Is Makeup Going to Kill Us?

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Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads, with 20% glycolic acid. These will wake you up faster than a latte with an extra shot. They do, however, make your face look fabulous.

In lieu of a November beauty favorites post, I’ve decided to tackle a subject I’m becoming a little irritated by, and it happens to involve makeup and skin care.

My favorite militant feminist organization, Breast Cancer Action, has lightened up on the mammogram debate for the time being, and is now focusing on the dangers of makeup and skin care products. Do some makeup and skin care items have harmful ingredients in them? Yes. Does there need to be more regulation on the part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to keep us safe from dangerous products? Maybe.  At this point, waking up every morning puts you at risk for something. I’m not sure we should be all that concerned that our moisturizer or lip balm might be killing us.

During Pinktober, the charity Look Good Feel Better was under attack for distributing harmful skin care and makeup products to people with cancer. The organization was founded in 1989 by the Personal Care Products Council Foundation to help raise the self-esteem of people going through cancer treatments. Mainly, it provides wigs, makeup and skin care to women, the majority of which is donated by corporate partners, the most well-known (or should I say “notorious?”) being Proctor and Gamble. To be blunt, we likely have another example of a charity being steered by individuals who are more concerned with business relationships, and cause marketing, rather than the well-being of people, a la Susan G. Komen.

When I began my chemotherapy treatments last year, I met a very nice older gentleman who told me about the Look good Fell Better events that took place every few weeks in the hospital. He told me all I had to do was show up, and I’d be given a goody bag full of makeup and other items, and maybe even a wig, if I wanted one. I thanked him for the information, but I never went to any of the events.

Putting on a wig or makeup during chemo, for me, would have been like attempting to paint a wall without first spackling the holes and priming. It was my prerogative to not take part in something like that, and it wasn’t because I was afraid of putting dangerous substances on my face. I didn’t feel I needed it. That might not be the case for everyone, but it was a personal decision, and I don’t feel like I was robbed of anything significant during my treatments. Just because a person or a charity offers you something, you don’t automatically have to accept it. I’ve always had plenty in the way of makeup and skin care, so there really wasn’t a need for me to go play “dress-up” to make other people happy.

Like everything else that goes along with having cancer, the way it affects your self-esteem varies from person to person. There were times when I cursed chemo, like when I couldn’t leave the house because I had to use the bathroom every 20 minutes. Then there was the time I didn’t make it to the bathroom, and had to take my very first shower fully-clothed. If that wasn’t humiliating enough, I once barfed so badly in the kitchen sink, I clogged up the “garburator” and had to call my apartment community’s maintenance man to come unclog it. No amount of makeup or a wig would have made me feel better.

What got me going on this topic was an article I read about how Victorian women used ammonia, arsenic, lead, and other toxic substances in their beauty routines. Thankfully, we’re no longer using those substances in the name of vanity, but modern science has done a hell of a job creating new substances that aren’t exactly good for us. Is every product we use dangerous? No. Are there ways to make beauty products safer? Yes; absolutely.

In the meantime, I’m not going to worry too much about whether or not my facial exfoliating pads, my moisturizer, my body lotion, or my deodorant might kill me. It’s a conscious decision, and I’ve given it a lot of thought. The militant feminists can squawk all they want about how lipsticks have the potential to commit murder, and it’s too bad the Victorians didn’t care more about their health when they were washing their faces with radium powder and lining their eyes with lead.

Wearing makeup is a choice; accepting charity is a choice. Making these choices is all about obtaining information and having some perspective. What you do with it all in the end is up to you. It’s not going to change the fact that you have cancer, and the treatment is almost always worse than the disease. That is what we need to be concerned with.

**So you don’t think I’m only interested in bashing charities, if you click on the Komen link, you’ll see it now has a option called “Donate Direct”, that allows users to choose which programs their donations will support. Now included is the choice to donate to metastatic cancer research. The pink ribbon promotions, however, are still going strong.**

2 thoughts on “Is Makeup Going to Kill Us?

  1. What a fascinating, great article, Nava.
    It is true there are still so many cosmetics that are not in our best interest to use on a daily basis. The uses and resulting deaths of dangerous products in the Victorian era ( arsenic in edible, wafer form, courtesy of Sears and Roebuck for a clear complexion) to lairds Bloom of Youth cream with a heavy lead content etc, also led to the advent of a drug administration and the field of toxicology which helped curb the use of these products. But ah, vanity..women used them nonetheless. We have so many organic, natural products available to us now. Seriously, a spritz of rosewater and dousing of olive, coconut or almond oil does wonders. That goes for organic, non toxic makeup as well. Women who have gone through cancer treatments have suffered enough chemicals…natural, I would think, is the way to go. We are lucky, and we are certainly more informed then the Victorians I speak of. To paraphrase a beauty columnist of the time…nothing increases beauty more then a healthy diet, exercise and fresh air.

    1. Thank you, Alexis.

      I agree that we have come a long way in that we have so many healthier options when it comes to taking care of ourselves.

      It is in our best interest to read labels and consider what we’re using, and yes, diet, exercise and fresh air are crucial!

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