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Von’s Vice – Pretty Poisons

Published on November 1, 2013 . Blog, Issue 60, Von's Vice


Dear Von,

A few years ago, I stopped wearing make up on a regular basis when I realized what was in it.  Artificial fragrances, colors and chemicals are all on the short list of things I try to stay away from.  I still have a bit, but I only wear it on special occasions. I want to find a make up line I can feel good about wearing. What brand do you recommend?

Jennifer – Tyler, Texas

Dear Jennifer,

I am definitely an ingredient conscious esthetician and make up artist. Although make up for weddings or other occasions where you will be photographed professionally are an exception. These rare occasions require performance based products and my focus is not on ingredients. But when it comes to the ingredients you put on your skin day in and day out, keeping toxic ingredients out of your beauty products should be a top priority.

One of the primary functions of your largest organ, your skin, is absorption. So think about what you put on your body the same way you think about what you put in your body.

The quest for beauty has a checkered past at best. Ancient Egyptians are thought to have been the first to pack on poisons for the sake of pretty. Their exaggerated eye makeup was made of malachite, copper and lead. Ancient Romans used white lead to lighten their faces, then topped that off with a bit of red lead as rouge. (That type of red lead is used in the manufacture of batteries and rust-proof paint!) Perhaps the most known face of the lead craze was the infamously white complexion of Queen Elizabeth I in the 15th Century.

One would think that in 2013 we would have learned from our lead poisoned ancestors and would only allow non-toxic beauty products to be sold. But regulatory systems are not fail proof. Furthermore, considering that a lot of products aren’t even made here in the United States, it’s easy to see how the most affordable, sometimes toxic option, slips right into your tube of lipstick.

You mentioned that you were still wearing some of your old make up on special occasions: Throw that stuff out, girl! Most make up has a shelf life of 1 year. Check the back of your container to see the expiration date. The number represents the number of months the product can be used after the initial opening. Old make up can be toxic. The chemical structure of beauty products can change over time. If the manufacturer says it’s only good for a certain amount of time, honor that. This is especially true for eye make up. No amount of make up can make infected eyes pretty.

Aside from becoming a chemist or researching every ingredient extensively, the internet can be very helpful. Websites such as www.ewg.org is a respected resource for checking the toxicity levels of beauty products. They even have an app for your smart phone which can be very helpful when you’re on the go. Knowledge is the building block for beautiful, healthy skin. Yes, it takes a little more effort to find non-toxic make up, but your face is worth it!

Peace & Lipstick,


Pretty Poisons to Avoid

Benzoyl Peroxide:  The molecular structure of this common acne-treating ingredient produces free radicals. In 1995 the FDA changed benzoyl peroxide from a Category I (safe) to a Category III (safety is uncertain) ingredient and stated this action (56 FR 37622) was based on new information that raised a safety concern regarding benzoyl peroxide as a tumor promoter.

DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), & TEA (Triethanolamine): This foam booster is a skin/eye irritant and causes contact dermatitis. These are easily absorbed through skin to accumulate in body organs, even the brain.

FD&C Color & Pigments: Here’s the thing: Manufacturers don’t have to tell you what’s in these ‘colors’ or ‘fragrances’. The label will simply read ‘fragrance’. So heaven knows what’s in that! Synthetic colors from coal tar contain heavy metal salts that deposit toxins in skin.

Parabens (Methyl, Butyl, Ethyl, Propyl): This often used preservative is a major hormone disrupter. The body treats this similarly to estrogen and is linked to hormone imbalance in females , early puberty and breast cancer.

Propylene Glycol (PG) and Butylene Glycol: The EPA considers PG so toxic it requires protective gloves, clothing, goggles and disposal by burying. Because PG penetrates skin so quickly, EPA warns against skin contact to prevent brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): Found in 90% of personal-care products that foam.

Triclosan: A synthetic antibacterial ingredient with a chemical structure similar to Agent Orange!

Von Criswell is a freelance make up artist and licensed esthetician. Von has experience in film, print and runway and specializes in special occasion make up.  Upon returning to East Texas in 2011, she now focuses on catering to brides.  She also works as an esthetician at a local salon where she gives make up applications, lessons and permanent lash extensions.

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