As the famous adage goes; “beauty is pain,” but should it be killing us…?
I recently read an article in a local newspaper that centred around the growing concern over chemicals used in cosmetics, lotions and other beauty products which is stimulating a worldwide debate over whether we are slowly poisoning our bodies.
Over recent decades, the incidence of cancer has escalated to epidemic proportions. Stacey Malkan, author of the award winning book, “Not Just Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry” and co-founder of the campaign for Safe Cosmetics in the U.S, believes that the two are undeniably linked. What is deeply worrying is that now cancer is striking nearly one in every two men, and over one in every three women. Even more disturbing is the recent recognition that this already high incidence of cancer is going to increase further and by the year 2050 will be doubling in comparison to the current high incidence rate.
In an article titled “10 Things to Know about Cosmetics and Cancer” Mulkan states, “personal care products that we apply to our bodies daily –including soaps, shampoo’s, lotions, deodorants, colognes and make-up – commonly contain chemicals. Some of these chemicals can be toxic or harmful to our bodies; such as endocrine disruptors, allergens, asthma triggers, carcinogens and neurotoxins.”
In May 2010, the US President’s Cancer Panel issued a report detailing concerns about the chemical exposures in our daily lives and the lack of scientific data showing safety. Research on toxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals in personal care products and cosmetics was highlighted in the report as one area for which environmental cancer research is needed to improve our understanding of environmental cancer and to support environmental cancer hazard assessment and control.
A few alarming facts:
- According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database; 1 in 5 personal care products contain at least one chemical linked to cancer.
- It was revealed that 17 out of 28 children’s products, including many marked “pure” and “gentle” contained both formaldehyde and dioxane.
- Ingredients in products such as hair dyes, anti bacterial soaps, skin lighteners, fragrances and even sunscreens (!!!) are linked to cancer.
How can a “trusted” brand add any value to the lives of consumers when it is on the contrary selling us hopes and dreams from which we ultimately awake to the harsh reality of irreversible damages done? Personally, I find this all very paradoxical. With numerous cosmetic houses competing against each other in a $40 to $50 billion industry, it has been revealed that many spend just as much, if not more on advertising and promotion as they do on R&D. The cosmetic industry is notoriously ranked as one of the highest advertising and marketing spenders, with perfume and cosmetic companies spending on average 19.2% of their net sales on advertising. To contrast this, compared to other global industries they are the lowest spenders on R&D. Maybe cosmetic houses should start spending less on trying to sell us a time bomb wrapped in pretty packaging and more on developing innovative, safer products rid of harmful chemicals ensuring the safety and longevity of consumers.
The Consumer Protection Act was introduced in order to safeguard the wellbeing of consumers allegedly making South African consumers amongst the most protected in the world. The 8 Fundamental Consumer Rights were drawn up in accordance with the United Nations guideline for consumer protection (1985). Among these 8 fundamental consumer rights is the Right to Good Quality and Safety. This translates to the right to be protected against products, production processes and services which are hazardous to health or death.
Section 58 (1) deals with Warning concerning fact and nature of risks. What this means is that now the supplier of any activity or facility with which certain types of risk are associated must specifically draw the fact, nature and potential effect of that risk to the attention of consumers. It will only be beneficial to us to exercise this right as consumers as it was intended for our own public good.
A foreword of advice: -start paying less attention to the superficial marketed benefits of a product and start paying more time to what’s inside a product. We all want brands that care for our well-being both inside and out; support the brands who take the time and effort to actually give a damn.