So you just treated yourself to some cool mineral makeup, huh? Let’s take a peek at your fresh new palette. Ooooo, very nice – especially the Ke$ha-inspired blue. Magazines constantly tout the eco-friendly benefits of such finely milled, earth-derived pigments because they’re pure and simple, just the way that Mother Nature intended. No chemicals, no fillers, no funky business cooked up in a lab – plus they’re safe for sensitive skin types and so versatile whether you like to lay ‘em on thick, thin or somewhere in between.
Heyyyyy, wait a second. Did you actually read the label on your brand spankin’ new eye shadow? Right… that microscopic decal you immediately peeled off the bottom of the package and chucked promptly into the garbage. I’m no expert, but based on the list of ingredients, it looks like manufacturers are taking serious liberties when they use the phrase mineral makeup on their products. There are a few key ‘red flag’ compounds that the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database says we should all avoid like the plague, but at this very moment, you’re probably wearing them on your eyelids… or cheeks… or slathered all over your face. Yikes.
The lesson learned is that seemingly squeaky green cosmetics aren’t automatically angelic just because they bear the ‘mineral makeup’ label. Paying attention to the ingredients in your beauty and skincare products is of the utmost importance since everything that is applied externally ultimately absorbs into skin before finally entering the blood stream. Popular cosmetic manufacturers that have jumped on the mineral makeup bandwagon include Almay, Avon, L’Oreal, Maybelline, Neutrogena, Physician’s Formula and Urban Decay (among others) but some of their beauty products are harboring the following ugly secret ingredients… so buyer beware.
From propylparaben, benzylparaben and isobutylparaben to methylparaben, ethylparaben and butylparaben, 6 major paraben esters discourage the growth of fungus and bacteria in cosmetic and food products – bestowing them with a 2 to 3 year shelf life – but there’s a big human health hitch. Like hormone-disrupting bisphenol A, these chemicals have been found to significantly alter endocrine functions, and based on numerous studies, are responsible for upping one’s chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
While the naturally occurring mineral has long been integral to the production of metal food can seals, water pipe solder and higher-efficiency automobile fuel, we began recognizing in the 1960s that the toxic metal really messes with the brain while also inhibiting fertility and triggering joint/muscle pain. As recently as the FDA’s 2009 study of best selling crimson-tinted lipsticks, it was even found that all analyzed samples contained varying degrees of lead (quite possibly from ingredient contaminants or the pigments themselves), some as much as 10+ times the acceptable limit.
Hydrous magnesium silicate – which goes by the alter egos of French chalk, asbestine, beaver white and agalite – possesses anticaking properties, enabling cosmetics to be applied to the skin quite smoothly. This naturally occurring, widely used mineral has been a staple of infant care for centuries (and it even helps table salt to pour freely) but has nevertheless been deemed potentially carcinogenic, particularly with respect to the lungs and ovaries.
When gasoline is distilled from refined crude oil, a clear odorless liquid remains – mineral oil. The process by which it is created places a tremendous burden on the natural environment, but when used as a personal body care item, mineral oil is equally as harmful since it contains a carcinogenic impurity called 1.4 dioxane.
On a daily basis, a typical person is likely exposed to hundreds of phthalates which make vinyl products highly flexible, cosmetics ‘flow’ more readily, nail polish less likely to chip, detergent seemingly fresh smelling, skin softer, perfume last longer and hair spray firm yet touchable. Oddly enough, cosmetic manufacturers claim that we should feel secure about typical phthalate exposure since rodents can sustain ridiculously high levels in laboratory tests without succumbing to illness, and yet other studies have found a direct correlation between high human phthalate exposure and compromised reproductive development/function in both males and females.
The naturally polluting power source affectionately referred to as ‘coal’ may still make the world go ‘round, but I bet you didn’t know that it also helps fuel the cosmetic industry. The soft bituminous stuff yields a thick, sticky tar-based tint that imparts makeup and hair dye with oddly appealing color-bestowing properties, and yet it pulls a Dr. Jekyll – Mr. Hyde once it enters the human body by triggering immune and central nervous system challenges, among various other health concerns.
Image: The Snarky Princess
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