Photo: Durham Regional Science Fair
Beauty companies usually entice with thoughts of flowers and fruit rosewater and pomegranate products ring a bell? It’s no wonder that millions of beauty enthusiasts feel a sense of well-being upon leaving the local Sephora with fragrant and beautifully packaged items in hand. From lip balm to perfume, popular products look and smell better than ever, but upon closer inspection of the ingredients, we found some outrageous and in some cases, appalling materials lurking in our makeup bags. Crushed beetles, dynamite, snail secretion and infant foreskin, just to name a few.
Under all that colorful tissue paper and clever bottling are some pretty shocking ingredients:
These tiny crimson insects feast on the prickly pear cactus in South America. Once they are full of cactus juice, the Cochineal beetles are scraped off the plant, boiled and dried out eventually being crushed into “carmine,” a popular component of one particular red dye found in lipstick, blush and food coloring. We’ll never quite look at our Revlon Lustrous Lipsticks the same way again.
That’s right. Whale. Vomit. We would really like to know which clever chemist assigned the much more acceptable term “ambergis” to describe such a vile fixative perfume base. Luckily, most companies have switched to synthetic alternatives for the distinctly sweet, earthy odor. But if you must have your whale vomit pure, you can spend a decent sum on an ambergis scent here.
While we are in full support of any facial product that offers spectacular effects, we don’t usually mean it quite so literally. Diatomaceous earth is a silica based powder formed from the fossilized remains of hard shelled algae and is one of the two components that make up dynamite. Due to its hollow and porous properties, DE makes a fine abrasive and is present in most natural toothpastes, deodorants, powders, and mild exfoliation products. One of our favorite beauty brands, Dermalogica puts dynamite to work in its popular cream exfoliant.
Yikes. This cringe-worthy idea is not just an Internet rumor, in fact it made its mainstream debut on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007. SkinMedica, a San Francisco based company has patented the baby foreskin formula in a special blend of natural growth factors, soluble collagen, antioxidants and matrix proteins labeled TNS to fight the signs of aging. Skin as soft as a baby’sforeskin? You bet.
Makeup artist Michael Todd is a man with a dream, and that dream is to revolutionize the anti-aging skincare market with his snail secretion based “triple threat” KNU cream which he claims will “heal, smooth and add volume” to the skin. Snails are known for being slow, but only time will tell if their natural properties have any real stake in delaying the aging process.
While the brand name Hask Henna N’ Placenta looks like a mock-up left over from the prop closet at SNL, the company has a serious commitment to making hair stronger and shinier with the help of sheep and pig placenta. Apparently, the lining of the uterus is key in adding brilliance to dry, brittle (human) manes.
Gas Relief Medicine (Simethicone)
The same ingredient that soothes bloated tummies may also help those nasty flyaway hairs lie straight. Conditioners like Aussie Moist employ simethicone, which acts as an “anti-foam” to create less surface tension when the product is applied to the hair, giving it that slick feeling just before you rinse.
Although chicken skin is usually a derogatory term for the scaly, rough patches that sometimes plague upper arms, chemists have been using chicken bone marrow (glucosamine) as an anti-inflammatory for topical skin products for many years. Cover Girl’s Simply Ageless Blush is just one example of a product in which this surprising ingredient is used.
Everyone knows that the venom from a poisonous snake bite can paralyze and in some cases be lethal. So it was only a natural thought progression that Sonya Dakar offers paralyzing snake venom facials at her salon in Beverly Hills.
Feeling bullish? Protein from bull semen is being used in some European salons to enhance hair’s shine. Hari’s UK salon may have started the trend, but several others were quick to follow.
Human Breast Milk
Though highly controversial and illegal to sell in most states, soaps milled with human breast milk are coveted by a devoted few who make their own following this recipe from Gently Borne.
Japanese Kabuki masters are known for their theatrically bleached skin and apparently underneath all that stage makeup is a glowing, porcelin complexion thanks to the brightening properties of bird poop. The Geisha Facial at Shizuka Spa in New York has a cult-like following, and Posh and Becks are rumored to be big fans of the age-defying treatment.
What do you think of these surprising ingredients lurking within some of the world’s best beauty products? Leave your thoughts in the comments!