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U Got The Look

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

make up

Type in #nomakeup during shelter-in-place and you will get 18 million plus photo posts of women and men. Many are enjoying going au naturel for the last several weeks, as many of us are stuck at home and unable to work. Why bother, right? No make-up, no showers, sweatpants, and pajamas have become the norm for those who are finally relaxed for the first time in years. And I imagine that going chemical-free on our skin and hair is allowing our bodies to clean up toxins, very much the way the lack of cars on the road is cleaning up our environment. So, what kind of toxins are in our cosmetics?

Ingredients like talc, triclosan, lead, mercury, phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde, toluene, carbon black, per or polyfluoroalkyl substances, and benzophenone UV filters are just some of the most common chemicals in your cosmetics. These chemicals can cause allergies, allergic reactions, cancer, disrupt hormones, cause kidney damage, cause uterine issues, cause developmental delays, and neurological problems. And that is just a few of them! Daily use compounds the exposure of these harmful chemicals.

How are all these chemical still in our cosmetic products? The beauty industry has not had any new regulations since 1938, so obviously there is no motivation to remove harmful chemicals from household cosmetic brands. There are a handful of makeup companies devoted to reducing the over 1500 chemical ingredients in makeup that are toxic to our bodies. The new term for these businesses is “clean beauty”. LA Times reports there was a 34% increase growth in the “clean beauty” sector in 2018. The Counteract Coalition, led by Beautycounter CEO and founder, Gregg Renfrew, is a group of 20 “clean beauty” brands that are actively advocating for safer cosmetics.

Celebrities have also embraced no make-up selfies. In 2016, Alicia Keys started the #NoMakeup Movement after experiencing a photo shoot in which the photographer insisted on taking her photos without make-up. She wrote in a letter, “And I swear it is the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt.” And she continued, “Cause I don't want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”

Alicia brings up the emotional impact of feeling pressured to cover up, wear and use cosmetics, to fit in, to be appreciated, and valued in modern society. It is clear that many cosmetics have chemicals that have harmful effects on our bodies, and they could be contributing to mental health issues, as well.

Are we all going to give up cosmetics now? Probably not!

Many of us love getting dressed up and wearing make-up, using hair products and getting mani-pedis. Yet, there are safer alternatives. In 2004, the Environmental Working Group ( launched a database which identifies unsafe chemicals in personal care and beauty products. This is a great way to look up your commonly used products and look for safer alternatives. Check out the newer “clean beauty” products to see if your regularly used items can be switched into something less dangerous. Look for products with fewer ingredients that are more natural. If you can eat it, it’s probably safe! Can you make a body scrub or a face mask with foods from your fridge? And most importantly, self-reflect on whether you wear make-up at the office every day because everyone else does, or it truly makes you feel more beautiful.

Shelter-in-place is a great opportunity to heal from regular use of cosmetics, consider using products that are less noxious, and contemplate on letting our true natures show. We have some practice now.... It’s not so bad, is it?


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