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Mineral-based cosmetics a healthier alternative

In the constant desire to look and feel their best, North American women use dozens of different types of cosmetics—products that moisturize skin and conceal blotches, redden lips, highlight eyebrows and cover up gray hair. They use these grooming aids—available from ubiquitous cosmetic counters—all their lives with only an occasional niggling concern about the safety of all this stuff so rifely used on the body day after day. They simply can’t see themselves without makeup, and they don’t know of any alternatives. To be sure, a decade ago, there were few alternatives to regular commercial make-up products, but today one can say there are viable options available.

First of all, is there is good reason for concern with mainstream makeup products? Canadians should be aware that over 10,000 chemical ingredients are used in the manufacture of personal care products. These include chemicals in used industry such as plasticizers that soften concrete and degreasers that wipe grime off auto parts, pesticides and herbicides sprayed on field crops and preservatives added to a host of edible and non-edible items.

Toxic to the system

The problem is that at least some of these chemical components such as formaldehyde, lead acetate and coal tar (among others) are confirmed or suspected carcinogens, are toxic to the reproductive system or are known to disrupt the endocrine system (which regulates hormones) of both humans and animals (who drink from rivers and lakes contaminated by run-off). Imagine day after day smearing a product on the skin that contains a chemical known to cause cancer or licking lips and ingesting an ingredient not meant for consumption.

That said, there are regulations put in place by Health Canada that specify what ingredients are not allowed in cosmetics headed to market—and the list is long. However, unless a component is a confirmed toxin—and it often takes years of testing to reach that conclusion—the product may still be on the shelves. Secondly, not all manufacturers are honest about the ingredients listed on the label, and it's a formidable task for Health Canada to monitor thousands of beauty products found across the country.

For some people, the search for alternative products comes after finding their skin irritated by some ingredient in their commercial makeup; for others it is simply a fear of what they are doing to their health by consistently using products they have heard are toxic to the system and whose names they can't pronounce.

These individuals will be happy to learn so-called “mineral make-up” is now on the market which utilizes a variety of mineral-based ingredients instead of petroleum-based ones, as well as plant oils and butters, thus protecting people and the environment. Depending on the line of mineral make-up, many do not contain synthetic colours and fragrances (based on chemicals formulated in labs) and use no talc (which is similar to asbestos and thus linked to respiratory disease), an ingredient in face powders. Some preservatives may be used to inhibit the growth of mold and bacteria, but most mineral lines oppose the controversial paraben and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.

Botanical skincare

There are companies based in North America today that are producing safe alternatives to regular mainstream cosmetics. Most offer natural cosmetics and botanical skincare products in a wide range of products including foundation for a variety of skin types, mascara, eye and cheek colour and lipstick, as well as skin care products such as cleansers, exfoliants and moisturizers.

In their list of ingredients (usually far shorter than regular mainstream cosmetics) are mineral components such as mica, zinc, iron and titanium oxides (which have undergone some processing in the lab although based on minerals sourced from the earth), and components such as grape and sunflower seed oils, beeswax, tangerine oil, and leaves or flowers from plants such as aloe vera, chamomile and hibiscus.

Those who suspect they may have suffered an allergic reaction or perhaps irritation to the skin from using drugstore makeup products, may wish to try a mineral-based make-up. Others may wish to avoid synthetic colours or harsh preservatives. It should be noted that in many cases, mineral-based cosmetic products contain ingredients that actually nourish the skin, rather than harming it. Healthy means beautiful!