Abstract: Toxic Beauty

Helen Lynn


What is the price women will pay for beauty? What is the cost of informing them? Are hormone-disrupting chemicals, probable carcinogens, allergens, and chemical sensitizers a price worth paying? Many of the cosmetic products can have the opposite effect from what is marketed. Anti-aging creams contain ingredients which can accelerate the aging process. Skin bleaching creams and soaps can increase the susceptibility to skin cancer and damage the internal organs. Hair treatments and dyes can cause adverse effects ranging from mild skin irritations to violent allergic reactions. It is not just consumers who are susceptible to these effects, but also workers in beauty salons and manufacturing who are exposed to a multitude of chemicals which are known or suspected carcinogens, and can cause respiratory and reproductive harm. Do consumer concerns about health and environment, evidenced by a huge increase in the sale of organic cosmetics in the last five years, reflect heightened consumer awareness about harmful ingredients or are organic products seen as a fashionable trend? The paper highlights the not-so-beautiful ingredients of beauty products which remain on the margins of ethical fashion debate.