By Hwaa Irfan
During the month of Ramadhan, our bodies will be in a state of rest and purification by breaking away from the bad habits that have developed throughout the year. However, before we return to those pre-Ramadhan habits after we have broken our fast every night, us ladies should take a second look before we decide to deny our skin the right to breathe again.
As the world of physical attraction continues to market its illusions, it is not telling us the real content of its beauty products.
Healthy skin needs oxygen and needs to release carbon dioxide. However what we put on our faces can inhibit this natural cycle. Wide- ranging ingredients with chemical sounding names confuse and convince us. Mineral oils in skin creams are actually from crude oil. Forming an oily film, it suffocates the skin. In holding large amounts of moisture on the skin it causes immature, unhealthy and sensitive skin that dries out easily. So what do we do, we buy more cream!
The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) estimated that $35 billion is spent in the US annually on cosmetics alone . A staggering figure for an industry that remains largely unaccountable for its products. Director of FDA’s Office of Colors and Cosmetics, John Bailey stated:
- “If we see we’re getting a number of complaints for the same product, then that is cause for concern.”
He referred to ‘organisms’ in the atmosphere that could affect the preservatives in the products. However, a study by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group found these preservatives to be the second most common cause of allergic reactions and hypoallergenic products only offer a partial solution.
One of the foremost preservatives used is formaldehyde. US made cosmetics may include Quaternium 15, a formaldehyde-releasing agent found in deoderized soaps, mascara, talcum powders, foundation creams and firming facial creams. It is also in shampoos, conditioners, fluoride toothpaste, mouth -washes, hair colors and nail varnish. The Garden Botanika market ‘natural’ cosmetics that contain diazolidinyl urea – a formaldehyde releasing preservative. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogenic.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate are detergent emulsifiers added to remove oil and soil from the skin. A study in the Journal of American College Toxicology found that the longer these chemicals stayed in contact with the skin, the greater the irritation.
Common in shampoos, Tom Mower’s of Images International found SLS inhibited hair growth, caused hair loss and cataracts if it got into the eyes! Industry uses SLS as a garage floor cleaner, an engine degreaser. SLS is known to cause potentially carcinogenic nitrates to form in skin cleaners from its reaction with other ingredients. It is cheap and small amounts are required to generate a large amount of foam. When salt is added the foam thickens. SLS has a systemic effect, causing liver abnormalities and kidney damage when in contact with the skin. It is retained in the eyes, brain, heart, liver and kidneys with potential long-term effects .
Since last year, a FDA initiated the ‘Imported Cosmetics Program’. However it is dependent on voluntary participation from the industry and only focuses on imported products, which only constitutes 1-2% of annual American consumer expenditure.
Second though is also required on natural products. John Bailey of FDA said:
- ‘There are no standards for what ‘natural’ means and who’s to say what they’re actually using.”
The cosmetics trade journal Drug and Cosmetic Industry stated:
- “ All plants (including those in cosmetics) can be heavily contaminated with bacteria, pesticides and chemical fertilizers widely used to improve crop yields”.
For example cerebrosides in skin products provide a smoother skin surface. Marketed as ‘luminous’ and ‘improved hydration’, it is produced from the deepest layer of the skin. Secreting into outer cells, it serves as a protective coating, providing the skins moisture and suppleness. The raw material for cerebrosides comes from cattle, oxen and swine nervous system tissues and occasionally plants .
As a part of FDA’s voluntary program they aim to regulate bovine substances from cattle born, raised, or slaughtered in countries where BSE exists, but this doesn’t fair well for American Muslims who might be using creams with cerebrosides sourced from the US bred swine.
Collagen comes from the connective tissue of young cows and ground chicken feet. It has a moisturizing effect, but it is an insoluble fibrous protein, too large to penetrate the skin.
And the list goes on…
There is no evidence that vitamins added to cosmetics can penetrate the skin, Aloe Vera added to products is too small to be beneficial and the claim that human placenta can stimulate tissue growth and remove wrinkles goes unproven. Bentonite is porous clay that expands many times its dried volume when it absorbs water. Found in foundation products, it clogs the pores and suffocates the skin. The popular glycerin draws moisture from inside the skin and holds it on the surface drying the skin inside -out.
We all like to believe that we are in charge of our lives, but the global beauty industry is a clear example of the impositions of a Westernized/globalized which out of it’s Catholic heritage hence its colonial past, the West has implanted a particular notion of beauty that many women of colour suffer from, and many women in the West have fall blindly for. This notion is the notion of perfection, which permeates our lives from childhood through our parents, relatives, friends, and media, through to school where we learn to not like very much about ourselves. This self intolerance then moves onto color platonic and personal relationships. However often do men subject their women to that idealism? Unfortunately, a growing number of Muslim husbands are subjecting their wives to this notion of perfection by discouraging their wives to wear hijab, or to dress in a particular way. Once all the changes have been made, the appeal has been lost because that is not what strengthens the bonds of marriage. Entrained by images projected by the music industry, and pornography in particular, there are some men who are not attracted physically to the women they love. They admit this, and they know the cause, lost in the abyss between what they love and what they are attracted to. A pseudo-life in suspended animation, This inner dislike is so prevalent that it is considered normal. Only when we explore the effect physiological-psychological effect it has on our relationship with ourselves, and consequently others (including those we love), that we begin to realize that something is seriously wrong.
This was originally written in 2001…
CIR. “Cosmetics Ingredients Review Alerts”. 2001. 1-2. Ingredient Alert. Cosmetics Ingredients Review. http://www.cir-safety.org/alert.html
Dori, Stehlin. “Cosmetic Safety: More Complex Than at First Blush”. FDA Consumer Magazine. May ’95. CSFAN-FDA.gov. 1-8.
FDA-CSFAN #1. “FDA Authority over Cosmetics”. 02/03/95. 1. Cosmetics. Csfan.fda.gov. http://www.csfan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-206.html
FDA-CFSAN #2. “Cosmetics Compliance Program: Imported Cosmetics Program”. 12/08/00. 1-16. Cosmetics. http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~comm/cp29002.html
Foulke, Judith. “Cosmetic Ingredients: Understanding the Puffery”. FDA Consumer Magazine. May ’92. Fda.gov. 1-5. http://www.fda.gov/fdac/reprints/puffery.html
Penn.com. “Abditus Veritas of Harmful
Ingredients”. 1-6. Users.penn.com. http://users.penn.com/~rarearts/harmfulingredients.html
This Ramadhan I Will…
Miller. Linda. “Avoid Skin Care Cosmetics.” Daily Oklahoma. Carasnaturalchoices.com. 1-2. http://www.carasnaturalchoices.com/Avoidskincarecosmetics~ns4.html>
Scidiv. “Formaldehyde”. 1. Cosmetics. Scidiv.bcc.ctc.edu. 12/12/01. http://www.scidiv.bcc.ctc.edu/wv/From-cosmetics.html