Hair die and looks that kill


One fine day, perhaps seven years ago, I bought a L’Oréal lipgloss. It was pink, volumising and even smelled nice – I applied it once and loved it. Applied it the second time, again my lips turned heads. Applied it for the third time and had a horrendous allergic reaction. Since that time I have boycotted all products manufactured by L’Oréal, except some products by Lancôme, which is L’Oréal’s child firm. Let me describe the symptoms (caution: the following may be unpleasant for some) : itchy lips, tiny, almost orange in colour, spots which exuded lymph-like fluides. Moving my lips equaled to tear-jerking pain.

Ever since the first reaction I have experienced these symptoms coming back from time to time when using other brands, even high-end ones such as Estée Lauder, YSL and Dior, amongst others. The fact that I could not choose any lipstick I wanted made me feel devastated, especially knowing that I could never just go an buy a cheap lipstick on a whim. This of course was a blessing in disguise, as I couldn’t simply throw my money away on various crap, you know where I am going with this.

I went to see the GP, a process which made me very angry as he  could not pinpoint what exactly caused my allergic reaction, with most pharmacies saying that they “saw nothing” and wrongly gave me basic antihistamines, which I felt were simply placebos and did not help at all.

I decided to do my research. I was not surprised by what I found, as I knew that what I applied on my lips that day was as bad as liquid acid. And I was right.

Among the poison, the following were often found in popular cosmetic brands. I shall not disclose which firms exactly, as I do not want to prejudice you, dear reader, but I do want to warn you that you probably used these at least once in your life:

1.    Mercury  – known human carcinogen.
2.    Lead Acetate – known human carcinogen (lead is also found in some lower-market costume jewellery)
3.    Formaldehyde – known human carcinogen
4.    Toluene – reproductive/developmental toxin
5.    Petroleum Distillates – possible human carcinogen
6.    Ethylacrylate – possible human carcinogen
7.    Coal Tar – known human carcinogen
8.    Dibutyl Phthalate – reproductive/developmental toxin
9.    Potassium Dichromate – possible human carcinogen
10.   2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol – forms carcinogens if mixed with nitrosating agent
11.    Selenium Sulfide – possible human carcinogen.
12.    Dimethylamine – respiratory toxicity hazards.
13.    Zirconium Silicate – banned for use in cosmetics.
14.    Acrylamide – possible human carcinogen.
15.    Phenylphenol – possible human carcinogen.
16.    DC Blue 6 – banned for use in cosmetics.
17.    EXT DC Green 1 – banned for use in cosmetics.
18.    EXT DC Red 1 – banned for use in cosmetics.
19.    EXT DC Red 3 – banned for use in cosmetics.
20.    Hexachlorophene – limited evidence of cancer.

Data found at the Natural Skincare Authority.

To get to know just how poisonous your brand of choice is, you could visit the Skin Deep Cosmetic database, which aims to examine cosmetic brands and rate how harmful the cocktail of substances within is. You will find that at times monetary value does not play a huge role – some luxurious brands are highlighted in blood-red in terms of their toxicity.

This is all the information I found a couple of years ago. I then decided to try one last brand in hope that the manufacturer would not use the same substance others did, thus sparing me the lip-agony. It was a success – Chanel gave me no reactions, back on the lipstick market I was.

This is not to say that Chanel is lipstick-god – according to the Cosmetic database, it is nowhere near perfect with a hazard rating of “moderate to high“. It just worked for me, probably because of one tiny molecule from an ingredient was altered.

It gets worse though – my lip pain aside – I read that a certain woman has now an 8 per cent chance of survival after trying to dye her hair with the L’Oréal Preference colourant. This just makes my itch and scratch sound like a big fat zero. Other allergic reactions to hair dye were exposed – some had burns all around their bodies, others had swollen joints and faces. As to the imagery – just google the basic term “hair dye” and you would probably see more photographs of  victims rather than high fashion hairdo shots.

The cosmetic industry knows about this plague really well. It also does its best to hide its dark secrets behind the ads that promise allure, glamour and volume. Surely they will not mention that volume can come from severe swelling.

For an industry which aims to make women look and feel good – should it not be doing more to prevent women from being scarred for life due to horrific allergic reactions? Are we really worth that?

