I'm just a fat gal with a blog and an opinion. Well, lots of opinions.

Guest Post: The Beast of Beauty – Corollaries


Famed writer, artist, philosopher and all around mysterious princess “Holy Pigeon” continues to rock my world with her direct address of what’s wrong with the cosmetics industry and so I have reposted it below for you all to enjoy:

The Beast of Beauty – Corollaries
In arriving at my previously outlined stark maximums that 1) There is no product or procedure that will change you because/and anyway 2) “you” are ever changing, and thus undefined, I’ve come up with two more specific corollaries (it’s like some epiphanic, mathematical logic hit me in the middle of the night) to help me think about this topic a little more:

A. Those small adjustments and attunements that we believe to be preventative maintenance against a problem, by virtue of their accumulation, end up inflaming the problem and fracturing into other, more serious problems.

This is the homeopathy in reverse corollary, the idea that small doses of a seemingly curative thing end up killing you when applied consistently over time. Too much of a good thing is no good, a difficult concept to apply in practice.

There was an uproar recently about the fact that the US Preventative Services Task Force changed the guidelines for screening of breast cancer in women in favor of less screenings that begin at an older age. Perhaps one of the factors that contributed to the recommendation was the possibility that exposure to radiation too regularly may end up causing the cancer that the routine action was meant to prevent. But the pundits quickly seized upon the idea that this is a rationing of healthcare, and the recommendation was criticized for being sexist and even racist (because black women tend to get breast cancer at younger ages). This kind of reaction to a recommendation (note, not a mandate) is strange, and incites a purely female hysteria that is not unrelated to what I think is the cosmetic conditioning of women. Isn’t it curious that we don’t hear a multitude of middle-aged men demanding that they wedge their testicles between a radiating metal slab every year?

I can’t help but associate beauty products with this somber example of over-exposure to radiation. Perhaps all the goop and slop that we slather over our skin in the course of our lifetimes in an effort to nourish it, is destined to make it crack in half and issue forth some cancerous, monstrous blob, some magnified version of the beast that we fear. Well, I fear it anyway, and have been persuaded that “problem skin” is largely just a reaction to this continued practice of ceaseless application of chemicals to an organ that, by design, has all it needs to appear beautiful and appealing and to fix itself when it’s damaged. Other than hormonal imbalances, defects in the skin seem to be best treated by some not so glamorous prescriptions: good diet, exercise, healthy lifestyle (e.g. not smoking or drinking, stress reduction, and plenty of sleep).

B. If A. is true, less is more.

This corollary is best verified by practice. Buy less stuff, with less ingredients, omit synthetic chemical ingredients, save more money, and spare yourself the temporary disappointment of using products that don’t work as advertised to fix a problem but whose toxicity contribute to an unfavorable prognosis for one’s health in the long run. The latter, subtle point, needs elaboration. The idea that no product or procedure can change you may, at first, seem to directly contradict corollary A which suggests that products can have significant and severe adverse effects on health over time.

But there is logic in the maxim and its corollary because cosmetics, over all other chemical products, are marketed to appeal to short-term instant sensual gratification, and nothing more. A cleanser, for example may be advertised, to “penetrate the pores for deep-cleaning action,” but unless one spends an hour rubbing the cleanser all over one’s face, the active ingredients in the product are washed off immediately and cannot possibly function as described. Indeed virtually all cosmetics are temporary surface applications that do nothing but make us feel as if we’ve accomplished some kind of cleansing, treatment, or concealment, when in fact they are completely ineffective. They neither contribute beneficially to the permanent function of the skin nor are they all that detrimental in the short term. Most, cosmetics for example, don’t really clog pores or cause breakouts as is typically feared. Anyone who routinely experiences these problems can find the origins below the surface of the skin, where the sebaceous glands may either be overacting due to hormonal fluctuations, medical conditions, or due to persistent neglect of the body because of poor diet and lack of exercise. Incidentally greasy foods can’t really cause breakouts either, unless one persistently deprives themselves of proper nutrition and eats greasy, unhealthy foods all the time.

The key idea that leads to corollary A is the notion of persistent, long-term use and the effects produced by the unintended combinations of chemicals. It’s not that the chemicals in cosmetics can’t be absorbed by the skin. The problem is that it’s often the inactive ingredients – those chemicals that are designed to bond and seal, to enhance the sense of richness, the viscosity, emulsification, and overall sensual experience of the product – that are the most toxic and can do the most damage. So while the active ingredients may either be harmless or even mildly and temporarily therapeutic, they are overridden by chemicals intended only to aid in the preservation and application of the product rather than the advertised treatment. Since the market of beauty products presents us with an inescapable tidal wave of advertising targeted both at common fears and long-standing human rituals, it’s almost inevitable that our bodies become the petri-dishes for a dubious chemical stew caused by the excessive variety and overuse of the products that we purchase. In the most common and likely of circumstances, the body reacts with irritation, inflammation and allergy to this relentless assault. While there is no absolute guarantee that an individual will be stricken by a terrible terminal illness caused by the persistent exposure to the chemicals in cosmetics and elsewhere, we do unwittingly place ourselves in increasing danger of that possibility. The danger is exacerbated by the fact that cosmetics companies are not required to reveal everything contained in their products; evidently many harmful substances are veiled under the ubiquitous and mysterious “fragrance.”

I’ve gathered almost no empirical evidence to support my argument. But I feel that it’s right; and since the persuasive tactics of the cosmetic industry are also based on the assumption that my feelings matter, I’ll take those generated by my own instinct over those created for the purposes of profit. It behooves a reasonable person wishing to pursue both health and beauty to question any claim made by a cosmetics company, and by default to assume that all claims are false until proven otherwise and until any possible risks are uncovered and weighed against any possible benefits. Risk is not something that a cosmetic company will ever reveal anymore than they are willing to reveal the content of their fragrances.

Our inclination to believe something that on further consideration is complete nonsense can’t be overstated. I remember once being suckered into testing a “new” product while window shopping at Sephora. The facial treatment was called an oxygen peel because it’s supposed to rejuvenate and brighten the skin by oxygenating its surface. Hmmm. Sounds like something you can do by running around the block a few times, or standing on your head and increasing the blood flow to the capillaries on your face. In what other way could one “oxygenate” the skin? It turns out that one of the ingredients in this expensive product is a whitening agent. Undoubtedly this agent evens out the skin tone, making it seem as if the skin is clearer and as if some dramatic treatment has taken place rather than the fact that the skin has merely been bleached.

Such is the beast. Once its false nature is revealed, one is wary of both the pretty packaging and the promises scribbled across it.

I’ll be damned if I spend another penny on some useless goop!

Unless it’s chapstick.

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