Toxic beauty is a documentary feature film following a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, a renown household brand. We follow personal stories of whistle blowers, survivors and women in a race against time revealing a series of ugly cover ups in the beauty & cosmetic industry. Besides that, the film weaves in a human experiment conducted by Mymy Nguyen, a Boston University Masters student who measures her chemical body burden when using different cosmetic products.
“The cosmetic industry is destroying women’s cells.”
This powerful statement mentioned by an ex formulator of one of the biggest cosmetic brands hooked me on immediately. I’ve had sensitive skin and eczema when I was a child, and the prolonged periods of itchiness and rash were not fun. Since then, I’ve always been wary of chemicals I apply on my skin, always fearful of a reaction. Even though I outgrew the sensitive skin phase, my sense of wariness about products I apply on my skin never left me. While my peers were playing with make up and slathering themselves in an assortment of cosmetic products, I stuck to the most routine: washing my face with water and applying sunscreen. After the unpleasant realization that I end up consuming the wax like substance, lipstick on my lips, I resulted to eyeliner as the only form of make up I use.
Granted, some of the times, the lack of available scientific information in the present results in health issues in the future and cannot be avoided. However, what shocked me was that renown household companies like Johnsons & Johnsons which specialize in a range of baby products was engaged in a lawsuit that unveiled a series of cover ups that spanned across decades. Bear in mind this isn’t a direct hit on Johnson & Johnson as talc is used rampantly in other products. However, a link between talc and ovarian cancer was discovered all the way in early 1980s by world renowned epidemiologist Dr Daniel Cramer. However, nothing was done. No warning label was placed on talc even after the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared Talc as a possible carcinogen. The cosmetic industry has had little change since 1936, and the way we regulate personal care products need to improve.
I’d like to believe I’m an over cautious person, however, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that point that conglomerates often use harmful chemicals and ingredients in products and sell them to unwitting buyers. Labels such as “fragrance“, “parfum” and “aroma” do not show the ingredients used and can conceal a range of potentially hazardous chemicals. Furthermore, the fact that we live in a world operated by a post- market regulatory system is hazardous as a product goes into the market and a regulatory system kicks in only when there are incidents. The fact that we are slathering ourselves with potentially harmful chemicals every day of our lives doesn’t sit well with me. In 2004, Dr Phillipa Darbre, a scientist from the UK found parabens in breast tissue. In 2018, a study by the National Institute of Health linked breast cancer to the use of personal care products. Furthermore, the use of certain products high in oestrogen were found to link to hormonal disruption in baby boys causing a myriad of side effects such as developmental delays, low sperm count, infertility, cancer, diabetes, obesity and skin disease. The idea that a lot of these “bodily malfunctions” are essentially self induced is worrisome. How do we make informed decisions? How do we know which product is okay to use?
It is scary that our physical and mental health risks can be self induced through using products containing harmful chemicals. The documentary follows Mymy Nguyen who conducts a self experiment to measure chemicals in her body when she doesn’t use any self care products at all, when she uses all of her usual routine, and when she uses natural and clean products. It was shocking that when she used her products she’s been using for years eg shampoos, toothpaste, make up, the parabens and phthalates (toxic chemicals) found in her urine samples were higher than the 95th percentile of Americans. It is close to impossible to not use any personal care products as tasks like washing your hair or brushing your teeth cannot be avoided. She expressed her fear of not being able to have children and like the women we follow in the lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson expressed the guilt that the health risks were almost like it was self induced. I disagree with the statement, as I feel the chemists and R&D part of companies should be more stringent and responsible about the types of ingredients they choose to use. But how do we make sure that the products we use aren’t harmful to us?
Regulatory bodies such as the FDA should aim to be more stringent with regulating cosmetic products instead of buckling under the pressure of conglomerates who promise to self regulate. Furthermore, consumers should take one step further and use ingredient analyzer platforms such as 1Source, EWG, and Incidecoder to make sure that the products they use do not contain harmful ingredients / chemicals. It is really simple to use, especially if your ingredient label is filled with long chemistry names we are unfamiliar with. Simply type the name of the product into the platform. A rating of the products will be shown and toxic ingredients will be flagged. By making smarter purchasing decisions, consumers can support clean businesses and put pressure on other companies to use cleaner ingredients. For starters, here are some toxic ingredients and chemicals to look out for in your personal products.
Different types of harmful chemicals
Mimic hormone activity with links to birth defects, reproductive harm and cancer
Having been contributing to the 1Source blog, the platform has introduced me to the deeper side of the beauty industry, especially as a skincare junkie, I became more aware about the ingredients that I put onto my skin.
Using 1Source upload / scan, the revelation of ingredients leaves a long lasting impression about a product I use. And it certainly becomes disappointing when a product I really like has suspicious toxic chemicals.
Common toxic chemicals I find in good products are Phenoxyethanol and suspicious Colorants.
Example: Phenoxyethanol – How I personally use the app
To clarify, Phenoxyethanol is not a ‘bad’ chemical in skincare products. It’s a ‘great’ preservative and the best, for now – it replaced Formaldehyde, which to me looks like a sign that cosmetic brands are regularly finding / forming better and advanced chemicals for us.
