Making Conscious Holiday Makeup Choices

By Linda Stein

In this season of joy many of us gather to celebrate traditions with loved ones, whether enjoying the hospitality of others or acting the gracious host. Dressing up for parties is part of the excitement and anticipation of the fun to come. It is normal to apply more than the typical amount of makeup at these special times. Women who typically go bare faced will venture into unknown territory in search of the much bandied about term the "flawless face."

Take care to consciously choose your cosmetics.

The "flawless face" simply put, means creating the illusion of an unblemished complexion. Imagine a blank canvas upon which to create the look you desire using makeup. Foundation is used to make this transformation. Foundation, especially loose powder, need not contain Titanium Dioxide or Bismuth Oxychloride.

Breathing Titanium Dioxide may cause Cancer

Titanium Dioxide may be the unwanted present you can't return. While you are happily using a fluffy brush to apply loose powder foundation with titanium dioxide, it becomes airborne. Breathing it into your lungs may cause cancer. The Environmental Working Group's respected Skin Deep database on ingredient safety indicates "titanium dioxide is an inorganic compound used in a range of body care products such as sunscreens and makeup. It appears to have low skin penetration but inhalation is a concern." In the U.S., a 2004 study by the California Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, revealed titanium dioxide to be a suspected cancer hazard. The International Agency for Research on Cancer shares these concerns, citing limited evidence of carcinogenicity. One alternative is to use liquid or cream foundation, where the cream or liquid encapsulates the titanium dioxide, preventing it from wafting into the air you breathe during application. Not everyone agrees that even cream or liquid foundation containing titanium is safe. This stance is epitomized by Perry Romanowsksi, author of Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm? Top Cosmetic Scientists Answer Your Questions About the Lotions, Potions and Other Beauty Products You Use Every Day who asserts that "there isn't any natural source of titanium that's pure enough to be used in cosmetics. It's all contaminated with things like mercury and lead." The cosmetic industry has become aware and responsive to consumer demands for safe products. It is not hard to find brands of foundation in powder form without titanium dioxide, so not to worry. Simply read the labels carefully when purchasing products to avoid this potentially harmful ingredient. Get a flawless face, safely.    

Bismuth Oxychloride can cause severe Itching

Bismuth Oxychloride is a substance with layers of bismuth, oxygen and chlorine which can be more irritating than a boring dinner companion. Cosmetic manufacturers use bismuth to lend luminescence properties to products. Symptoms of common allergic reactions to bismuth include itching, acne flare ups, rashes and swelling. Anecdotal knowledge of the popular brand Bare Minerals is widely shared citing painful allergic reactions due to the bismuth content. Don't be fooled by the 0 (safest) rating in Skin Deep, no safety data has been submitted and zero is the default value. Unlike titanium dioxide, inhalation is not the only risk of harm from this ingredient. When applied topically, bismuth oxychloride seeps into the pores and your immune system recognizes it as a harmful substance. Bismuth also comes in nano-sized particles, which can easily travel deep into the tissues. As a result the skin swells, turns red and itches like crazy. Sweat increases the itchy effect because the pores are opened, which can really spoil a night of dinner and dancing. There's no alternative form of bismuth to substitute. A contact dermatitis reaction can occur with the first use, or after the limit of your body's tolerance has been reached. If this happens to you, don't scratch! Hydrocortisone can help and is available without a prescription.

Even better, natural relief can be obtained from tea tree oil or Vitamin E ointment. Tea tree oil comes from leaves of the Melaleuca Alternifolia tree, native to Australia. This precious oil has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1700's, because it combats bacterial, viral and fungal infections. You can apply a few drops of healing oil to the irritated skin up to three times daily. Studies at the US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health found Vitamin E to have both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. Vitamin E ointment at a concentration of 20-40% suppressed allergic and irritant contact dermatitis, which had approximately the same effect as 0.5% prednisone ointment. Happily, Mother Earth provides the healing oil and cream if you need it.   

Kisses don't need Lead

Pucker up with an unleaded pout!  Nobody objects to the sentiment that lead should not be in lipstick. Harmful levels of lead should not be present in any makeup for that matter, but the public debate centers around lipstick. It is a bit of a complicated story, yet interesting and worth delving into a bit in detail.

