The Maneka Gandhi column: Snail mucus to placenta, your cosmetics are full of animal discard - Firstpost
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The Maneka Gandhi column: Snail mucus to placenta, your cosmetics are full of animal discard


There is nothing that humans will not use in order to make themselves more alluring. We will eat poorly, smoke, drink and sleep incorrectly, and then use all sorts of goo sourced from the most unpleasant places in order to make our skins look younger. From placentas to human infant foreskins, chicken bone marrows and nightingale faeces, here are some of the things that go into your cosmetics.

Guanine is a crystalline material that produces a shimmering colouring ingredient. It is made from ground-up fish scales, and it is commonly used in the formulation of bath products, cleansing products, fragrances, hair conditioners, lipsticks, nail products, shampoos and skin care products. Brands which use guanine in their products include Maybelline. Look for the words CI 75170 on the back of your shampoo or nail polish bottle.

Snail Slime is the mucus produced by the snail Helix asperga to ease its travel and to coat its body. It is used extensively by cosmetic companies all over the world in anti-ageing, scar repair and skin regeneration creams. It is listed as SFF in ingredient labels.

Squalene is the oil made from sharks. A common ingredient used in cosmetic products from lip balm, hair dyes to sunscreen, squalene is most commonly found in facial moisturisers.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Ambergris, also known as whale vomit, has been used as a food flavouring, an aphrodisiac and incense, and today is a popular fixative in perfume. The perfume, Chanel No. 5, still lists ambergris as one of its key ingredients. Dior still uses it. Ambergris is a waxy, yellow, solid substance that is generated in the intestines of Sperm whales to protect them from sharp objects that they sometimes swallow. Whales either pass the substance along with their faeces, or they can occasionally cough it up if there is a blockage.

Bees are huge victims of the cosmetic trade. They labour for days to collect pollen to feed their own young. These microsporic grains in seed plants gathered by bees is taken from their legs and is put into nutritional supplements, shampoos, toothpastes, deodorants. Millions of bees are killed. Their legs are often torn off by pollen-collection trapdoors. Beeswax is secreted by the anal glands of a bee and is used by bees to make the walls of their hive. It is used by humans for lip balms, lipsticks and many other cosmetics, especially face creams, lotions, mascara, eye creams and shadows, face makeup, nail whiteners. Resinous Glaze or Royal Jelly is a secretion from the throat glands of worker honeybees. While it has no proven value in cosmetics, it sounds good!

Chitosan is a fibre derived from crustacean shells. It is used as a lipid binder in hair, oral, and skin-care products; antiperspirants and deodorants.

Fish oil is used in soap. Apart from fish, marine mammals like porpoises are also used. Pristane is obtained from the liver oil of sharks and from whale ambergris and used in lubricating creams and lotions.

Silk powder is the secretion of the silk worm. It is used as a colouring agent in face powders, soaps, etc. It can cause severe allergic skin reactions and systemic reactions if inhaled or ingested.

Tallow is a common ingredient in many products, including eye makeup, lipsticks, makeup bases and foundations, shampoos, shaving soaps, moisturisers and skin care products. It's made by boiling animal carcasses to create fatty by-products.

Hyaluronic Acid is used in anti-ageing skincare products as an antioxidant and collagen booster. Since the early 1980s, it has been produced from rooster combs taken from slaughter houses and poultry farms on an industrial scale.

Carmine or Cochineal is a red dye used in lipsticks, rouge, eye shadow and other cosmetics. It is made of red pigment from the crushed female cochineal insect. Seventy thousand beetles must be killed to produce one pound of this dye.

Loss of collagen is the main reason for ageing. However, collagen in skincare products won’t actually do all that much, as it doesn’t get absorbed deeply enough into the skin to help strengthen fibrous tissue. That doesn’t stop the multi-billion cosmetic industry which takes its collagen in skincare creams from chicken feet and ground-up animal horns.

Glucosamine is a skincare ingredient supposed to be moisturising and helping with skin tone. It is made of chicken bone marrow.

The loss of elastin is one of the main reasons for facial ageing. Skincare companies add it into their creams and lotions. This protein is extracted from the neck ligaments and aortas of cows.

Placental protein is extracted from the uteri of the dead bodies of pregnant animals and used in skincare products specially for pregnant women. It is used to draw moisture up into the top layers of the skin.

Stearic acid, used as an ingredient in many products, comes from cows, pigs, goats and sheep. Rendering factories separate the fat from waste animal tissue in order to create stearic acid.

Panthenol is often used in shampoos, conditioners, lotions and mascaras. Panthenol used to be made from honey, but given the worldwide decline in bees, it is now made from meat.

Keratin is a common ingredient of shampoos and hair rinses. It is extracted from the ground-up horns, hooves, feathers, quills, and hair of various animals.

Shellac of Laquer is a resin secreted by the female lac bug. This ingredient is used to create a shiny lacquer in products such as hairsprays, shampoos, mascara and lipstick. Although shellac is a secretion that is harvested, the process inevitably leads to the death of lac insects. Three lakh lac insects are killed for every kilogram of lac resin produced.

How many dead animals do you want to rub on your face and hair every day? Why not read the ingredients, write to the companies and make them use alternatives?

First Published On : Apr 25, 2016 16:35 IST

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