Here is an excerpt of what Paula’s Choice (skincare and makeup focused site) had to say about Phenoxyethanol
‘Phenoxyethanol is a widely used synthetic preservative that has global approval for use in all cosmetic products in concentrations up to 1%’
‘The rest of the alarming studies are about using phenoxyethanol in full-strength or atypically high concentrations, not the amounts of 1% or less used in cosmetic products. Think of it as the difference between taking one sip of wine versus chugging several bottles at once!’
Hence approving and debunking the demonization of Phenoxyethanol.
However, the information 1Source Ingredients that provide about Phenoxyethanol should also not be ignored. As a science focused ingredient analyzer, 1Source’s ingredient information tab provides a summary of the ingredients and corresponding it to the potential risk index (PRI)
1Source’s PRI of Phenoxyethanol
Overall Phenoxyethanol has a rating of 5
‘Some blogs may claim that there is a link to ovarian cancer but the correlation has yet to be accepted by the scientific community as definitive…An alternative to formaldehyde-releasing preservatives’
And in the recent findings section. It has warnings and summary of scientific discoveries of the chemical, for example suggesting to not use it for new born babies and informing the ecotoxicity of the chemical.
Overall, the EU SCCS has classified phenoxyethanol as safe for use as a preservative with a maximum concentration of 1.0%. However, care should still be taken when using products with phenoxyethanol, given its potential as a skin irritant.’
So that’s how I use the 1Source app/site, it provides information that I find skincare focused sites seem to lack. I don’t only want to know if it would be good or bad for my skin. I want to know why it would be good or bad. I also like to know about the background of the ingredient more as a chemical substance rather than a name in an ingredient label on the back of a packaging. That, to me, is conscious buying.
I am in no way calling out other sites or am comparing 1Source to Paula’s Choice. Paula’s Choice is indeed reliable and informative, and of course, I will use it when it comes to choosing makeup and skincare products, as I use 1Source as well.
The Conspiracy of non-regulated chemicals
A few days ago, I came across a tiktok (unfortunately, I can’t find it anymore) where a user shows a list of chemicals that are banned in the EU for food / cosmetic uses that are fine in the USA.
From what I remember, he points out that the overall health of the European population tends to be better than that of the US is because the FDA is not as strict as the EU consumer regulations. He added that the reason is because unlike Europe which has freer healthcare and is seen like a social welfare, health care in the US is an economy or to be more accurate, a business of its own. The conspiracy is that if the unhealthy and toxic chemicals are banned, there would be less patients which threatens the economy of the country.
Though, convincing. It doesn’t explain why some EU banned chemicals are in Hong Kong stores when public healthcare in Hong Kong is more similar to the EU rather than the USA.
According to Oliver Milman on the Guardian, In cosmetics alone, the EU has banned or restricted more than 1,300 chemicals while the US has outlawed or curbed just 11.
Milman: ‘The clout of powerful industry interests, combined with a regulatory system that demands a high level of proof of harm before any action is taken, has led to the American public being routinely exposed to chemicals that have been rubbed out of the lives of people in countries such as the UK, Germany and France.’
From this article, Asbestos was used as an example of the poor regulatory system of the US. ‘Asbestos exposure has long been known to cause deaths and illnesses but the substance is still not banned in the US. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempted to do so in 1989 only to be overturned by the federal court following a backlash from manufacturers.’
In 1source, all types of Asbestos are labeled as a hazard. This substance has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
As much as it is fun to entertain the conspiracy. The fact is that the FDA in the USA is limited by law. According to them: FDA does not have the legal authority to approve cosmetics before they go on the market, although we do approve color additives used in them (except coal tar hair dyes)… FDA can take action against a cosmetic on the market if we have reliable information showing that it is adulterated or misbranded.
As I read this, I realized that it isn’t just makeup or skincare products that is not strictly checked. This applies to tattoo inks as they are categorized as cosmetics to the FDA too. The pattern becomes more apparent. ‘A report by Bioelements and Health Unit Italian Ministry for Health Roma categorized the heavy metals into different colorants and their health effects were reported to vary from mild irritations to harming of the brain.’
Products I use that I found to have ‘toxic’ or banned chemicals
Disclaimer: this section of the article is to show the products that I used that surprised me with it’s ingredient compounds. The performance and my “love” for the product has no relevance to this section.
Comparing my consumer behavior now to before, it’s empowering to see how more aware I became with the products I use. Buying consumer goods is in my power even if I am to choose to buy a product with a chemical to look out for, I would at least know now.
In celebration of Black History Month, let’s explore how the Black Community has shaped the fashion & beauty world!
The Black Cosmetics Pioneer – Annie Turnbo Malone
Malone was considered to be one of the first African American women who earned her millionaire status in the US. She was born in Illinois, by the age of 20, she used her chemistry knowledge to form her first shampoo and scalp treatment. Her product became a success in 1902
Distribution Channels were not accessible to Black people during Malone’s days. She sold her products with her assistant by going door-to-door. And the product started to get the buzz as it spotted a gap in the market: although there were commercial shampoos targeted towards this niche, it was the only product to straighten the natural curly texture of Black hair without damaging it.
