The ugly business of beauty
The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel has a nasty story on L'Oreal, on how the biggest cosmetics company in the world is also its most secretive. Among other interesting facts, Der Spiegel points out that while L'Oreal owns many perfume brands (Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren), it doesn't employ a single perfume maker; its perfumes are all contracted out by the likes of Swiss specialist Givaudan, whose shelves are shared by both synthetic perfume essences and toilet cleaners. The article raises the fact that cosmetic products, like those being peddled by L'Oreal at exorbitant prices, are toxic chemical cocktails notwithstanding their claim of making people more beautiful.
This reminded me of an earlier exhaustive survey of cosmetic products done by the Environmental Working Group in which the potential health risks contained by cosmetic products were outlined one by one. If you are remotely concerned about what you apply on your body, you'll be shocked to learn that just about every brand in the market, from Neutrogena to Nivea, has suspicious chemicals in them, including suspected carcinogens. And if you think you are safe with Body Shop, think again. Even that shop which prides itself with promoting community trade use those same chemical ingredients of concern, interspersed, of course, with aloe vera from Africa or shea butter from Ireland!
How does the cosmetic industry get away with the chemicals they put in their products? Because in the United States, where most cosmetic products available locally come from, no health study or pre-market testing is required. According to the government agency that regulates cosmetics in the United States, the FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors, "...a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA."
Did you ever wonder why some old women who have used makeup almost everyday of their lives look awful without makeup, that when compared to other women in their age group they look older? That's probably because the daily application of chemicals in the makeup has wreaked havoc on their faces, a disfigurement that can be ameliorated only by more and more makeup. Perhaps this is all for the better from the perspective of cosmetic industry. The founder of L'Oreal's advice to cosmetic dealers was, after all: "Make people feel ugly." Nothing more useful than making people actually uglier.