Friday, February 28, 2014

How Pretty is your cream?

To all the Ladies out there…. And the Men who can influence your ladies J

Everyone wants to look their best. Especially us humans. We take a lot of effort to show-case an attractive image. We spend considerable time in grooming ourselves and hopping in and out of stores to pick the best outfits and footwear. Mere grooming is not enough – we need to visit salons that burst with synthetic smell, boast of transformations of ordinary people into super-models who look slick and artificial. If all that is not enough, to keep the continuous “care” going on, we plunder the hyper-markets in search of the all-powerful beauty product that will make us radiate beauty in all directions.

Recently, Down To Earth, a magazine by the Centre for Science and Environment, came out with a revelation on all such cosmetic brands in India. It is shocking to see that all the costly and posh brands that we splurge our
money are on the list of harmful cosmetics. You can read more about the report in their January 31st issue :

Cosmetics as an industry is on an upward trend with Indian revenues of Rs. 26,000 crores and with our demand is all set for a 17% leap year on year. 
And for the industry to flourish like this, we will be bombarded with images of men and women who are perfect in every sense. For women, it is the lady with flowing black hair, an ultra-fit body, someone who can multi-task with children, family and work and is independent and successful professionally; For men, it is the picture of the superhero he-man, with teeth as white as milk and strides like a tiger, roaming around in SUV’s that conquer mountains with ease. Advertising and marketing create an image of beauty, strength, success in our minds and dictate what is right, beautiful or to be celebrated. It stops “Our” thinking but tells us what you should do to gain power in your life that will make you the most valued (and envied!) by all.
The irony is in the fact that celebrities advertise such brands and make money out of such deals. We apply a toner, a base, a foundation, a fairness cream, a protective cream – all claiming to remove the black spots and make the skin glow like gold. So what do you expect when you want to glow like a metal – but Metals in your cream?

The ingredients in your crème are Metallic.
Lead, Mercury, Chromium, Nickel. Lovely white underarms – don’t they shine like mercury?

If you remember some biology, try answering this - Do you remember which is the largest organ in your body? Ahem, it is the ‘Skin’. We willingly feed this organ food, which we will never consume through our mouth. Cosmetics can cause serious problems. One common ingredient found in a shampoo is sodium laureth sulfate(SLS) acting as a cleansing agent but equally present even in car wash soaps. SLS in combination with other chemicals is a possible carcinogen and can cause skin and eye irritation. For foaming, look out for ingredients that are amines like diethanolamine (DEA). When absorbed by the body, they are hormone-disrupting and are linked to cancer. Lead present in lipsticks can cause skin irritation and slow accumulation can also lead to build up to toxic levels. Effects are kidney damage, respiratory system disruptions and heart palpitations. To preserve the product, parabens are used. These are similar to the estrogen hormone and have been linked to infertility in women. Serious side effects result from accumulated large doses of the ingredients that weaken the immune system and can cause cancer.

US and Europe have better norms than India, that are enforced strictly and followed by cosmetic giants. In fact, Europe has an effective regulatory mechanism that protect its consumers. The EU in its definition of cosmetics includes “products that are used on the external body to improve appearance or condition and which do not cause any harm from their usage.”
But in India, no one has bothered much. Chemicals banned elsewhere are freely used here as ingredients that we consume in the form of crèmes and lotions. Formulations that might be rejected in countries across the world end up in Indian bodies.

The efficacy of these products is first tested on animals!
Rabbits, mice, rats and guinea pigs are widely used for experimenting with cosmetics in “toxicity testing”. Harsh chemicals are rubbed on delicate shaved skin to test their “harshness”. Liquid chemicals are dripped into the rabbits eyes to see if their cornea is eroded over time. This is done to assess the level of harm the chemical can cause when applied to the skin or the human eye. After being treated to such horrendous treatments, these animals either die due to chemical toxicity or are killed in the labs.

There are a few countries that have banned the testing and sale of cosmetic ingredients on animals – European Union and Israel. India has banned animal testing for cosmetics in 2013 followed by a ban for house hold products also. But the door of cruelty remains open through foreign lands. This means that although products and ingredients manufactured in India cannot be tested here, the same can be done in foreign labs and brought home in the pretext of imported products. And one of the biggest consumers of cosmetics, the United States, continues to exploit animals even though modern non-animal tests that are more reliable are available in the scientific world.

People for ethical treatment of animals (PETA India) has published a list of brands that are part of the non-animal brigade and the ones that still test on animals.

All material that is used finally trickles down to the earth
What happens to the foam after you are done with your bath? What happens when you wash off the fairness cream?
It goes into mother earth.

And from the earth it gets recycled into the food system. Lakes in urban areas are polluted by water contaminated with metals. This could be from your cosmetics and other cleaning agents used at home. Examples are detergents and washing powders. The lake water is used for irrigation and thus the soil is subjected to the chemicals that you use at home. Plants don’t differentiate much – they willingly absorb lead, mercury and other trace elements. And humans willingly consume this. No amount of cleaning the vegetable can un-bond these chemicals from these veggies. They are part of the vegetable tissue that we eat.

One great video that shows the  dark side of your lotions is the “The Story of Cosmetics”. You can watch it on this link:

A little thought can go a long way to keep our family and especially children safe
 Remember Not all cosmetics branded as natural/herbal/organic are safe and non-violent
      Name the brand and it is out there in the harmful list. Most of them carry hidden ingredients and are tested on animals

      Spread awareness – Talk to your family and friends about it.
Show them the above documentary. There will be people who agree and then those who don’t. At least, plant a seed of doubt.

Can you pronounce that ingredient on the back of your shampoo?
        Look at the ingredients in your herbal shampoo, soap and lotion – many of them may be carcinogens/heavy metals. There are lot of views on the safety of using sunscreens also. Choose wisely.

Try natural cosmetics – Granny and the internet are great places to search
There are lot of recipes on the net. Anything that you are willing to eat is what you can put on your skin safely. Some items in your kitchen that can be effective for skin are turmeric, aloe, neem, coconut oil and sesame oil. You can use homemade bath powders - plain green gram powder will give you a squeaky clean feeling! You can try making effective deodorants and shampoos that don’t lie about what is inside them.

     Eat lots of healthy food

     Tomatoes when eaten provide natural ways to deal with the sun from inside. Same with cucumber – you can find a list of foods that keep your skin healthy from inside out.

This graphic is from the downtoearth site.

Creams and their fairness

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