She expanded her business, thus naming it Poro Products. It later became a National brand after the 1904 World’s Fair, a large international exhibition showcase. In 1918, she built a factory and a cosmetology school, Poro College. She stayed in business after a divorce and the great depression. While doing so, she contributed and helped a lot of charities throughout her lifetime.
And it must be known, she was the employer of the famous Black entrepreneur and activist, Madam CJ Walker. Today, her legacy is still on Earth, as the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home.
Whether you heard it or not, Roberts had popularized this routine to the world of the skincare junkies. The rules of this ‘Free.99’ routine are simply cleansing your face with your fingers. She explains that the average person only spends 15-20 seconds washing their face, it is not enough for your cleanser to battle your skin concerns. This routine helps the face by improving the texture of the face, cleaning the pores and promoting circulation. The #60secondrule has been proven to be a must-do step by people’s reviews and reactions online!
Reviews on Twitter:
@if_iknewbetter: Not to be dramatic but the 60 seconds rule saved my skin in a week @LaBeautyologist
@skincare_hub: •Wear SPF everyday whether you’re going out or not. •Know your skintype and ingredients that work best for you and stick to it. •Double cleanse at night always using @labeautyologist 60 seconds rule. •Use witch hazel ONLY when you’re wearing makeup •Silk pillow case 24/7
Y2K, or The Year 2000, was a colorful and fun time. NOT! The reason why people started expressing experimentalism and creativity in the beauty world and what not was because of a massive scare, caused by a computer bug. People thought that the world was going to end.
According to National Geographic, the Y2K bug caused a global panic because computers were not able to interpret dates beyond December 31, 1999. Only the last two digits of the year would represent the years. So when January 1, 2000 was coming, it could have turned to January 1, 1999. This was a problem to businesses like banks, technology centers, power plants and transportations e.t.c people believed that the computer crash was going to cause an apocalypse.
Now back to the beauty world. Y2K was everything, if it wasn’t girly – it was boyish, if it wasn’t baggy – it was skimpy, if it wasn’t metallic – it was vibrant, if it wasn’t cyber – it was street!
Jackie Aina, a Nigerian-American Youtube Star on her video, Things Black Culture Popularized, explains how the Black community started the Y2K fashion wave.
“right now something that is very very very popular that I’m actually really here for is the Y2K aesthetic…” at 3:50
What was it like to be wearing Y2K? It was never praised like today, in fact, according to Rashida Renée on ELLE, who explains that celebrities like Lil’ Kim, Mariah Carey and Foxy Brown were always criticized and labeled as ‘Worst Dressed’, while the ‘proper’ dresses were ‘Best Dressed’ on the runway. Interestingly, the Instagram engagement that the ‘worst dressed’ red carpet walkers had was better.
What is Y2K now? Resurrected – – Well it was never dead. The article mentioned above got me reminiscing from my childhood. Then I remembered these iconic looks that has a special place in my memory:
So Y2K stayed but it wasn’t called Y2K anymore, the different looks started to have its own names, during the 2010s, they were called Tomboy, Preppy, Hip-Hop and whatnot. Today, the trendiest look names are E-Girl/Boy, VSCO, Art Hoe, Soft Girl/Boy and…………….. Y2K.
Y2K today is not as versatile as before, now it has a specific look. It’s fun, cool and retro.
Honorable mentions from Aina’s video:
Styling of baby hairs
Super long nails
Also from Aina’s video at 14:08, “Another painfully obvious thing that black people didn’t even intentionally make popular, we just existed, our big lips.”
Big Lips, or more popularly known as, the ‘Kylie Jenner’ Lips. It took the beauty world to another turn like when thick bushy eyebrows dethroned the thin eyebrows trend, also popularized by another black woman, Diana Ross. The 70s Diana Ross eyebrows flipped the game, even though the 80s went back to being thick and bushy like the 60s, the 90s turned back time and made brows thin again!
The Big Lips trend was a big ‘culture’ change. More people began to get lip injections and overline their lips in their makeup routines. A study conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), shows an increase in lip augmentation procedures. The statistics report shows the difference of lip augmentation procedures done between the year 2000 and 2019. In 2000, only 18,589 procedures were done. And in 2019, a whopping increase, 31,789 procedures took place! Why? It’s a safe bet that ever since Kylie Jenner posted her selfie in 2014 with plumper lips, and coming clean about them in an episode of Life of Kylie, that she was getting her lips done, the influence started flooding the world… while black people…have natural big lips…which were unlikeable???
Aina pointed out the irony of the Big Lip trend. Before the acceptance of big lips, they were once ridiculed for. Not only are big lips now a trend, it has become part of someone’s career.
Black people getting ridiculed for having big lips is not just a story about being bullied, it has a dark history. Minstrel shows, a form of racist ‘entertainment’, where an actor performed in a way that was dehumanizing and mocking of black people, in black face. An obvious feature to these shows are the overlining of the lips representing the ‘lips’ of a black person.
The term ‘Kylie Jenner’ Lips proves what Jackie Aina mean: ‘the regurgitating of things that naturally come to us, and rebranding it, packaging it, selling it, making a career out of it, commodifying it basically where for us it’s a weapon, it’s a tool, it’s a flaw.’
