Most people are unaware of the importance of the human skin. The skin is one of the most important organs of the human body and provides covering for the other organs and protects them from infection and damage. It maintains an equilibrial temperature of the body and gets rid of waste by perspiration. Oftentimes, when the skin is damaged by cuts, bruises, burns or abscesses, such damage is not regarded seriously and this results in the skin being weakened or permanently damaged.
It is the skin which makes the human body beautiful or pleasant to the eye and accounts for the term “beauty is only skin deep”. It also provides the human body with a pleasant odour. The cosmetic industry therefore concentrates on making the skin more beautiful and making it more pleasant smelling.
In both eastern and western civilizations, cosmetics were produced and used and cosmetic industries were at various stages of development. In the west, the cosmetic industry took its recognizable root in the 18th century in the royal and other palaces where the queens and grand ladies concentrated on making themselves more beautiful.
Ladies such as Madame de Pompadour and Madame de Maintenon of the French Royal Court are legendary in this regard. Various methodologies and formulas for beautification, skin and hair care and giving the body pleasant odours were evolved mostly using natural products such as natural oils, mud packs, eggs, spices, gums to produce nail polishes and colours to produce rouges, lipsticks and so on.
This culture of beauty very quickly spread to the growing middle classes who were thrown up by the industrial revolution.
Cosmetic industries came to be established everywhere in the west and science, especially Chemistry, was applied in developing and creating new products including moisturizers, deodorants, soaps, mascaras, perfumes and colours such as rouges and lipsticks and so on.
Many of the chemical substances used to produce these cosmetics were toxic and ultimately dangerous to health. Producers claim that the amounts of toxins in their products are so comparatively small that they will do little harm. Despite such assurances, many of these poisons could cause cancer and other diseases and age the skin prematurely.
In Europe, 1300 toxic substances are banned from use in the cosmetic industries while in America it is only 13.
In other words, the cosmetic industry is unregulated and depends on self-regulation. Accordingly, it is believed that all cosmetics are toxic even to a minimal degree.
Western-produced cosmetics generally use an alcoholic-base while Eastern or Asian cosmetics were formerly oil-based and used natural products such as herbs, essential oils and even flowers. Today, Asian cosmetic industries have been rapidly transformed into alcohol-based and the cheaper ones are more toxic than their western equivalents.
The cosmetic industries in western countries have already divided themselves into three categories.
The first category are those producers which have well-equipped laboratories and pride themselves in having products where toxicity is negligible. Such products are prestigious and more expensive. Such top-of-the-line products are made by companies like Chanel.
Then there are firms like Avon which aim at making products which are quite safe but sold at more affordable prices.
The third category is made by small companies and are of indifferent quality though cheaper in price.
The labelling of the first two categories tend to be standard and easily recognizable while the third category tend to be flashy and attractive and keep changing as long as the company survives.
Fifty or sixty years ago, top-of-the-line cosmetics were available in the shops in Georgetown but importation of such became one of the first casualties with the economic difficulties and shortage of foreign exchange which had afflicted the country.
Today, almost all cosmetics are imported from America by boutiques or from East Asia by very small importers. The East Asian imports tend to be sold on the pavements and roadside and present much risk not only from toxicity but the fact of their odours lasting for a very short time. Another pitfall in buying these cheap cosmetics is that they are sometimes forgeries of well-known brand names like Brut or Avon.
Consumers are enjoined to be careful in avoiding sub-standard products because such could permanently damage the skin. For example, cheap lipsticks could destroy the upper skin of the lips and leave the lips dis-coloured. Or cheap perfumes, after a short time, begin to have the odour of food essences.
Fortunately, the “natural look” is now in fashion and most women wear little or no make-up.
We would like to reiterate that cosmetics are of varying quality and that the cheaper ones may have toxins which may damage the skin.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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