The Ugly Facts About Beautycare

Beauty products that are routinely creamed onto faces, rubbed into hair and splashed over bodies contain toxic ingredients that are known to cause severe allergic reactions, asthma attacks, fatigue, nervousness, headaches, nausea, lack of concentration and cancer. There are 800 such ingredients that personal care products use in varying degrees and combinations. The other shocking fact is that some of these ingredients are also used in pet and human food. including all popular salad dressings. The bonus scary thought is that some of these ingredients are also used in skin care products by companies who market themselves as natural including one worldwide famous company.

Apart from being personally dangerous, cosmetics cause terrible environmental damage. Most cosmetics include a fragrance manufactured from volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cause allergic reactions and may damage the nervous system. Chemical solvents, which keep substances.

liquid or help them dry quickly or make ingredients combine easily, are likewise an important component of modern cosmetics. So cosmetics entail the huge manufacture of noxious substances. And the manufacture of solvents and fragrances is not just a problem for the user -- it's also bad news for plant employees and the waste stream. Discarded cosmetics and their fellow garbage are either consumed by burning or squashed into a landfill. When subjected to heat or pressure, toxins may escape into the surrounding air, land, and water and attack the natural world with their potentially noxious properties The likelihood of escape depends on the security of the landfill (its lining, seals, and caps) or of the incinerator (its filters, scrubbers, and converters). Nail polish is among the worst offenders. There is no purely nontoxic nail polish, although some brands claim the title by reducing the volatile compounds and fragrances in the polish. Trouble is, you've got to get that stuff off your nails somehow, and we all know that stinky, eye-irritating acetone is the best solution. So if you are willing to give up one beauty product, make it nail polish. At least, paint your nails less frequently and in a well-ventilated room, and stay away from small beauty parlours where the fumes circulate freely.

What about that modern must-have – glitter? All that glitters is actually only normal everyday plastic, glass and aluminium cut into tiny shapes and sizes for cosmetics and crafts and therefore glitter has the longevity of other plastic, glass, and aluminium objects. So you can evaluate the environmental impact of carelessly strewing it around. Perhaps we require a whole new category of environmental offence: g-littering! Glass and aluminium glitter could lacerate certain tiny soil-dwelling invertebrates and glitter on the pavement will eventually get into sewer systems and end up in bodies of water. Other potential negative side effects of large-scale festive glitter tossing include inhalation hazards. Small glitter would count as particulate matter and may aggravate asthma and other respiratory ailments among participating or festivity goers.

Apart from their chemical ingredients of cosmetics, what about the environmental impact of their packaging? As glamour products the way they look is intrinsic to the promise they make, therefore cosmetics such as lipstick, eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, creams and potions come in extravagant packaging which is mostly unrecyclable. Apart from the glossy packaging that uses paper, cardboard, plastic, cloth, mirrors and ever more innovative inputs, all of which is simply tossed out, there is also the cosmetic container adding to the waste. Most of these products are available only neither in small portions and certainly none are available in bulk nor does one see economy-size lipstick arriving any time soon. What we need are more refill and incentive offers eg MAC cosmetics accepts old makeup containers with a return-six-get-a-lipstick-free policy. There is also the problem of perfume/deodorant dispensers which are mainly sprays which means more ozone-destroying CFCs.

Then there is bleach and hair dye. A strand of hair consists of a cortex surrounded by a protective cuticle. The pigmented cortex is what determines hair colour. It also holds your DNA and various proteins. The cuticle, a scaly covering, defends the cortex against all comers. In order to access the pigment in the cortex, hair-dye chemicals must first breach the cuticle. Some folks have genetically smoother cuticles that are harder to breach, while others have extremely porous hair. The rapid strike force begins with ammonia, which cracks the scaly walls and allows hydrogen peroxide to move into the cortex, where it shatters colour molecules and "lifts" the pigment. Together, these two chemicals will bleach your hair. In hair dye, they are joined by whatever new pigment suits your fancy. Ammonia is! Nasty. It can irritate your eyes and lungs, and at extremely high concentrations (much higher than required to make you look like Britney), it can lead to everything from convulsions to coma. And if something hurts you, it likely hurts others, who in this case include your hairdresser and the fish at the other end of the plumbing.

The need to crack the cuticle is what limits lightening the hair to serious chemicals. Heat also does the trick, which is why we are always told to sit in the sun after applying lemon juice. Lemon juice (an acid) and over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide are the best and least toxic alternatives to ammonia dyes, but their effectiveness relies on heat and repeated applications. Put juice on your hair, blow it dry, add more juice, blow it dry, juice, dry, juice, dry, etc., etc., and eventually you'll be blond. In other hair-colour news, hair-redecorating products have significantly lowered their ammonia content over the past 20 years, and if your hairdresser is a thinking person, she or he will be using less toxic brands. Also, there are herbal hair remedies like henna, aloe vera, shikakai and other plants and plant parts, ranging from chamomile to potato peels that purportedly colour or lighten hair.

As for buying "natural" cosmetics, just be sure you read the fine print and read between the lines and look for those sometimes meaningless but occasionally helpful terms and phrases such as "earth-friendly," "nontoxic," "no harmful fragrances," etc. Or search the web using these terms and see what products turn up. Beauty Without Cruelty has compiled a list of cruelty-free cosmetics. Many of these are likely to be less environmentally destructive too. You can get a copy by writing to Beauty Without Cruelty.

The bottom line: Cosmetics are bad for your personal environment, although their purported function is to improve said personal environment. And items that are toxic to the user are frequently toxic to the maker -- and toxic to the waste stream when you're done with them. Cut down on the toxics and you'll be doing everyone upstream and downstream on the makeup river a favour.

Maneka Gandhi

*Proper wildlife rehabilitation is an extremely biologically and ecologically responsible attitude toward all living things.*