How Lip Augmentation works?
Also known as lip fillers, this procedure is quick and simple. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the key ingredient to lip augmentation is Hyaluronic Acid (HA). Polyacrylamide is also available, but it is less common because it may cause granuloma. We ourselves have HA in our body, but overtime, the lip loses volume because of age, sun exposure and more. The purpose of the HA in lip fillers is to replace the HA that was lost.
The beauty industry is one of the biggest industries in the market. According to Statista, in the year 2019, the beauty industry earned a revenue of USD49.2 billion in the United States alone! For such a universal market, the beauty industry still fails to cater to people of color. This includes: foundation, lipstick, eyeshadows – basically, everything.
Fenty Beauty is a cosmetics brand that was launched back in the year 2017 by mega star Rihanna. When the brand launched, the foundation caught the most attention, not of it’s formula, packaging or whatsoever, it was the shade range which consisted of 40 colors (now 50), covering not only the light skinned, but also the darker skinned. It is almost satirical that 2017 would be the year people became more conscious about foundation shades that are lacking. Not saying that Fenty was the first brand to make foundation for POCs, but rather, it offered more. The brand didn’t just offer a ‘dark’ color, the brand closely looked into making shades with different undertones – because not everyone is warm, or neutral, or cool toned.
So why is it so hard to have darker shades? It’s not. According to Al-Nisa Ward, the owner and president of Cosmetic Science Innovations who appeared on Vox, said that the claim of product development for dark shades being more difficult is false. She explains, foundations have the same base formulas, the difference between shades is just up to the differing of ratios in pigments. There are 4 basic pigments in foundations – Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxide Red, Iron Oxide Yellow, Iron Oxide Black.
PAT McGRATH Labs
PAT McGRATH Labs is a cosmetic brand that was founded in 2016 by the legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath. She is known for her experimentalism with bold colors and materials like feathers and gold leafs.
The makeup line is known for its luxurious packaging, shiny shimmers, pigmented lipsticks and more. McGrath appeared in an interview with Guardian writer Sali Hughes. “…a lot of the time when you buy a normal shadow, it doesn’t always work on every skin tone – it’s chalky or too light – so that’s my main aim, to bring makeup for all skin tones to the fore.” She told Hughes, ‘there was no makeup for women of color…NOTHING”
McGrath does not only bring inclusivity when it comes to race. She works with everyone, like men, drag queens and plus size people. To her, “It’s about pushing boundaries. I believe absolutely, the world wants something different, people want back their individuality.”
Beauty Bakerie is an indie cosmetics brand founded in 2011 by Cashmere Nicole. The indie brand is known for it’s cute and ‘yummy’ theme. Where products are designed or inspired by foods found in bakeries, like cartons of eggs, flour bags or utensils.
After surviving breast cancer. Nicole became more health conscious and looked closely what ingredients are in the beauty products people put on everyday. She developed the brand to be cruelty-free and vegan. In addition, in 2016, Beauty Bakerie became associated with Sugar Homes, which donates money, clothes, toys and more to orphanages. Their journey has helped children from Uganda, Indonesia and Zanzibar.
For such a fan favorite brand, it wasn’t an easy journey for Nicole. According to an interview with Aimee Simeon in Refinery29, Nicole observed that the beauty industry was focused on ‘self’, she thought, approaching the cosmetics business with ‘thinking about others’ would be the right way for her.
Apart from cancer, raising a daughter by herself, and investing into the side-business. Being a black entrepreneur was not going to be easy, “I’ve learned that being Black and running an indie brand is extremely tough. As a child, I remember hearing that you have to work twice as hard when you’re Black — and now I know that it’s true.” However, Nicole never gave up, her constant perseverance and hard work had brought her to where she is today. A successful strong Black businesswoman.
Why is being a black entrepreneur hard?
According to Devin Dixon, Black entrepreneurs lack access to ‘people, education, opportunity, and capital’. Dixon, who started being an entrepreneur at the age of 18 and the journey was hard. He recalls to a moment when he was advised by a Black business leader to have a White man become the face of the company, this was shocking. Dixion pointed out that this type of idea is part of the problem and plays into the narrative that Black people are not collaborative or don’t work.
Systematic racism in society is still very apparent. And it is a reason why being not only a Black entrepreneur, also in general, Black is hard. There is lack of safety when it comes to being a Black entrepreneur. Jumping to being a business owner or CEO is risky, the access to important materials makes it harder to obtain. “For example…these top execs have strong ties to the top schools such as Stanford or Harvard. Given that top schools tend to only have about a 5% black population, we have less access to powerful networks.”Video by Sam Dey about being a Black entrepreneur.
Video by Sam Dey about being a Black entrepreneur:
2:05 ‘One thing I noticed about these events is that the Black race are underrepresented at the majority of these events…’
6:06 ‘Particularly in the UK, young black males are seen as a certain way, whether we like it or not, we are often portrayed as trouble makers because of the way we are depicted in the news….’