Hair Dye Ad

Eau de Lithuania (Lietuvos Kvapas)

Fragrance plays a very important role in everyone’s life. I personally feel uncomfortable when I forget to spray some perfume – I tend to get almost lost in other people’s scents.

When I go back to a fragrance I have worn before, I almost always have a memory or an emotion associated with it.

My fellow Lithuanians decided to play on this thus creating a scent of how they thought Lithuania smelled like calling it Lietuvos Kvapas.

Lietuvos kvapas

Top notes:
Bergamot, note of wild flower bouquet, ginger, raspberry, note of red berries, grapefruit;
Middle notes:
Lily of the valley, lilac, rose;
Base notes:
Amber, tree moss, cedar, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, note of tree smoke.

Not sure how to say this without sounding jaded or overly patriotic – but I can really see that. Whenever I am back home, I will make a mission to find and experience this home fragrance.

While on the topic of perfume, these are some example of perfume-infused memories:
Chanel: Allure
London, work, Surbiton, gold, silver, jewellery. (I used to work at a jewellery shop when Allure was my perfume of choice)


Dior: Miss Dior
Moscow, the red square, summer holidays.


Chanel: Coco
My Lithuanian teacher in primary school (she wore it daily!), my mum, my silk beige blouse which has adopted the smell so well.


Lancôme: Poême
A big fat Polish magazine Twój Styl which my mum used to have with a tester of this fragrance, final year of university, my oversized Religion black & grey sweater.

lancome poeme ad

Currently: Lancôme: O de L’Orangerie
Summer of 2011, a meadow and bohemian style.


What are your fragrant memories?

Please girls, tell us you are not that perfect: how ASA banned Lancôme and Maybelline ads


Let’s look at this super beautiful advertisement for Lancôme’s Teint Miracle, a foundation which makes your skin luminous giving it a natural light boost.

Pretty, isn’t it? Mario Testino shot this almost glowing-in-the-dark picture of the 43-year-old.

Wait, 43-year-old? You’re not blind, dear reader, you’ve read it correctly. Julia Roberts is 43, and according to L’Oreal (mum and dad to Lancôme) this is the way we should all see her or better yet “aspire” to be.

Flicking through fashion mags and seeing this vision of goddess-like beauty did not seem too “aspirational” to Liberal Democrat MP, Jo Swinson, who filed complaints to the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) saying that this was just plain wrong.

ASA, being the lovely people that they are, decided to ban the ad saying that it was “exaggerated” and “misleading”.

The very same thing happened to a Maybelline campaign staring 42-year-old Christy Turlington.

maybelline turlington

Oh, but I am getting to the juicy part here.

You would think that ASA was provided with the “untouched” images of Roberts after the firm admitted that digital enhancements were made, however were not “directly relevant”. I am not sure what not “directly relevant” means either.

Not so fast. ASA did not have a chance to even have a sneak peek at those. Apparently, one of the agreements with the actress was that no pre images could be revealed, which leads me to question… where they that bad?

However, other “directly relevant” evidence was given to the ASA, mainly pictures of both Turlington and Roberts on the red carpet with claims that both women were “naturally beautiful”.

Indeed, I am sure they are. They made millions of pounds-dollars with their looks. But let’s just imagine the following:

Let’s take a heroin/meth addict of the streets, preferably a skinny woman – wash her and then have leading makeup artists and stylists do their magic. The woman too will look astonishingly gorgeous.

The point is – what kind of evidence were those red carpet pictures? How were they “directly relevant”? One might argue that sadly this just underlines just how limited ASA’s powers can be.

Let’s just skip the part about women being dumb and easily influenced by fash-mags, because, let’s face it – if anyone is CONSTANTLY told that salt is sweet, that’s what we all will start to believe, it might even start tasting sweet.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in retouching, hell, I’d get all of my pics retouched slightly here and there, as long as I stay recognisable but L’Oreal, please have mercy. You can’t even tell at first glance who that lovely 18-year-old is. Oh wait, that’s Julia.

It would make sense to promote beauty in all shapes, colours and ages. Both Roberts and Turlington are stunning, so why make digital paintings out of them?