By Keisi Hasani ‘15
“America’s Funniest Home Videos” was on the TV screen, as I heard my family members burst out laughing. I was tempted to look at what was so funny, only to find out that a teenage girl was screaming her lungs out. She was straightening her hair, when she suddenly felt something rub off her shoulder. Turns out that was her hair, leaving a huge patch of baldness on the side of her head. It was pretty hilarious to watch at first, but then it got me thinking; our daily beauty routines can be quite extreme and dangerous.
We often fail to realize that quite a few measures we take to achieve “beauty” can not only be physically painful, but also harmful to our bodies. In the sad case of this long-haired teen, the damage caused by hair straighteners is obvious; it can burn your long, luscious hair off.
However, not all beauty products show immediate, obvious damage. Starting by facial creams, lipsticks, hair dye, and going up to even nail polish have, the side effects.
In a recent health article published by The New York Times, called “Nail Salon Lamps May Increase Skin Cancer Risk”, the issue of frequent nail salon visits and the harmful UVA light used on the nail-drying lamps is discussed. While doctors report that the chances of actually getting skin cancer can be low, as few as eight visits at the salon can put one at an increased risk. The good-old-fashioned way of air drying our nails might not be so bad after all.
Similarly, lipsticks have been found to have high concentrations of lead in them. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics issued an alert for lead in lipsticks, which was followed up by two FDA investigations, with the latest one being in June 2012. The FDA report found lead (and not small amounts) in 100 percent of the lipsticks tested. The purpose of the lead has yet to be explained by the chemist formulators of the lipsticks. Red cherry lips may look amazing with the summer coming up, but we might want to lay off the L’Oreal for a bit (which, by the way, manufactured five of the ten most contaminated lipsticks).
Long lashes are not far behind as one of the most gorgeous assets in today’s society. A large variety of mascara brands have skyrocketed in the recent years, promoting fullness, darkness, or length of the eyelashes. While there’s no harm in having a little eye action, one must be aware of the health risks caused by old mascara. As directed by most brands, mascara is good for no more than three months. If the mascara is any older than that it will begin to pass bacteria to the eyes, including different microbes and even fungi, which can lead to eye infections. Tips for safe mascara use include tossing out old ones and not sharing them with anyone, as greedy as that might sound. Also, heat degrades the preservatives used in the making and allows the bacteria to multiply faster, so cool, dry places should be where people keep their mascara.
The famous Oprah Winfrey has an informational article, posted on her website at http://www.oprah.com, called “If Looks Could Kill”, regarding different beauty methods considered dangerous. The writer of the article, Jolene Edgar, a former beauty advisor, discusses the fears and facts of various beauty supplies, ranging from nail polish to even deodorant. She goes in detail, basing her work on research and doctors, and explains myths and scientific evidence of harmful ingredients used in many products. The one I found the most interesting was shampoo causing male breast enlargement. While there is no definite proof of any correlation between shampoo ingredients, such as natural oils, and male breast growth, experts advise to avoid shampoos that contain lavender or tea tree oil on children who are sensitive to estrogenic products.
Going back to the hair straighteners, burning one’s hair off should not be the only concern. Most teenage girls around school straighten their hair frequently, if not every day. Something to be aware of is the risk of using keratin hair treatments. Even though marketers promise formaldehyde-free products, the ugly truth is that that’s not always the case. In many researches conducted, one of them being from Oregon’s OSHA, more than half of the samples labeled formaldehyde-free contained high concentrations of the chemical. The substance can cause cancer with long term use and should be avoided as much as possible. Smooth, frizz-free hair is not worth it, once viewing the consequences.
In today’s society, beauty often means splattering on a pound of makeup daily, or straightening flawless curls because “straight is in”. While following the style and being fashion-forward isn’t necessarily a bad thing, one’s health and safety should be the primary concern. We should take into consideration the harm of the products were using and the ingredients in them. Possibly even eliminate them from our daily lives, as crazy as that might sound to some of us. In the end, natural beauty is the most flawless, and safest, of them all.