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Alternatives

MagazineJuly 2002 (Vol. 13 Issue 4)Alternatives

When it comes to makeup, it may be a case of choosing your poison carefully

When it comes to makeup, it may be a case of choosing your poison carefully. If your lifestyle is relatively toxin-free, the use of well-chosen makeup may not add much to your total toxic load.


When you do buy or use cosmetics, follow these simple guidelines to help you choose the safest ones:


* Start on the inside. Beauty really does come from within. It starts with a nutritious diet, adequate rest and periodic stress-free breaks. Without these basics, no makeup will make you look beautiful.


* Read the label. Don't rely on claims of 'all natural', 'organic' or 'cruelty-free'. These claims are meaningless. The true story of the product can only be found in the list of ingredients. Once you have identified an ingredient(s) that you wish to avoid, write the name(s) on a card or list to take with you when you shop. Also, price is no guarantee of safety or quality. Sometimes, the cheaper brands use fewer toxic ingredients, but only the label will tell you for sure.


* But don't put too much faith in the label. And don't just buy a product because it was safe the last time you looked. By the time you replace your eyeshadow or lipstick, it may be made from completely different ingredients. Manufacturers are continually reformulating their products, often according to what ingredients are available and least expensive at the time. In addition, many ingredients labels, such as those on eyeshadows and lipsticks, list the colours for the entire range rather than the specific item you're buying. Some products say 'may include . . .' or use '+/-' before a list of ingredients, rendering it impossible to make sensible choices about safety.


* Avoid cosmetics that are pearly, glittery, opalescent or frosted. These are among the most dangerous since, to achieve this effect, manufacturers add ingredients such as pure aluminium, mica and even fish scales. Used near the eye, these particles can flake off and cause corneal damage. Ingested aluminium is linked to Alzheimer's disease. Stick to matte colours, blot well and shine up your lips with a over- or undercoat of shea butter or natural oils.


* Choose lip gloss (which has a lower volume of colour ingredients) over lipstick for everyday wear, but be aware. Conventional lip glosses contain less colour, but are high in phenol, a poisonous substance that is easily absorbed into the delicate tissue of the lips (aided by petrolatum, a petroleum-derived moisturiser along with other wetting agents). Phenol ingestion can cause nausea, vomiting, convulsions, paralysis, respiratory collapse and even death. Minute amounts are linked with skin rash, swelling, pimples and hives.


* Seek 'safe' colours. In cosmetics terms, a number beginning with 'CI75 . . .' is considered a 'natural' colourant, even though some are highly synthesised. Anything else may be considered suspect. Those beginning with 'CI77. . .' are inorganic substances used as colourings (such as iron oxides, natural carbon, and the more toxic aluminium and barium sulphates).


* Avoid all perfumed cosmetics, especially those lip products which taste sweet. Often, these use saccharin (a suspected carcinogen) and phthalic anhydride (made from another suspected carcinogen, naphthalene), an irritant which can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and confusion. It has also been linked to kidney and brain damage in infants - all the more remarkable as it is commonly used in 'play' and 'fun' makeup aimed at young girls.


* Choose products that don't contain sunscreens. Chances are, you mostly wear your makeup indoors anyway. Don't be fooled by claims of natural sunscreens. There's no such thing. The only effective sunscreens are synthetic chemicals that add to your toxic burden.

* If you don't need to wear makeup, don't. Many women wear makeup for the most trivial occasions - shopping for groceries, weekends at home or walks in the park. Get out of the habit. Get used to the way you look without makeup, and give your skin and body a break. If you simply must put something on your face, stick to the basics - a swipe of carefully chosen mascara and a bit of lipstick or lip gloss is fine for everyday use.


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