It all started when activists at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics performed tests on a small sampling of lipsticks in 2007. The findings revealed lead in the lipsticks. In response, the FDA also tested the 20 lipsticks that year and found lead content averaging 1.07ppm. What does this mean? Acceptable threshold levels are measured in parts per million, and the smallest amount that can be measured is .04ppm. None of the lipsticks tested by the FDA had levels over 3.06ppm. The sampling was too small to represent an entire industry, and no changes were made based on the results. The FDA conducted another test of 400 lipsticks in 2010, finding lead levels averaging 1.11ppm. The results were almost the same as the test three years earlier. The most highly contaminated lipstick was Maybelline Color Sensational in Petal Pink, Shade #125, at 7.19 ppm. followed byL'Oreal Colour Riche in Volcanic, with 7ppm. These were the only two shades out of the entire 400 that exceeded the State of California's 5ppm limit, which is the most stringent in the US.

Wonder where the lead comes from? It is not an ingredient. All ingredients by law have to be listed on the label. The lead naturally occurs at a molecular level attached to one of the ingredients. 1ppm means that in 1 million molecules, there was 1 lead molecule. Lead is not intentionally added to lipstick. A beauty trade group, the Consumer Products Council, explains that it is a trace element naturally occurring in the raw materials used to make the lipstick. Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology defines trace elements as "Elemental components of a material that upon analysis are found to comprise less than 0.1 per cent of the substance."

Sadly, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the level of lead that can appear in lipstick. It does, however, regulate the amount of lead in colorants used in cosmetics, including lipsticks. Acceptable threshold levels are measured in parts per million, and the smallest amount that can be measured is .04ppm. The amount of lead in colorants that are used in makeup cannot exceed 20 ppm. In comparison, FDA regulations limit lead levels in candy to 0.1ppm. Why the big difference between the lead allowed in candy and the much larger amount allowed in makeup? The government's stance is that candy is meant to be ingested and lipstick is not. Ridiculous. Every lipstick wearing person knows that it gets into your body. Eating, licking the lips and drinking all contribute to ingestion of lipstick. That's why when getting ready to go out anywhere (a holiday party perhaps) lipstick is one of the essential items that get popped into an evening bag. Lipstick has to be reapplied. But beware of fear mongering, just how much lipstick is consumed? Online sources commonly state that women consume approximately 3-10 pounds of lipstick per year. Is 3-10 pounds per year realistic or an urban myth? The investigative staff at snopes.com tested the numbers out. Based on the assumption that a typical tube of lipstick has 3g of product, it yields approximately 410 lipstick applications. Consuming 3-10 lbs. requires putting on lipstick between 186,140 to 619,920 times, about 9 to 31 times every day. To have enough lipstick for this many uses, the typical person has to purchase, and completely empty, 8 to 27 lipstick tubes each year. It doesn't seem likely that women could ingest that much lipstick each year, but that doesn't really matter. Whether you agree with the above analysis or not, the debate over the amount of lipstick consumed is besides the point. Why is it very important to know the amounts of lead in lipstick? Lead will bioaccumulate, meaning the amount in your body can build up, or accumulate, over time. Lead can enter the body through breathing, eating, drinking (usually water) or through skin contact (like PCB's). The problem is that the body eliminates lead very slowly.

Even if you use lipstick once a year, there should not be a harmful level of lead in it! Levels of lead should be equal to those for candy at 0.1ppm. The companies that make ingredients must be required to test for and make this information public. Until then, review the results of the FDA's tests on the 400 lipsticks found on their website under Cosmetics, Ingredient Safety and avoid the offensive lipstick brands and shades. While nobody wants lead in their lipstick, other than the 400 shades in the FDA's survey, there is no way to tell if trace amount of lead is in any tube you choose or if any existing amount is harmful. However, you can take comfort knowing that the testing performed found very little lead in most brands. The lead levels found were determined to be within even the most stringent regulations set forth by the State of California. No need to stop wearing lipstick.  Choose a brand with certified organic ingredients to ensure that the purest, healthiest ingredients possible go into your body. In order to become certified as organic, substances must be grown without pesticides. Avoiding as many chemicals as possible is the surest way to have a Happy Holiday this year with many happy returns!

Linda Stein is the owner and formulator of Zosimos Botanicals, a nontoxic mineral makeup and natural skincare line.  A signatory in compliance with the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, all Zosimos Botanicals products rank 0-2 posing the Lowest risk of harm.

What do you think?