I'm concerned to read a report in the Daily Mail about the ingredients in many items of modern make-up, and the health risks they pose. Of course, since I don't use make-up, I'm not in danger from them: but I guess my sisters and lady friends are, so I thought it might be worthwhile to highlight the risk.
The British cosmetic, toiletry and perfumery industry is worth more than £6.5 billion a year.
Yet just this week, research was published showing that common chemicals used in toiletries may make women more likely to be infertile.
Indeed, inside all those gleaming bottles and tubes we take for granted lurks a cocktail of dangerous synthetic chemicals that research suggests may be responsible for everything from reproductive complications to allergies and cancer.
The author goes into detail about hair care products, bath additives, toothpaste, nail polish, talcum powder, deodorant, etc. She adds:
WHAT 'HYPOALLERGENIC' AND 'DERMATOLOGIST TESTED' REALLY MEAN
If you have sensitive skin, you may well choose products bearing these labels in the hope that your risk of experiencing any irritation will be reduced.
'Hypoallergenic' and 'dermatologist tested' are two frequently used terms - but, unfortunately, they may bear little or no relation to the product.
Any product may legally call itself hypoallergenic. In evidence submitted to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology and published in its report on allergies in 2007, Professor David Gawkrodger, consultant dermatologist at the University of Sheffield, said: 'There is no regulation of the term "hypoallergenic".
I see a whole list of things which I know can cause allergy, so I am rather cynical about the label of "hypoallergenic".'
Again, 'dermatologist tested' can be a meaningless statement. It may simply be
the case that a small number of individuals claiming to have sensitive skin have been tested and demonstrated no reaction to the product.
'The testing may not be scientifically valid and there's no guarantee the product will not cause reactions in others.'
As the Select Committee report remarks: 'The allergenicity of a substance is dependent on an individual person's response and their tendency to develop allergies.'
In 2004, product testing and campaigning charity Which? wrote to ten leading British cosmetics companies asking them to explain the use of terms such as 'dermatologically tested' on their products.
Eight replied and explained that such claims referred to tests intended to provide reassurance to consumers about product safety. Though general information about the tests was provided, none gave specific details of trials conducted or test results.
Which? asked two expert dermatologists to examine the information provided to assess its validity, but because it was incomplete they were unable to do this comprehensively.
AND IF YOU THINK THAT 'NATURAL' ALTERNATIVES ARE BETTER ...
Make-up composed of inorganic pigments, such as mica, zinc oxide and iron oxide, is hugely popular, and is frequently being touted as a 'natural alternative' to conventional products.
But there is a lack of industry regulation on mineral make-up and the term 'natural' can be a bit of a misnomer, too, as the minerals have to go through stringent chemical and purification processes to be included in cosmetic products.
Other controversial issues surrounding mineral make-up are the use of ultra-fine particles in some brands, which are 'nano-sized' (once inside the body, there are concerns that nano particles seem to have unlimited access to all tissues and organs, including the brain, and may cause cell damage that we don't yet understand) .
Some mineral make-up brands may also use potentially toxic minerals such as talc, aluminium and bismuth oxychloride - a by-product of lead and ore refining that can cause skin irritation and scratch the surface of the skin.
Having said that, if you are determined to use mineral make-up - particularly the more ethical brands - you will be exposing yourself to far fewer synthetic chemicals on your face than if you use conventional make-up.
Food for thought! I'd be interested to hear from my lady readers (and male readers who happen to use any of this stuff, apart from the basics) about whether you've experienced any of the side-effects she lists. Please let us know in Comments.