Skin Beauty But At What Cost

I've just watched an incredible documentary about volunteer surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists. Operating on children from developing countries with horribly disfigured faces, these wonderful people selflessly gave their time to literally transform lives. Children for whom tumours and disfigurement had led to them being bullied, abused, stoned, ostracized and excluded were given the confidence to look forward to a better future.

For appearance is everything. Sadly we live in a society where the face has to fit. We never get a second chance to make a first impression and often assumptions are made about a person based on appearance alone.

Whilst we all know in theory that beauty is more than skin deep, the reality is unless you are given the opportunity to reveal your inner self people can be incredibly cruel. The beauty industry knows this and is only too keen to cash in on people's insecurities. Facial skin care is a lucrative business. During the commercial breaks of this prime time television documentary I watched the numerous adverts. There were several beautiful models and actresses promoting the latest anti-aging creams, hair colorants and perfumes, all encouraging us to believe their "new" product would miraculously achieve what their earlier counterparts had obviously been unable to do. The cynic is me wondered how these models could possibly know as they'd only just been introduced to the market and if, indeed, they actually tried and believed in the product they were promoting.

After all, to them it was just a job and I wondered if they had any idea what they were actually putting on their skin and hair. Of course we all want to look as good as possible but it has become evident to me that the majority of products on the market simply do not work. If they did there would be no need to introduce new ones and all these beauty products come at a cost. I don't just mean in monetary terms either. I'm not sure if you are aware but there is no legal obligation on the beauty and skincare profession to test any of their products before they are sold unless they have reason to believe there could be a problem. That means when these amazing "new" treatments are introduced, we - that's you and me, are effectively the lab rats.

You see, incredible as it may sound there is very little regulation in the beauty and skin care industry. Even its own regulatory body admits very few of the ingredients used in their products have been tested for long term health effects either individually or in combination. The data base of over 10,500 allowed ingredients contain some pretty toxic synthetic chemicals known to be hazardous to health and yet they are still allowed to be used. Manufacturers claim they are used in such small quantities they present no danger but as we know they have never been tested for long term health effects that's not very reassuring. It is the cumulative build up over time which is the danger. An article in the Daily Times in September 2006 suggested that women put about 175 chemicals on their skin on a daily basis.

Over time these toxic synthetic compounds accumulate and cause all sorts of health problems. Many ingredients which make our skin care look, smell and feel good are derived from the petrochemical industry. They are known allergens and suspected carcinogens but are often referred to as "organic preservatives". The reason this is allowed is because the chemical definition of organic means anything containing a carbon atom.

As oil comes from old decaying leaves and matter which at one time was alive and therefore contained carbon, it's an acceptable but thoroughly misleading description. Another misleading description is "natural". Here again, skin and beauty products are often described in such terms if they contain an ingredient derived from a natural substance.

The problem with that is if something is derived from something else then a process has taken place making it not natural. In the beauty industry this process usually involves toxic chemicals making the end result potentially dangerous. One example I was given to illustrate this point is vodka. That drink can be derived from potatoes but whilst you may well be happy to feed your child on mashed potatoes I'm sure you'd think twice about feeding him or her vodka wouldn't you? The only way you can be confident the products you put on your face and body are completely free from harmful chemicals is to use Certified Organic products. You need to make certain they have the internationally recognized organic logos on them too so you can ensure you're not being misled by the chemical "organic" or "natural" descriptions. My evening's television made interesting viewing.

Both the documentary and the adverts sought to change people's appearance. However, the health professionals did it with integrity and transformed lives. Their concern was for the health and well being of their patient. The beauty profession's agenda is somewhat different. It's a very lucrative business!.

For details of the World's First cosmetic, skin and personal care products certified to Food Grade Standards free of toxins and harmful synthetic chemicals Jean Shaw is the author of I'm Not Naughty - I'm Autistic and Autism, Amalgam and Me

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