Makeup is poisoning our minds and bodies

eleni.gast
5 min readAug 24, 2020

Beauty is a business, and business is booming.

photo courtesy of https://deeprootsathome.com/hazardous-beauty-chemicals-in-our-skin-care-products/

Beauty is a business, and business is booming. The cosmetics industry makes billions of dollars each year in sales, just in the US alone. Young kids are watching makeup tutorials on Youtube and learning how to seemingly change their bone structure with a few strokes of a brush. And while we have all pretty much gotten on board with cruelty-free makeup options (although here is a list of companies still outsourcing their animal tests to Chinese labs), we should really start thinking about the implication this industry has over our mental and physical health.

Makeup dates all the way back to ancient Egypt, both for beauty and for spiritual purposes. Some Egyptians could paint dark circles around their eyes to protect themselves from the Evil Eye. So, if it’s good enough for Cleopatra, why not give the fierce cat-eye a try? That being said, ancient makeup formulas were a bit different than what we have today. While Cleopatra probably wore crushed up carmine beetles on her lips (*gag*), the components of our modern day makeup products are much less natural.

As of 2019, there are over 1,300 chemicals that are banned or restricted from use in cosmetic products in the European Union. In the United States, there are only 11 outlawed chemicals. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics organization, seven of the multinational cosmetic/beauty/skincare companies with promote US business ties do not have comprehensive policies prohibiting the use of chemicals that have been linked to various illnesses, including cancer.

photo courtesy of: https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2019/03/cosmetics-safety-us-trails-more-40-nations

The laws concerning the sale of cosmetics, specifically the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) have not been updated since 1938.

“The current law does not require cosmetics to be reviewed and approved by the FDA prior to being sold to American consumers. Right now, when it comes to cosmetics, companies and individuals who market these products in the U.S. hold the responsibility for the safety and labeling of their products.” (fda.gov)

The FDA has realized this flaw in their legislation and issued a statement (after the discovery of makeup products containing asbestos sold in Claire’s and Justice stores) that they intend to work more closely with manufacturers to ensure the safety of all products being sold to the American public. Their statement also read that although the law does not strictly require cosmetic manufacturers to register their products for the FDA stamp of approval, they issued a formal “call to action” for makeup companies to register and list the ingredients used in their products via the Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP).

So it is up to the companies, whose main goal is to generate profit from the American people, whether or not they disclose the harm their products can cause? Awesome.

photo courtesy of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9m2bcYmWy8

Aside from the potential dangers to our physical health, the constant marriage of makeup with beauty has led to one inevitable conclusion; without makeup, how can you feel pretty? I have felt this way myself! In high school, I started wearing makeup because everyone else I knew was wearing makeup. I did not want to be the bare-faced freak that looked older and more tired than all the other girls in my class. So even though it always felt alien to me, I applied makeup before school every morning. I never took to it easily or truly enjoyed the application process. I never experimented with different looks on the weekends or tried out different shades and styles with different outfits, for fun. I just performed this action, as if it were one of my basic ablutions, like washing my face or combing my hair. It became necessary for me to wear makeup in order to feel truly beautiful. And I know that my story is not an uncommon one.

Grammy-winning singer/song-writer/producer Alicia Keys famously published her “Time to Uncover” essay on Lenny Letter in 2016. In her piece, she talks about the pressures of the makeup industry, and how wearing very little or no makeup was a liberating experience that helped her to connect with her true self. Plus, she’s Alicia Keys; look up “natural beauty” in the dictionary and her lovely face is right there! Makeup can take a hike!

photo courtesy of: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/a30519498/alicia-keys-no-makeup-look/

Of course this went viral with a #nomakeup challenge, where girls felt empowered to post pictures of themselves makeup free, with no filter and artificial alterations of any kind. It became a celebration of true, natural beauty. Alicia is teaming up with e.l.f cosmetics to launch a new skincare line in her effort to promote healthy, glowing skin without having to cover yourself up. Young girls should feel inspired to show their true colors, no matter how “flawed” or imperfect they have been conditioned to believe their skin is. Natural beauty is true beauty.

And I get it, makeup is fun! I am not saying that people should not express themselves with a fun makeup look if they want to. It is your face, your body, your choice! But applying makeup as part of our morning routine? That feeling when you cannot leave the house without makeup because you’ll look “older” or “tired” without it? The idea that for women have to wear makeup to look professional? All toxic and unnecessary.

There is nothing wrong with our bare faces. You — that’s right, you! — are beautiful and perfect exactly as you are! So why not show the world?!

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eleni.gast

NYC-based coffee-drinker who’s passionate about humanities, wellness, and spirituality.