Support the Black Community
As we observed, it is acknowledged that the Black community has contributed a lot to society, however, it gets rebranded as ‘an invention’ or ‘a trend’ curated by non black celebrities or influencers. I remember a sign from one of the Black Lives Matter protest that says something like ‘You enjoy our culture, but hate our People.’ This article was not written to tell people to stop participating in the culture, but rather, appreciate and give credit where credit is due.
We are against surrounding ourselves with toxic products, however, we are more tolerant when putting them on ourselves. Nail polish can be a creative outlet for women to experiment with different color pops. However, little do we know the nail polish we use are harmful to our bodies and some common ingredients are even classified as endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.
You need a chemistry degree to understand the string of chemical compounds on nail polish ingredient labels. Most of them are benign, but some can have drastic effects to our health. Hence, we need ingredient analyzers such as 1Source, EWG, Thinkdirty which summarizes ratings, functions and uses of chemical compounds into comprehensible points for the public. Check out our article on health apps that can help filter out the skincare noise.
If you don’t have the time to search up every single ingredient or nail polish product, here is a quick guide on what to look out for when purchasing nail polish.
Watch out for words such as “organic”, “natural”
The lack of regulations allows companies to use labels such as “organic” and “natural”, with the intent of misleading consumers into purchasing their products. Just because a product is “natural”, doesn’t mean that it is better, as “natural” products may still contain toxic ingredients. Sometimes, toxic ingredients aren’t even written down, and even if they were, its effects may not be found in the
The toxic trio
While most chemicals in nail polish are not harmful, there is 3 particular chemicals you need to look out for.
Dibutyl Phthalate: This chemical compound is used to help make plastics soft and flexible. According to ZME Science, this compound may cause short term effects like nausea and irritated eyes, skin, nose, mouth and throat. According to the US California Proposition 65, DBP is known to the States as a substance that has damaging effects on both male and female reproductive system. In general, this substance has been prohibited by the European Commission for use in cosmetic products.
Toluene: This substance is a paint thinner and is the primary ingredient for the recreational “glue sniffing”. Dizziness, numbness, dry skin, and irritated nose, eyes, and throat are some of the side effects of coming in contact with toluene. The Hong Kong Consumer Council has labelled toluene-2,5-diamine (PTD) as an “extreme sensitizer” and that even “a small amount of sensitizers could trigger allergic skin reactions in some people” despite complying with concentration standards set in Mainland China and the European Union. Although there are generally low amounts of toluene in nail polish, be careful as different people have different sensitivity to this substance.
Formaldehyde: This substance is a common ingredient that functions as a preservative in cosmetic products. In view of its widespread use, toxicity, and volatility, formaldehyde poses a significant danger to human health. In 2011, the US National Toxicology Program described formaldehyde as “known to be a human carcinogen”. The FDA bans the use of formaldehyde in all cosmetics except nail polish, however a limit is placed.
Triphenyl phosphate is a common chemical compound in nail polish. However, researchers from Duke University and Environmental Working Group found this to be a hormone disrupting chemical. It is concerning that endocrine disrupters are being marketed to women and teenage girls. Furthermore, the study found that this compound is absorbed by the body after each use.
Do we need to stop using nail polish altogether?
No. The occasional polish does not pose a threat as the concentrations of toxic ingredients are generally low. However, take care of your cuticles to minimize contact between nail polish and skin as the chemicals may be absorbed into the skin and ensure ventilation in the room so you’re not constantly inhaling the fumes.
Opt for “five free” nail polish. Five free polishes refer to nail polish that does not contain five toxic ingredients: dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, resin and camphor. According to Harvard Health, although camphor is a good topical remedy, it can be toxic when consumed from the mouth while other chemical compounds such as formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene may cause allergic dermatitis. Some brands market themselves as “seven free” or even “ten free”.
Nails add a pop of color to our look. By being more careful and selective about nail polish brands, we can have beautiful nails and stay safe at the same time!
Like periods, sex, and other intimate topics, birth control used to be a taboo. However, in this modern day and age, birth control pills (BCP) are taken by numerous women around the world for a plethora of reasons. Taken orally, the primary function of birth control pills are to manipulate the hormone levels in women such that the chance of conceiving a child is lowered. Comprised of the hormones estrogen and/ or only progestin, it’s hormone regulating properties is used to regulate menstruation, relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), clear up hormonal acne and more.
Birth control pills are a popular form of contraception, however, there are dark sides to this pill. According to a news report by The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 2013, the pill was suspected to have killed 23 women, including a girl as young as 14 years of age. Lawyers, doctors and pharmacists has found a correlation between the deaths and the use of popular BCP brands such as Yaz and Yasmin which are manufactured by Bayer AC. Multiple lawsuits led the German multinational pharmaceutical company to pay up a staggering $1 billion to settle lawsuits in the US alone.
Reactons from taking the Birth Control Pill
Here is a summary report conducted by Health Canada observing the pill taker’s reactions.
The general reaction includes:
Respiratory, thoracic & mediastinal disorders
Nervous system disorders
Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders
Injury, poisoning and procedural complications
Infections and infestations
So what makes these brands more dangerous than their competitors? Synthetic drospirenone, which shows a higher risk of blood clots, the suspected main cause of the deaths.
