Beauty Kills: The Chemicals in Your Cosmetics

They say you can’t put lipstick on a pig. You probably shouldn’t put eyeliner on a dove or concealer on a gerbil either. Cosmetic companies have ignored that advice. For far too long, the industry has faced harsh criticism for its continued use of animals for product testing. Organizations such as PETA, the Animal Justice Project, and the Humane Society all strongly oppose the use of animals for research involving chemicals. Why are cosmetic companies so adamant about testing their products on rats, mice, rabbits, and guinea pigs? Doesn’t it make more sense to test products on human beings? Current processes in cosmetics manufacturing can make it downright dangerous for people to even test a product, much less use it.

What Are They Putting in There?

Cosmetics and makeup have been dangerous for humans practically since their inception. Ancient Greeks and Romans. Upper-class Elizabethans. “Enlightened” thinkers in the 1700s. In these cultures, a pale complexion was the height of fashion. People exposed themselves to toxic chemicals in order to achieve the results they wanted. They rubbed themselves down with white lead and arsenic to conceal freckles and avoid looking tan.

It should come as no surprise then that with the invention and perfection of mass production, the cosmetic industry was able to make huge profits selling poisons to millions of people in the name of “beauty.” Companies used chemicals such as mercury and lead sulfate to improve the effectiveness and longevity of certain makeups.

Common, modern beauty products contain thousands of harmful chemicals. Take lipstick as an example. Such a popular cosmetic has to be safe, right? It goes directly on the thin skin of the lips. People regularly ingest it. They even apply it multiple times throughout the day. Yet, tests conducted by the FDA found that out of 400 lipsticks they tested, each and every one contained lead. However, the agency concluded that lead did not appear in high enough concentrations to be dangerous to humans.

Inclusion of dangerous chemicals in personal care products is not limited to makeup. Shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, and shaving creams all contain substances proven to be hazardous to your health.

Many inexpensive hygiene products contain a compound known as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Numerous studies have shown that your body can absorb this detergent, leaving residue in liver, lungs, heart, and brain. SLS is also linked to severe rashes, hair loss, and other derma-epidermal issues.

Perhaps one of the worst culprits making cosmetics dangerous is “fragrance.” Check the bottle of shampoo or soap in your shower and you’re bound to find the vague ingredient listed somewhere. Consumer watchdog groups have conducted tests on products and found that the “fragrances” included were mixtures of over 14 chemicals. Regardless of what consumer advocacy groups find, cosmetic companies are not required to disclose their formulas. Federal law protects them as they constitute “trade secrets.”

Keeping Consumers Safe

Though it regulates a large percentage of the products Americans consume every single day, the United States Food and Drug Administration cannot analyze everything. Due to bureaucratic setbacks, the FDA often has to sit back and allow companies to regulate their products themselves. Federal agencies only step in when there is an outcry from the public. The sad fact is that the government simply does not have the resources to initiate tests of hundreds of thousands of products across the country. What incentive do cosmetic companies have to change the way they do business?

Some countries, including Canada and those in the European Union, stepped in to remove incentives for businesses to conduct themselves in this manner. These governments have taken steps to protect their citizens. In the European Union, they banned over 1,300 chemicals from use in hygiene and cosmetic products. This directive passed based on studies which gave only preliminary data on the toxicity of certain compounds and substances.

Addressing the hazards in the cosmetic industry takes work from dedicated people. You can do your part by protecting yourself from dangerous chemicals in your hygiene products. How do you keep yourself safe from the poisons and carcinogens some companies use? Do you think that business have a responsibility to disclose everything that they put into their products? Should the FDA take more initiative in tackling the dangers associated with the cosmetic industry? Share your thoughts with us. Remember to keep yourself and your family safe.


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