Natural Cosmetics

May, 10, 2018

Recently we’ve discussed natural fabric dyesand natural perfumes. But what about the makeup we apply to our faces? You may be surprised to hear that makeup — especially lipstick — can contain dangerous chemicals, toxic heavy metals and animal byproducts.

Studies conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmeticsand the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) have found lead and other toxic metals in a surprising number of lipsticks. A whopping 61 percent of lipsticks tested contained trace levels of lead, ranging up to 0.65 parts per million. Lead is a neurotoxin and is most dangerous to small children. Medical experts agree that any level of lead exposure is unhealthy. There is NO safe level of lead exposure. FDA tests of cosmetics also found arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, mercury and nickel.

We’ve become accustomed to seeing various logos on cosmetics assuring us that the product in question had not been tested on animals:

Many cosmetics, even if they’re not tested on animals, still contain common animal byproducts. If your goal is to live a vegan lifestyle, you may be horrified to find the following animal-based ingredients in the makeup on your skin:

  • Cochineal beetles (aka carmine)— Insects that are dried and crushed to make a vibrant red dye. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals(PETA), 70,000 insects produce just one pound of dye. Often listed as “natural coloring.” Starbucks stopped using carmine in its Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino in response to public outrage, but it still can be found in many cosmetics such as Burt’s Bees and Physician’s Formula.
  • Snail Slime— Good for healing scars and burns, and for deeply moisturizing skin. According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database, several anti-aging skin creams and acne treatments contain snail secretions.
  • Infant Foreskin— Contains a protein called epidermal growth factor (EGF) used in pricey anti-aging, skin-firming treatments. The serum is made from stem cells harvested from the removed foreskins of newborn babies in South Korea, then cloned for cosmetic use. Celebrities Sandra Bullock, Oprah Winfrey and Cate Blanchett have gotten the so-called “penis facial.”
  • Mink Oil— Actually the rendered fat from mink carcasses which have been purified, bleached and deodorized. No more effective than plant-based oils, unfortunately to this day it’s still added to cosmetics for its glamorous prestige. For more on the ethical implications of mink farming, click here.
  • Ambergris— A traditional base ingredient in perfumes used for millennia, from ancient Egypt to the Middle Ages to present-day Parisian perfumers, it’s highly valued as a fixative that allows scent to last much longer. A solid, waxy substance, colored variously from a reddish amber or dirty yellow to a dull grey or blackish color, ambergris is secreted from the digestive systems of sperm whales. Fresh ambergris has a marine, fecal odor, but it takes on a sweet, earthy scent with age. Called “floating gold,” it can fetch prices upwards of $8,800 per pound. Not allowed in the US or AU, but occasionally a beachcomber finds a chunk and makes a fortune on the open market.
  • Tallow— Made from rendered cow carcasses. Environment Canadacalls it a “suspected environmental toxin” due to the industrial agriculture methods that produce it. Listed as sodium tallowate, tallow acid, tallow amide, tallow amine, talloweth-6, tallow glycerides or tallow imidazoline.

Let’s not forget plastic microbeadsand glitterin body washes and cosmetics. Then there’s Teflon(!), which the EWG has found in “foundation, eyeshadow, bronzer/highlighter, facial powder, sunscreen, mascara, anti-aging, moisturizer, eye cream, blush, shaving cream (men’s), brow liner, and other eye makeup.” Often listed as polyethylene and polypropylene.

So, for humanitarian as well as health concerns,let’s make an effort to avoid all of these surprising ingredients. The greatest benefit of switching to vegan makeup is that it’s made without animal testing or animal byproducts. Here are a few brands to shop for:

  • Kat Von D— Her entire beauty collection has been reformulated to attain 100 percent vegan status. Many offerings already had fallen under this category, but not all, so Kat upped her game by making her products vegan-friendly as well as cruelty-free across the board.
  • Cover FX— High quality customizable ingredients without parabens, fragrance, gluten, mineral oil or talc. Vegan formulas that everyone can feel good about using — and feel good wearing.
  • Axiology— All about lipstick. Twenty-two shades offered, ranging from a sheer iridescent balm to deep matte black and everything in between. Ingredients contain familiar waxes, butters and oils that all occur in nature.
  • l.f.— High quality, comprehensive product range, inexpensive, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, vegan and cruelty free. Ingredients are listed for each product.
  • Everyday Minerals— Similar to BareMinerals, but this brand doesn’t sacrifice vivid colors for earth-friendly ingredients. Comprehensive selection includes color correctors, primers, bronzers, eyeliners and tinted lip balms in ten different shades, all at very reasonable prices.
  • Lime Crime— Offers 100 percent vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics, certified by both PETA and The Leaping Bunny Program. No animal ingredients or byproducts such as beeswax, lanolin, whey or carmine; and no products and ingredients are tested on animals.
  • Modern Minerals— Mineral powders in chic minimalist packaging that are 100 percent cruelty-free and vegan-friendly. They also carry lip glosses, brushes and facial mists. With each purchase, a donation of sales goes to Rainforest Trust. This organization helps to save endangered species by working with local organizations and communities to purchase and protect tropical habitat throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia.
  • Au Naturale— Founder and former nuclear analyst, Ashley Prange’s mission is to use exclusively healthy, natural and ethically-sourced ingredients in each and every product in her personalized beauty routine. High-performance formulas and cruelty-free practices coexist; and their makeup is made fresh, without parabens, animal byproducts, synthetics or other harmful ingredients. Formulations are ethically sound, factually healthy and naturally sourced. This comprehensive line comes complete with everything you’d expect from a prestigious brand.

Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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