However, there is no substantial evidence tying drospirenone and blood clotting in birth control pills. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an issued statement only said pills with drospirenone “may” be associated to the risks as there were mixed results. Positive results to the statement shows that the risk of blood clots is as high as three times than pills not containing drospirenone. While negative results show no additional risk at all.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a healthy 27 year old woman suddenly fell into a stroke which was suspected to be caused by the intake of BCP for several months. As a results, she was diagnosed with a cryptogenic stroke and an end of her BCP routine.
There is no substantial proof that confirms BCPs as the culprit. However, it is the most likely cause as the woman had no history of health problems or migraines, and the only major change in her lifestyle was the consumption of BCPs. According to Loyola University Health System, the speculation of BCPs increasing the risk of strokes in women started in 1962. Pills with higher dosage of synthetic estrogen was scrutinized.
Today, this particular BCP formula is no longer in use. However, strokes can still occur if there are already additional potential stroke risk such as smoking, hypertension and migraines.
These side effects can be annoying and lead women to opt to get off the pill. Nikki Gonda, the founder of My Moonbox shared her personal experience online.
“For me, I said goodbye to the cramps & heavy irregular periods, but I also said hello to 6 years of anxiety, depression, UTIs, thrush & thinking I was crazy. And if that wasn’t enough, when I finally came off the pill, not only did my symptoms resurface but I also was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, leaky gut, & my period didn’t return for over a year later”
– Nikki Gonda
Despite the risks, you should not be afraid of BCPs. The purpose of this article is not to instill fear in taking BCPs, but rather inform the public on its potential side effects as the media often portrays BCPs as a wonder pill that regulates hormones while downplaying its side effects.
According to Dr Zoe Williams and Dr Carol Cooper who appeared on This Morning, they mentioned that the pill is extensively researched on and is considered safe, while there are negative complications, they are extremely rare, the pill would be put for good use safely if the women take the right pill for themselves. The varying thing in BCPs are its concentrations of hormones and different women respond differently to different hormone concentrations. Hence, it is crucial to try out which BCP works for you instead of just reading reviews online.
Making any type of birth control decision is very personal and important, therefore one must be informed beforehand. If you are looking into getting birth control of any method, do a lot of research and consult professionals especially if you have concerns or questions.
Turmeric has been used to treat inflammatory skin conditions like Eczema, but the question is turmeric good for our skin? It contains the compound curcumin, which has shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
What is turmeric?
Commonly used in Asian food, turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It is mainly used as the main spice in curry. It has a bitter taste and can be used to flavour many things such as butters and cheeses. The root of turmeric is known to be used to make medicine. The compound curcumin is yellow coloured, which can be used to colour foods and cosmetics.
What can turmeric do?
Turmeric can be used for a number of conditions, most notably for pain and inflammation. It can be used for other conditions such as;
Turmeric has been used for other conditions with no good scientific evidence to support the use, such as heartburn, inflammatory bowel disease and stress.
Turmeric and Eczema Studies
There are many studies to determine whether turmeric is able to treat Eczema. Despite the spice been used as a natural treatment for skin conditions, there is very little research on the relationship between the two.
A 2016 review of 18 studies that involved curcumin for treating Eczema both topically and orally found early evidence to support the matter. There is the need for more studies, as researchers could not determine the dosage, efficacy, and mechanism of action.
A study of 150 Eczema sufferers used a turmeric containing cream for 4 weeks. It resulted in nearly 30% decrease in skin scaling and a 32% decrease in itchiness. Despite the positive results, the cream also contained other anti-inflammatory herbs, meaning that it cannot be concluded that the turmeric alone relieved the Eczema symptoms.
Can we use Turmeric?
Should we use turmeric for Eczema? The research is still far too limited to give an answer. A study needs to show significant improves in Eczema symptoms using turmeric alone. Most studies used a topical cream containing turmeric but many other herbs and spices.
Turmeric in Products
Many companies use turmeric as an ingredient in their cosmetic products. Applying turmeric-containing products allows for adequate absorption of curcumin. Despite the benefits of these products with turmeric, the formulas have specifically formulated for enhanced absorption. This does not mean applying pure turmeric will have the effects.
Should I use Turmeric for Eczema?
Turmeric has a lot of potential health benefits but it does not have clear links with Eczema. It has been used for centuries in Asian culture for herbal medicine. Products containing turmeric are formulated to be used safely. Not that excessive turmeric intake can include skin rashes and other conditions.
To get the best possible advice, consult a dermatologist or doctor and ask for their guidance.
Summer is officially over in the northern hemisphere. As we near cooler days and shorter evenings, we start stocking up moisturizers and body lotions to protect our skin against harsh weather. However, with so many products lining supermarket shelves, how to choose the most suitable products?
We got you! Our team recently compiled a list of common body lotion products found in local drug stores and supermarkets in Hong Kong. From budget prices to high end brands, 1Source has analyzed the product contents through its system and came up with a Potential Risk Index and short description for each product.
