Dangerous Beauty?

For the last 50 years we have been brainwashed into thinking we need to apply more and more chemicals onto our skin and hair to make us look healthier and younger without even a second thought for what those chemicals are and they are really doing to us. In today’s technological advancements the increased use of chemicals in our homes and environment is out of control.

The majority of consumers are not concerned with the ingredients they are using, they trust the Governments who they think carefully regulate these chemicals and the manufacturers and the suppliers to provide safe products or they simply do not recognise the chemical substances written on the labels. Public awareness about the potentially harmful formulations of cosmetics is very poor

While the cosmetic industry and other funded agencies continue to justify using chemicals that potentially cause adverse health effects by stating these are at significantly low levels and do not pose a threat to human health and Consumers are led to believe the ingredients have been adequately tested and safe for use. In reality, most of the chemicals that are in these have been barely tested and the magnitude of their potential adverse effects is unknown. And this is without mentioning the increasing occurrence of asthma or our increasing affliction with twentieth-century diseases: multiple chemical sensitivity, auto-immune disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome and allergies. These questions will not be answered for a very long time, as the study of toxic substances is still in its infancy. It relies on the crude method of using test animals and extrapolating these results to humans. Even if we could do all the tests we needed, it would take us hundreds of years and unimaginable amounts of money just to carry out the testing we do at present, on existing chemicals.

Many of the ingredients used in these products are also industrial chemicals, solvents and petroleum by‑products which have safety warnings about their use and exposure. It is not just the chemicals of concern but we are using more and more of these products, from an earlier age and for a longer period of time. With each successive generation exposed to the media we apply more chemicals more times than ever before in human history.

Our exposure to personal care products and cosmetics continues to increase each year. According to the Environmental Working Group, woman will have around 185 chemicals on her skin daily, and a man will have around 85. A study on how much we use these products found today’s usage of personal care products and cosmetics around 6 times more than in 1983 and it is likely to be even higher now. The average woman now uses around 12 cosmetics and up to 25 different products, with more than 25% of women using 15 or more a day exposing themselves to more than hundreds of different chemicals every day. While the average male uses half this. The study found for example that liquid foundation is applied daily by 68.7% ‑ 74.8% of woman and 23.4% of woman applied the product twice a day on a daily basis. 65.3% ‑ 82.9% of people use shampoo daily and 26.6% use it twice a day.

Right now, research shows that these products can be produced with lower and lower toxicity. They can also be designed to work – to have real benefits without causing harm. In fact, some manufacturers are already committed to these principles. Buy safer products or stop buying hazardous ones. This may force the big multi-nationals to respond by manufacturing with safer ingredients, gradually removing the most toxic; but only if we, the consumers, use our market pressure, and take our money elsewhere. Ironically, we hold the ultimate power. Knowledge, and positive action based on that knowledge, is the way towards creating the changes we want. I did my PhD on formaldehyde exposure in the early 1990’s. It was clear then that this chemical caused a lot of problems and caused cancer in animals and probably humans. It was not until around 2013 that most of the big manufacturers said that they were now going to remove this chemical more than 20 years too late. In large, this can be attributed to the self-regulating nature of the cosmetic industry and the inadequate government regulatory bodies to protect the welfare of consumers.

The cosmetic industry is one of the largest and most profitable enterprises around the world generating large profits. Despite economic difficulties in the world, profitability of the cosmetic industry has been steadily increasing by about 5% each year and it has been predicted that this trend will continue into the future. Cosmetics and personal care products have become an essential part of the daily grooming routine of millions of people around the world. Personal care products are a 40 billion dollar industry in the United States, and worldwide worth more than $200 billion each year and increasing. This success can be explained by the use of powerful marketing techniques to influence the general public into buying cosmetic products. The cosmetic industry has played a significant role in shaping and reinforcing societal perceptions of physical appearance and personal hygiene. As a multibillion dollar industry, companies’ fork out massive expenditures on advertising, harping on the idea that one must be image conscious, and thus continue to consume cosmetic products. The modern market for personal care products is all-inclusive from females to males, from infancy to old age. With the ubiquitous availability of products that come in an overwhelming amount of different types, indulging in cosmetics has become a necessity, or so we are led to believe by the industry.

Unfortunately, with so much money and profits at stake the cosmetic and personal care industry is not without its greed and lack of scruples. To highlight this In September 10, 1997 hearings on the FDA reform bill (HR 1411), Senator Edward M. Kennedy stated: “The cosmetic industry has borrowed a page from the playbook of the tobacco industry by putting profits ahead of public health.” Consumers are generally misled by advertising campaigns and fancy packaging as to what chemicals are contained in their skin care products. Many ingredients are promoted to improve the condition of the skin whilst their harmful effects are omitted.

The regulators whose job it is to protect our health play down the actual and possible effects of cosmetics and personal care products as they have to tow the bureaucratic line. They may acknowledge that some people react to chemicals in products and that the numbers affected are probably increasing. They may also acknowledge that some of the ingredients ‘might be toxic’. The regulator’s position is that these chemicals are safe until it is proven that they are doing harm. This extraordinary position has failed people who are already seriously ill and will continue to protect the manufacturer, not the consumer.