Thursday, March 12, 2009

Smear Some of This on Your Face

Almost two years ago, I stopped wearing make-up. While teaching a unit on food and food-related policies, I stumbled upon an interview with Stacy Malkan, who wrote Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. Malkan reveals gross facts about beauty products, how many of them contain byproducts of petroleum and traces of plastics. Malkan also discusses the Cosmetics Act of 1938, which was the last time the FDA passed regulations concerning beauty products. If you live in an EU country, rest assured that the EU has very specific laws regarding what chemicals are allowed in beauty products and as recent as 2008, went so far as to pass a ban on certain chemicals found in hair dye and sunscreen.

The harm these chemicals cause is difficult to detect since problems like cancer and infertility or difficulty with getting pregnant have more than one cause--pollution, genetics, age, etc. What has changed since 1938, among other things, is that the unregulated beauty market doesn't solely affect women anymore; the average person draws from at least 12 products a day. (I liked discussing this when I taught Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, two characters whose bathing habits are related to their boys-will-be-boys freedom. Remember how Tom Sawyer tries to remove his wart?) If you're curious as to what contaminants are in your daily products, go to the Cosmetic Safety Database

I often reminisce on a conversation I had with a fellow waitress I knew while I was in college in Arkansas. Noticing her healthy glow, I asked her what skin products she used. She responded by saying that she puts her boyfriend's sperm on her face at night. She went on to tell me how sperm can be stored for later use, in the event that one doesn't have fresh product available. We laugh. We think is this for real? Because it's funny that the rest of us are satisfied with oil and small traces of poisons.

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