Contains colorant Red 4 which is prohibited in cosmetic products according to the EU CosIng Annex II 2017 and 2018
Here is what we learnt about body lotions:
A product may be popular or has a good reputation but contain unsafe ingredients within certain products
Higher pricing does not guarantee products with safer ingredients
Just because a product is common and you see it everywhere does not mean all its ingredients are safe
Just because a brand is popular or has a good reputation doesn’t mean that all its products are completely safe. This is because ingredients within a product varies among different products, hence the importance of using an ingredient analyzer site to scan product ingredients to ensure the safety of you and your family.
Natural is becoming the more sought after method of treatment due to the many hazardous ingredients that are in shelved products. The ingredient label doesn’t tell you much about what is inside a product. There is no clear indication of what ingredients are safe and which ones are hazardous.
What natural remedies are out there that can help with our skincare routine? Here are 6 to get you started!
Coconut oil, or copra oil, is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of mature coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Coconut oil is 99% fat, composed mainly of saturated fats. It has various applications.
A natural remedy that is recommended by the National Eczema Association as it can help prevent infection. It is highly recommended for those with patches of inflamed skin that are prone to cracking and oozing. The antibacterial abilities of coconut oil can reduce staph bacteria on the skin.
Coconut can be used as a natural moisturizer. It is made by extracting from the coconut meat. Choosing the right product is vital, as virgin or cold-pressed coconut oils are the ones without chemicals.
Something I used as a child and saw great improvements to my Eczema. Highly known for its antioxidant properties, Chamomile is a medicinally recognized plant that promotes skin health by tightening the skin and improving complexion.
A 2014 study showed that Chamomile lotion can be equally effective as hydrocortisone, making it a natural alternative to the cream.
Chamomile cream/lotion can be bought over-the-counter, so no prescription is needed. Chamomile tea can be used to massaged into the skin as an alternative.
Apple cider vinegar has many uses, but did you know it can be used as an exfoliant? It can help to remove dead skin and stimulate healthy skin growth. It is well known for its antiseptic and antibiotic properties.
Apple cider vinegar has the vitamins and nutrients needed to regenerate skin cells. When applying, dilute a small amount with water. Apply to your skin and leave it for a few minutes before washing the mixture off with water.
Along with oatmeal, it can be used to exfoliate your skin and soothe Eczema symptoms in baths. Be sure to use the right amount of dilution to prevent irritation. Consult a doctor or dermatologist for more feedback.
Turmeric is a herb well known for its anti-inflammatory properties that contains curcumin. Curcumin is a rich in antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties compound.
Turmeric cream can help speed up wound healing and reduce scarring for Cesarean wounds according to a 2015 study.
Top tip, you can actually mix honey and turmeric together for a more effective paste to treat Eczema scars. Apply the paste and let it sit on your skin for 10-20 minutes, then rinse off with lukewarm water.
Another oil on the list! This time it is sunflower oil, made by extracting the oils from sunflower seeds. Sunflower oil has proven benefits to the skin that makes it enticing to use.
Sunflower oil is the non-volatile oil pressed from the seeds of sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Sunflower oil is commonly used in food as a frying oil, and in cosmetic formulations as an emollient.
Sunflower oil can hydrate skin, preventing inflammation and itching. It protects the skin’s out layer, which keeps the bacteria out. This is proven by research, making it a must to try out in terms of natural remedies.
Colloidal Oatmeal is a popular treatment to help calm and soften inflamed skin. Colloidal oatmeal is oatmeal grains that have been ground into an extremely fine powder which is then suspended in a bulking liquid.
The properties of the colloidal oatmeal mixture are often derived from the suspension liquid. It can be used as a moisturizer and helps to soothe itchy, scratchy skin or eczema-esque symptoms. It should not be ingested.
The most popular methods of using colloidal oatmeal in a lukewarm bath and to use it as a paste and apply it to your skin. It should be noted that you must check whether you have an allergic reaction to oats or not first before trying this remedy out.
Lipsticks have evolved over decades and now it’s become an irreplaceable part of our beauty routine, be it to feel pretty or to condition lips and prevent it from chapping. Personally, I’ve never really used lipstick due to the fact that I was worried about the chemicals in lipsticks getting into my body during a meal or when I lick my lips.
I came across raving reviews and shiny posters advertising Maybelline’s Superstay Matte Lipstick which had gained a cult like following from women from all walks of life. Many claimed they only had to touch up their lips once a day and that it remained on their lips for a very long time. Was this it? Is this product the solution for not ingesting as much lipstick?
Maybeline’s Superstay matte lipstick features:
Stays on for 16+ hours
Does not smudge on masks
I decided to verify this product myself and vlogged myself using the product for a few days. I was still iffy about putting it on my lips so I swatched in on my arm. True to its claim, it stayed on for more than 5 days through various showers and washes. In fact, it stayed on so long and effectively that a Superstay remover was needed specifically to remove the product. Using common make up removers just doesn’t cut it. Check out this video snippet featuring 1Source’s resident pharmaceutical chemist, to learn more!
Snippet of video:
Why does this specific brand stay on for so long?
C30-45 Alkyldimethylsilyl Polypropylsilsesquioxane is a long, synthetic hydrocarbon chain specially designed to replicate wax for long lasting lipstick.
