The Toxic Makeover

A vivid and fond childhood memory of mine is of my mother; when I was nine years old. It was the first time I saw past my mom’s beauty as a mother and a nurturer. The dim kitchen light illuminated the woman in her, and I noticed. I noticed the glow and aesthetics of every inch of her. The graceful, poised, strong woman I saw that night has stuck with me ever since. And slowly but definitively that has become my image of womanly beauty. And like every girl I wanted it, and I wanted it for myself. And so, my pursuit of beauty and a little vanity began.


Turning thirteen was amazing because it meant I could start 'dabbling in makeup' (or so my mom thought). But there was no dabbling for me. I went head first, crazed by the possibility; and on my first makeup run, I got EVERYTHING: lipstick, lip gloss, eyeshadow, lip balm, eyeliner, mascara, highlighter, foundation, blush and so on. And, the more stuff I saw, the more I wanted. Despite my frightening makeup collection (for a 13-year-old), nothing changed. I didn’t achieve the beauty I was aiming for, and it undoubtedly wasn’t close to my mother’s beauty. And then I heard of beauty regimes, and guess what I did next. I dived straight into that too. I got face washes, scrubs, moisturizers, toners, eye creams, face masks and so on all with the aim of beautifying myself. I was a thirteen year old with more makeup than any 40-year-old woman I knew. And in my oblivion, I was happy.

While I was living my makeup fantasy, my hair was living its nightmare. The relaxer (hair straightening chemical black people use) I used was destroying my hair. The first week of using a relaxer would leave my hair silky smooth. But soon after that my hair would feel and resemble dried-out grass. And for a girl with my kind of kinky hair having it straight and manageable was a relief, which meant relaxing my hair all over again. And so the cycle continued until my hair became crispy and fragile. A few months before my 16th birthday I reached my limit after seeing a baseball size chunk of my hair on the floor. That day I vowed ‘no more relaxer.' And ever since then I have not only stopped using relaxers completely, but also limited my use of cosmetic beauty products. And here is why?

The Dangers of Cosmetics & Personal Care

The damage and fragility that my hair sustained made me take a step back and look at the cosmetic industry with critical eyes. I began to actually read and digest the information provided on boxes and labels. I also started taking interest and researching the ingredients that I usually skipped over which led me to the best (depending on your POV) part of this whole journey i.e. the toxicity of everyday personal care products and cosmetics. 

I was shocked and petrified to find out that after WWII, over 80,000 new chemicals and chemical compounds were introduced into our everyday products. And 13,000 chemicals of these chemicals are in cosmetics, and only 10% are tested for safety. To add salt to our already aching wounds, more chemicals are added to the list daily. What this comes down to is that our bodies are unequipped to handle this surge of new unnatural chemicals. Which in itself is frightening, but what makes it even more terrifying is the unprecedented processes that initiate within our bodies because of the intrusion of these synthetic compounds, therefore, leaving us vulnerable to cancer, reproductive abnormalities, early puberty, and a host of other endocrinal, neurological, and metabolic problems. Catalyst - Our Chemical Lives, a short documentary on plastics and chemical induced lifestyles explains more on the phenomenon. 

On average women consume 168 chemicals per day directly from their beauty products. As a result, women are contaminated more than men- who are exposed to 86 chemicals from their daily care products. Infants and fetuses, on the other hand, receive the block of these chemicals during lactation and placental transfer of nutrients, making them the most affected in the group.  And as time goes on the concentration of these chemicals increase, allowing them to have more opportunities to bond with our biology.

All this is truly terrifying; however, the more I read, the more my anxiety shifted to anger.  I became angry at myself for being so naïve and trusting corporations to know what was best for me. I was disappointed in myself for not learning from what I saw my mom do growing up. Most of all, I became furious at these beauty and daily care products because of their counterproductive results.
Yup! Prolong usage of cosmetics, and personal care products cause the same issues we use makeup to cover up. Which means in a lot of cases allergies, acne, early signs of aging, skin discoloration, hair fall, blemishes, enlarged dirty pores, etc. can all be cured if we stop or reduce the use of these products. There is also a growing percentage of men and women who suffer from reoccurring headaches, migraine, dizziness, eye infection and hormonal imbalance all directly linked to their beauty care regimens. 

Don’t lament; there is hope for us yet. So, before you dump all your products, let's take a step back.

How To Reduce The Effects Of Cosmetics Products

There are numerous steps you can take to better your physical appearance without subjecting yourself to a life toxicity and self-harm. However, the most important is educating yourself on the effect of the things you consume and surround yourself with. So, look into the following:

  • Some companies care about the ramifications of toxic products and aim to deliver non-damaging products. Do your research. Find the ones available in your locality and price range. 
  • Limit the number of everyday products that you use. Chucking everything is almost impossible, however, using the bare minimum on average is ideal. So that on the days you decide to go the extra mile it won’t do as much damage.
  • Add natural products into your beauty regimen. Eggs, aloe vera, papaya, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, etc. are powerful tools you can use to accentuate your natural beauty. Furthermore, the benefits of using these natural ingredients aren't limited to one area nor do you have to worry about where not to use them. 
  • Not to sound like every other person but, eating right, drinking enough water, having a full night’s rest and exercising play vital roles when it comes to how you look. So incorporating them into your lifestyle is paramount.

So there you have it, making up and looking good is fun but playing Russian roulette with our health isn't. Which means we have to take charge of what we let affect us so we get the best out of our lives.

Let me know what you think about the post. Am I just overreacting to whispers or being paranoid about nothing? Have you faced anything that proves or disproves this information? And will you like me to write more on such contents? or about my personal struggle/ routines around beauty and health. Leave all your comments in the box.

Stay beautiful! 

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