Makeup Is Your Secret Enemy

by Andrea Stopa

Makeup is part of the daily routine of countless women (and a few good men). Why women wear makeup is a complicated question, that often comes down to arguments of alleged and arguably false agency – paralleled in conversations about the choice to shave one’s legs/armpits – complicated of course by societal beauty standards that put an immense amount of pressure on women’s appearances, emphasizing the necessity to be as soft, supple, and attractive as money can make you. Many feminist arguments have been had about the psychological affects of makeup use and the need to look “presentable” via eyeliner and lipstick. 

But what is makeup doing to women on a physical level? Harking back to your middle school bio days, remember that your skin is your largest organ, and absorbs a huge percentage of everything that’s layered, lathered, and powdered onto it. Not to sound like a hippie granola head (not that that’s totally a bad thing) but have you read the ingredients on your makeup lately? Because it could be toxic. 

I know this sounds a bit conspiracy-theory-esque, but it should be of no surprise that makeup contains harmful chemicals, given it’s lack of regulation, and the incredible weight of the powerful parent companies that stock your Rite Aid and Duane Reade shelves, working to keep exposing studies and limiting regulations at bay. There are many websites and organizations talking about this issue (a quick Google search will provide you with at least a handful for arguably credible sources) and it is appears that many chemicals found commonly in makeup products are alleged carcinogens, and other toxic chemicals can supposedly cause a host of other issues, including infertility, and hormonal imbalance in women.

It should be noted that many things that are incredibly harmful at high levels are often times negligible in small amounts, but the chronic exposure over time should not be dismissed. A daily routine adds up.

The issue came increasingly to my attention when reading work by Alisa Vitti, a drugless practitioner specializing in endocrinology and author of Woman Code, a book about healing imbalances in female bodies through falling into rhythm with self-sufficient and self-balancing hormonal systems.  She argues strongly that chemicals found in makeup and other beauty products become “FloBlockers,” disrupting the systems ability to create hormonal balance, because of their toxicity. Her concerns are echoed through many other sources and studies that also detail the truly detrimental qualities of chemical overload via makeup and lotions.

When we look at the usage of something like cigarettes throughout our country’s history, we can determine a trend of ignorant consumption to informed consumption. Although, makeup is not directly the same, as the products are gendered and therefore adversely affect women consumers, and also draw on internalized oppression from societal standards. Makeup has also (disturbingly) been proven to cause women to be perceived as more “likable” “competent” and “trustworthy”– increasing the pressure to don it. Given also that only more expensive makeups are available without these chemicals, it makes makeup an issue of class accessibility, much like processed vs. organic foods.

You don’t have to believe everything you read and go and dump your makeup bag, but this is information you should at least be aware of. Being an informed consumer is one of the most powerful ways to affect change, on a personal and systematic level, so consider this a PSA for your skin and your health and for ladies everywhere who are looking for just one more reason to ditch the expensive process of their makeup routines.

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