead to health problems ranging from weight gain to cancer. For example, some of the most frequently used ingredients in beauty products are parabens (cosmetics list them as methylparaben, propylparaben, isoparaben, butylparaben, any other ingredients ending in -paraben). These are synthetically created preservatives that allow cosmetic companies to both easily and cheaply protect their products from microbial growth and to store them for around 2-3 years, safe from spoilage. However, research has not only found traces of parabens in nearly all adult urine samples, but also a strong connection between parabens and breast cancer. In 2004 a UK study discovered traces of up to 5 different parabens, unaltered by the body’s metabolism, in the breast tumours of 19 out of 20 women (ref 1). This means that the parabens were in part filtered out the body, but also absorbed in their “pure” chemical form by body tissue. Connections have also been made between parabens and skin cancer, reduced testosterone levels and endocrine disruption.
A slightly more dramatic example is the lead-based makeup favoured by women throughout the 18th century. In order to make their skin paler still, ladies of nobility would cover their faces with white lead powder. This fashionable product was created by submerging plates of lead in vinegar and then allowing them to rest in a bed of manure for a minimum of three weeks. At this point, the plates would have turned white due to the chemical reaction between lead and vinegar and would now be soft enough to grind into a delicate powder, mix with water and again left to dry. The finished product would then be mixed with various perfumes and applied to the face, neck and chest. Regrettably, the daily use of this makeup inflamed the eyes, destroyed tooth enamel, blackened and altered the texture of the skin and caused hair loss. The latter development led to the popularity of large foreheads, due to receding hairlines, and false eyebrows. Especially vigorous use of lead-based makeup was known to lead to death.
Although nowadays nobody is coating their face in lead, we may be applying products that include small quantities of some equally unpleasant ingredients. The preservatives, the texturisers, the added fragrances and colouring agents are all poisonous when absorbed by our skin. Even if the ingredients are of natural origin, if they were grown in fields treated with pesticides and later refined with chemicals, they too are transformed into toxins. As all of these accumulate in our bodies they cause consequences to our health that become evident as we grow older.
What can you do?
Certainly all of the above sounds quite frightening, however, there is plenty that can be done to protect yourself from the unpleasantness of toxic makeup. The easiest solution is to not buy it. There are so many wonderful beauty brands (a list of which I will soon publish) who produce natural, organic products. A quick and simple way to verify if a product is suitable for skin application is to check if it warns against ingestion. If the packaging or instruction manual states that the product is poisonous when ingested then, even if you’re not planning on consuming it, by putting it on your skin the poison will still find its way into your body. In other words, if you can’t eat it, don’t use it. You could also do a little research and see which of the ingredients are synthetic in origin and which are natural. Furthermore, the fact that our skin absorbs most things so easily means that if you use a beauty product full of ingredients beneficial to your health (e.g. essential oils, herbs and extracts), you can actually improve your physical well-being simply by wearing good quality makeup. Therefore, this tendency to absorb could easily be a very good thing!
I hope very much that you enjoyed this post and that you will be back, eager to read more about how to be healthy minded in the world of pharmaceutics! Nicky xx
My research was conducted with help from these websites: