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?