Why does only a special type of make up remover work?
I use ingredient analyzers to vet the safety of my products and a quick search on the 1Source database yielded a detailed list of ingredients in the product. I was shocked to learn that a number of products were rated 7 and above, meaning toxic if ingested and swallowed on the Potential Risk Index, and that up to two ingredients were banned in some countries.
Ingredients banned in certain parts of the world:
Colorant: Red 22 Lake; CI 45380
Colorants are pigments or dyes that are added in order to change or enhance the color. This particular colorant, Red 22 Lake, has been prohibited by the European Commission for use in cosmetic products, particularly hair dye products. *For the sake of consumer safety, 1Source interprets and extends this to all cosmetic applications.
Infamous in the cosmetic industry for being a preservative and disinfectant, the overall rating for phenoxyethanol is 4, however it is very damaging towards aquatic life, hence earning it a 10 in environment.
Seeing as how certain ingredients have a high rating on the Potential Risk Index, I feel uneasy about using this line of lipsticks. Yes, its long lasting and anti smudge features are attractive, meaning less of it will be consumed, however, ingredients are banned for a reason, and personally, I would not want them in my body at all.
It has been a rough 2020 for us, with our Eczema flaring up more often during the lockdown caused by the pandemic Coronavirus. Many of us have flocked onto social media to voice our discomfort, trying to find answers to our problems.
What is the Cause?
The answer to the question everybody wants to know, what is the cause of my flare ups again? We need to take in consideration how much has changed in our daily routine. Before we start considering what may of been the trigger for our lock-down flare ups, we should write a before and after list.
Before and After List
The first thing we should we do is write down what we used to do in our daily routine before the lockdown. This should be detailed, as the more information you have to work with, the more chance of finding a solution. We should consider every aspect of our lives. Here are a few things that we can note down:
What products we use on our body
Products used around the house
For our after list, we should note the changes of what we wrote in the before page/column. We should also note down the following:
New products introduced because of lockdown
Any changes in our usage/dosage of products
Compare the two lists. You should notice that a lot of things have changed, meaning that the cause of your flare ups can be a number of reasons. We must recognise that at this current time, our skin just cannot cope with all these sudden changes over a prolonged time. It was used to a set routine that we need to get back to.
Since the spike of cases around the world, the demand for cleaning products are at an all time high. Hand sanitizers and soaps were the first two cleaning products to be sold out in shops because of the transmission of diseases through hands. We use our hands all the time and we simply don’t know what we are truly touching.
All Eczema sufferers know that we need to be very careful when trying out new products. We all stocked up on any hand sanitizer we can get our hands on and didn’t take note of what is actually in the bottle.
Harmful Hand Sanitizers
An example of why we should be checking hand sanitizer ingredients before applying them onto our skin is Dial Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer.
It has a number of alarming ingredients. Diazolidinylurea can function as an antimicrobial preservative that actively kills and inhibits the growth of unwanted microorganisms which may be harmful. It has the safety hazard of causing allergic skin reactions and has potential health concerns for dermatitis and eczema users.
Another harmful ingredient in the product is another antimicrobial preservative called methylparaben. It is is an interesting ingredient as it is now banned in Palau due to the damages it can cause to coral reefs. If it can cause long lasting damages to the aquatic wildlife, the question is, what kind of damage can do to our skin? It has the safety hazards of skin irritation and potential health concerns for dermatitis.
With the deep concern of how easily the virus can spread, it has caused an uproar in excessive cleaning. Eczema is not compatible with cleaning products. Coming in contact with these products will cause irritation. Use gloves and ensure you don’t overdo it.
Although on the other end of the spectrum, we might not be cleaning enough! Since we are staying in one environment, we need to make sure that our surroundings are clean. We need to consider what is being contained in your living quarters. For myself, cleaning the house top to bottom gives me great satisfaction and puts my mind at ease. A healthy mind will lead to healthy skin!
Over Hand Washing
We have all been recommended to wash our hands more (I hope you have been doing so). In our household we probably wash our hands more than ever before. Eczema users know that we need non fragrant soap with the most natural ingredients possible. Though there is a deeper trigger.
Continually washing our hands constantly can reactivate dormant eczema. Our skin has natural barriers and oils which over washing with soaps strips off. Breaking down the barriers can result in more water loss through the outer layers of the skin. Dryness and cracking with the possible risk of infection are caused through excessive washing.
Skin thrives off humidity. If you haven’t got a good flow of air, then you must consider getting a humidifier. Eczema can suffer in dry environments so you must consider if you need a humidifier to increase the moisture in the air, especially if you are not getting enough natural air circulation.
Over Applying Creams
One of the BIGGEST problems we have when at home and fighting flare ups. We can’t do the things we want to do, so we apply more cream. DO NOT go over the recommended dosages for any kind of creams. Keep a consistent skincare routine.
What can we do?
We need to try and get back to the routine before the pandemic as quickly as possible. Recognise the changes and sudden urge to splash products on yourself. Take time to analyse the products you are using by checking their ingredients.
If you need to analyse products, I highly suggest using 1Source.com as they decode and analyse products for you by simply searching their database on their website or scanning the bar code through their app!