Cover-Up: The True Cost of Beauty to Your Health

By Sara Butler

Women with natural beauty and no make up

The #nomakeup hashtag is taking social media by storm. Celebrities such as Alicia Keys and Evangeline Lilly are sharing selfies under this hashtag au naturel, but what does it mean? Is it a form of protest? As the mother of two young children, it turns out I was way ahead of the curve on this whole no makeup trend. Heck, I’m lucky if I can put together a matching outfit every day, let alone apply makeup. In fact, there are unused items in my makeup bag that I’m fairly certain have been there since Bush was in office.

As I investigated this no makeup trend further, it brought me to a surprising realization: This trend wasn’t just about cultural expectations or some fad having to do with fame, but about health. I found that intriguing -- because what on earth does makeup have to do with health? The answer may surprise you.

The Impact of Makeup on your Health

Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so you should care for it just as you would your heart, central nervous system, or kidneys. When you use makeup, it can cause an allergic reaction or contain ingredients that aren’t healthy for your skin and can easily be absorbed into your body.

Aside from allergic skin reactions, makeup may also cause:

  • Headaches
  • Acne
  • Hair loss
  • Eye infections
  • Hormone disruption
  • Skin discoloration
  • Cancer, in rare cases

Makeup Contains Chemicals that Can Be Harmful

Yes, a lot of makeup has ingredients that aren’t good for your skin or your overall health. If you look at the products you have right now, you’ll probably find either a huge list of ingredients on the label or -- more shockingly -- none at all. Makeup companies aren’t required by law to list ingredients in their products, nor do the ingredients they do list have to be complete. So, you really have to be on your toes to determine which ingredients aren’t healthy for you and which products you should avoid.

In general, you should watch out for:

  • Propylene glycol
  • Sodium benzoate
  • Coal tar colors
  • Phenylenediamine
  • Formaldehyde
  • Anything ending in the word “acid”

These chemicals have been known to cause allergies in individuals who are sensitive to them. If you have sensitive skin, then the more you are exposed to these ingredients, the greater your chances of a reaction. So, why put these ingredients in cosmetics? Because they help give them long, stable shelf lives -- and they’re cheap for the manufacturers.

A Few Fast Makeup Safety Facts

Here’s a rundown of a few fun facts surrounding the safety of beauty products on the market:

  • The European Union has banned more than 1,000 carcinogens from beauty products, while the United States has banned only nine.
  • Scientific advances have made chemicals in makeup more effective, meaning the particles are stronger and smaller -- small enough to easily be absorbed by the skin, effectively bypassing your body’s protective layers and entering your bloodstream.
  • Beauty products considered safe will always have an expiration date. These should be considered the “fresh food” of the beauty product world. Anything without an expiration date is like the Twinkie of the beauty product realm -- it’ll be around for a long time, but isn’t necessarily healthy.
  • Ignore words such as “organic” or “natural” on beauty products. These terms aren’t regulated and aren’t a good indication of what you’re actually buying to apply to your skin.

So What Should You Do?

If the thought of going without makeup strikes fear in your heart, you don’t need to worry. There are many items you can buy that won’t be dangerous to your health and will work just as well as the chemical cocktail you’ve been applying to your skin. To find out which products are safe and which aren’t, go to SafeCosmetics.org -- it has all the information you need to make the best choices for your health.

In the meantime, think about experimenting with makeup-free days. If Kim Kardashian can do it at Paris Fashion Week and still look stunning, then you can do it and look great while dropping the kids off at school. Plus, your skin may just thank you with a little extra glow for giving it a break by going #nomakeup!

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