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Balancing Health and Beauty

Is our health the cost of cosmetic beauty?

Photo by Keith Norris

In 2017, the beauty industry is bigger and brighter than ever before. In a world of picture perfect models on Instagram, successful beauty vloggers on YouTube, and nearly countless amounts of images and links to scroll through on Pinterest, the vast array of makeup possibilities is almost overwhelming. Care to sport Adele’s flawless winged eyeliner? Desire to keep it to the bare necessities? Want to throw it back to the wide-eyed look of Twiggy? There are tutorials for these looks and so much more.

An industry that used to rely solely on professionals to create a certain look now uses social media to provide that power to consumers themselves. But often, the thrill of the illusion makeup can create keeps consumers from remembering to take care of their well-being as they fine-tune their appearance. However, if you take a little time to research the topic, it is possible to indulge in the pursuit of both the fun and practical aspects of makeup, while also keeping skin healthy and happy.

Makeup has existed since long before Marilyn Monroe, Marie Antionette, Cleopatra, and the stage plays of William Shakespeare. The world’s earliest record of makeup may come from the first Dynasty of Egypt, but since that time, it has evolved in a number of ways. Makeup has had both its glory days and its day of shame throughout history. It has identified the prestige of the upper class and the desperation of the lower class, but today we see it on a level it has never experienced before. Both men and women are now consumers of cosmetics, and there are whole stores dedicated to selling any type or brand of makeup one might imagine or desire. While the choices these stores offer are no doubt fun and can embrace one’s wildest imagination, it is always important to contemplate what ingredients are being used to create the end product.

At this moment in America, there is not a lot of control over or rules governing the ingredients used in makeup and cosmetics. Many companies opt for shortcuts in order to increase quantity and profits instead of using quality, healthy ingredients. Due to this practice, many makeup brands can include toxins that interfere with the natural hormones our bodies produce. This is a common concern, one locally expressed by Knoxville makeup artist Susan Bourdeau, who has spent years advocating the importance of using non-toxic makeup. When asked about the growing awareness of health’s connection with beauty, Bourdeau says that, “over the last 20 years, as Americans have become more health conscious, paying more attention to what we put into our bodies, we have also become more aware of what we put onto our bodies.” This consciousness has caused many in the beauty industry to rise to the occasion and employ healthier and safer ingredients to make their products. The end result might be slightly more expensive, but the long-term effects are worth their weight in gold for a consumer’s health.

Bourdeau says that first and foremost, “clean, non-toxic ingredients are the most important thing a person should look for in their cosmetics and skin care.” Your motivation should go beyond merely asking if the color is right for your complexion. You should also question the ease of application. If your makeup does not easily blend, it can cause premature aging and more serious problems. In relation to this, Bourdeau notes, “For instance, parabens can act like estrogen in the body, and higher levels of estrogen are linked to breast cancer. Many products contain parabens, and the exposures add up over time.” The Susan B. Komen Foundation cites a study by the Endogenous Hormones and Breast Cancer Collaborative Group indicating that “higher amounts of estrogen in the blood are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in women after menopause.” The more dangerous toxins we put on our body, the more those toxins go into our body and linger long enough to deal some serious long-term damage, especially as we age. This is why it is important to know what should and should not be in a skin care or cosmetic product.

Bourdeau points out that some buzzwords that might sound dangerous for makeup are actually not only safe, but necessary for high-quality and clean makeup: “You may think that preservative- and chemical-free is good, but preservatives are important for products that contain water; otherwise, microbes could become a big problem.”

In 2012, to help ensure that consumers can easily find a makeup line with both the absence of toxic ingredients and the presence of healthy preservatives and chemicals, Bourdeau formulated Susan Bourdeau Skin Care and Cosmetics, her own brand of makeup, to meet her standards for a high-quality, clean beauty product that is also priced to be affordable. Bourdeau’s twenty-plus years of experience in the beauty industry helped her create a line of skin care and makeup products that is non-toxic, while still upholding the professional quality she is committed to. “I have worked hard over the years with my suppliers to ensure that Susan Bourdeau products meet the exacting standards I have set, so I am confident in putting my name on these products.” Bourdeau shares that, “unlike other manufacturers, I have spent the money to find new ingredients and have eliminated toxic additives like Parabens, Sulfates, DHEA’s, and Triethanolamine and other Thalomines.” And Bourdeau is not the only professional concerned with the quality and safety of beauty products.

The beauty industry as a whole has positively answered consumers’ calls for non-toxic products. Non-toxic brands such as Physicians Formula, Mineral Fusion, Ilia, Beautycounter, BareMinerals, and Honest Beauty are all brands that can easily be found, not only in chain stores such as Ulta and Sephora, but also in superstores like Target and in brand outlets within malls. Some brands are more affordable than others, but if cost is a concern, a potential solution might be a surprise. Brand discount stores such as TJ Maxx are beginning to carry more beauty products from brands that promise to be clean and non-toxic. That includes not just makeup, but also basic skin care products.

Some other options for clean beauty products can be found through less traditional means. Young Living is a brand often known for its essential oils, but they recently launched a new branch of their company: a line of cosmetics called Savvy Minerals. This new venture features products that are non-toxic, made with natural and clean ingredients, and are entirely mineral-based. Although you will not be able to buy Savvy Minerals at just any department store, you can most likely find a local Young Living representative from whom you can order the products.

With so many brands promising to be non-toxic in response to a more health-conscious consumer, cosmetic shopping might feel a little daunting and overwhelming at the moment. But it does not have to be. Bourdeau simply suggests educating yourself. You do not have to buy a particular brand to ensure that your makeup is the cleanest it can be. You can mix and match from various non-toxic companies. She recommends that you look at what you are purchasing, read labels, and compare them to the knowledge of what you know to be safe and unsafe. According to the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization “dedicated to protecting human health and the environment,” other ingredients such as synthetic colors, fragrances, phthalates, and triclosan may cause effects from minor skin irritation to respiratory distress and cancers. Many companies might come across as natural and clean through their marketing but prove to be otherwise if you look a little closer at the ingredients in their products.

Makeup is supposed to be fun and creative. The countless ways of learning how to achieve an appealing look via instructions and examples one finds on the internet makes it even more enjoyable. Your face is a canvas, and the cosmetics you buy are your tools as an artist. But with such a mortal and precious canvas, it is important to ensure that what you use on your skin and face will replenish and fortify your health rather than destroy it. Thanks to experts like Bourdeau who care about both health and beauty, you as a consumer no longer have to sacrifice one in favor of the other. We live in an age where—with the right knowledge—beauty and health can walk hand in hand. Ultimately, consumers do not have to sacrifice their well-being in order to indulge in and enjoy beauty products.

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