Our Cosmetics Culture: A Real Life Horror Story

Hilary Hamilton

I first started playing with makeup and skin care when I was in junior high.  I can clearly picture my Bonnebell lip gloss, my Clinique Happy perfume and St. Ives Apricot Scrub lining my shelf in the bathroom medicine cabinet.

Two years ago when I first saw the Jessica Melody’s “Boyfriend Approved Makeup Tutorial” on Youtube, I started to consider makeup and skin care a serious hobby.

Along the way, in my continuous attempt to be an educated consumer, I discovered some disturbing information about the way the cosmetic industry is regulated in the United States and the real story behind DIY.

There is a surprising lack of governmental and regulatory oversight in the cosmetic industry.  It is almost completely self-regulated in that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not need to approve of a product’s safety before it goes to market.  The only way that a company can get into trouble is if they are “caught” selling unsafe products.  This happened in the case of EOS Lip balms, and settlements can make it seem as though the company never made a mistake at all.

In addition, items containing microbeads or harsh exfoliators are terrible for the environment and cause damage to the skin.  Even cosmetic tools, such as the popular derma roller (which causes uneven tearing of the skin), need to be heavily researched and scrutinized before you decide to add them to your skincare routine.

The worst offenders in my opinion are insufficiently supported, expensive ingredients that seem to be standard in many cosmetic and beauty products.

Botanical oils can deteriorate and become allergenic.  Even if you have used a product consistently and had zero problems, you can develop an allergy to ingredients in the skin care after repeated exposure.

Ingredients like Vitamin C are extremely unstable, and it’s unlikely you’ll receive a suspension that lasts for more than three months after production even if it’s combined with the right ingredients.  Hyaluronic acid, for example, is good, but it’s something that your body produces if you are eating a healthy diet. Topical antioxidants are most likely over-hyped and can even slow your body’s production.

Beyond the cosmetics industry itself, the internet has presented a continuing threat of proliferation of “fake news” which the beauty culture has failed to avoid.  DIY videos encourage individuals to turn to their kitchens for natural remedies in the form of lotions, masks, and other skin treatments.  Usually, it’s a terrible idea.

Many DIY recipes recommend using household chemicals like baking soda, vinegar or lemon on the skin.  All three of these ingredients are detrimental, and there are numerous, peer-reviewed studies proving so.  Some people are even going so far as to scrub their teeth with charcoal to whiten them; sure, it works temporarily, but the potential loss of enamel (that can never be recovered) is a huge risk.

With all of the information that is available, it is possible to experience information overload and give up on trying to make good decisions.  Most average consumers simply don’t have the time or the money to waste on potentially dangerous products.  It is best to focus on maintaining a healthy diet, wearing sunscreen, and consulting with a professional.

But no one likes those answers because they aren’t quick fixes.  If that’s you, I would encourage you to hop on the legislative contact train, and let your representatives know that we need better regulations in the cosmetics and beauty industry.

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