Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Painful Pursuit of Beauty

Jezebel recently ran a post called "Vaseline Crowdsources Racism With New Skin-Whitening App". Essentially, the app lets men see what their lives were like if they use Vaseline's male line of skin lightening products. Not surprising, there have been tons of products for quite some time geared towards Indian women.

I will leave it to someone more qualified to break down the issues of body commentary, racism, and socio-economic mechanisms. This post, however, left me with the question why we as females and consumers do this ourselves?

Putting our health at risk for a manufactured form of beauty is something oft reviled as in the case of Heidi Montag, but in the small scale we let things like this pass. Tanning is just as dangerous as these skin bleaching regimes and yet no one bats an eye. Yet, it is encouraged just the same. (Granted the motivations behind them are as different as apples and oranges.)

The sun can be just as detrimental to the body as the chemicals in skin bleaching creams. "UV radiation from the sun, tanning beds, or sun lamps may cause skin cancer and can have a damaging effect on the immune system. It also can cause premature aging of the skin, giving it a wrinkled, leathery appearance." This is of course in addition to the possibility of weakening of the skin's inner tissues. The main difference being between the two is that side effects of skin lighting creams can be seen more readily.What is even scarier is that these effects have only become an issue because even the untrained eye can identify their impact.

Take Panya, a victim of skin lightening creams gone wrong, featured on Jessica Simpson's The Price of Beauty. As you can see the effects are devastating, especially when you consider how beautiful she was prior to bleaching herself. Tanning in the extreme is no better on the body, I mean look at what it along with time has done to her body.

Fact is even those like me that shy away from plastic surgery as well as the sun are still at risk. Why? I wear as much makeup and probably use as much hair dye as the next woman. Probably, more if I were to be honest. I also have no idea what is in these products, and just assume well if I spend more it has to be better? I mean we are beyond the days of lead in lipstick - right?

Nope. The FDA recently did a test and found trace amounts of lead in all lipsticks tested. These included brands like: Cover Girl, Revlon, Maybelline, Body Shop, Clinique, Estee Lauder, Burt's Bees, Peacekeeper, Dior, MAC, and Avon. So, it looks like ladies that even at higher price points we cannot escape slowly poisoning ourselves.

Oh and even though you may not see your favorite brand listed here it still might be harmful for your health. You might want to check out Skin Deep's Cosmetic Safety Reviews to see if your go to item is less than stellar. At least, the ones I could find that I use are only moderately hazardous. Yay?

It seems that none of us are safe in our pursuit of beauty. The fact that it is this difficult to suss out how hazardous our products are is a huge problem. The reason it is not being addressed with the same force as lets say the organic food movement is that people simply do not want to know. Anything that disrupts their own pursuit of beauty is ignored, because this desire to be attractive is so much more important.

I am sadly no better. You will have to pry my Givenchy Parad'Eyes Fluid Eye Liner out of my cold dead hands, which I guess is the problem. I know it is bad for me, yet I feel like I need it to feel confident and attractive.

Voting for change with my dollar simply will not work as I have no intention to switch products. There is something, however, I know I can do to work towards safety in cosmetics. I can sign this petition to encourage Congress to enact legislation for safer beauty products. And the other thing I can do is attempt to use my products more a bit more sparingly. Wish me luck on that one, I am sure I will need it.

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