Do you REALLY know what you’re putting on your Face?

10 Strange Ingredients in your Cosmetics!!

Although we’d all like to think that we’re kind to animals, environmentally aware and conscious of green issues, when it comes to buying your beauty products do you really take time to look at the ingredients and check out whether it has been tested on animals?  If we answered honestly, I am not not sure many of us do.  Which begs the question, do we really know what we are smothering all over our faces on a day to day basis?

Make-up and basic cosmetics have been around for centuries and some of the primitive ingredients that were used in them were incredibly dangerous and at times fatal. Egyptian women would use kohl as a method to line and darken the eyes and women throughout the 19th century would often use lead oxide and carbonate as a way to create whiter skin. Others used belladonna in their eyes in order to create a sparkle.

Nowadays, of course we have much more sophisticated and man made concoctions to choose from but do you actually know what those ingredients are that go into making your favourite beauty products?

Here are 10 of the strangest ingredients used in todays cosmetics – it’s a real eye opener!


Yes, you did read that correctly – fish scales!! If you’ have ever used any type of cosmetic that has a shimmer to it, such as an eye shadow, lipstick, nail polish or even a body lotion then chances are it has derived from the scales of a fish. The shiny effect is caused by crystalline guanine which is extracted from the fish scales. this shiny, silver substance is referred to as Pearlescence and is one of the most supplemented fish by product in the world.


Sounds quite nice doesn’t it? Kind of exotic, almost like an Arabian fragrance. Well you couldn’t be more wrong. Ambergris is  grey/black substance that is found in the digestive system of sperm whales, in other words it is whale sick. Yuck! Although many companies today chose not to use it, as synthetic scents have become much more popular, it has been reported that it is still used by Dior and Kenneth Cole. Used as a ‘fixing’ agent in some perfumes, this whale bile duct secretion is said to have a very earthy and sweet smell to it. I am not convinced!


Yum, real delicious, yeah right if you’re a dog maybe!! Chicken bone marrow, or Glucosamine if we are to refer to it as it is called within an ingredient listing, is just one of the many animal parts used in the making of cosmetics. Glucosamine is considered a great product to use on the skin as it promotes new healthy growth for a youthful look as well as being a fantastic anti-inflammatory. It is mainly found in moisturisers and face creams to act as a barrier and to help even out skin tone. Although glucosamine is found in many other animals exoskeletons, chicken bone marrow is the most widely used form.


This ingredient, although sounding as though it has come straight out of a Scientist’s laboratory is in fact a naturally occurring fatty acid which is usually derived from lard (rendered fat from pigs’ abdomens) or tallow (rendered fat from beef or mutton). Leftover meat from abattoirs, restaurant and butcher trimmings, expired meat from supermarkets and carcasses from dead animals from animal shelters, zoos and vets are sent off to rendering factories where the fat is separated from waste animal tissue in order to create stearic acid. So what does it do? Well, this ingredient can do a lot, let me tell you! It can raise the melting point of cosmetics so that they don’t run and streak as you wear them, it hardens bars of soap, gives shampoos a pearlescent finish and serves as a binding and thickening agent in deodorants, lotions, and creams.


Also sounding like it should be part of a science experiment, Hyaluronic Acid is actually found in, wait for it, rooster combs. Since the early 1980s it has been produced from rooster combs on an industrial scale. It is used as an antioxidant in anti-ageing skincare products as it draws moisture up into the skin and boost collagen synthesis.


Now I bet you’ve heard of this one, right?  Yes it’s that stuff that appears on shampoo bottles, really good for strengthening hair and putting the life back into your dull locks. But what actually is Keratin? Well I hate to break it to you but it is extracted from the ground-up horns, hooves, feathers, quills, and hair of various animals. That’s right, it is essentially toe nail clippings!! Keratin helps to fill in any gaps in a damaged hair shaft and helps seal the cuticle.


OK so straight away this one sounds pretty gross, right? Well you’d be right. Also known as squalene oil, this is a carbon-containing compound which is found in shark liver oil. Used to add emollient and lubricating qualities to creams, lotions and serums it is the thing that helps keep sharks afloat.


Again this is one that probably sounds familiar to you. Also known as cochineal or natural red 4, this striking red dye dates back to the Aztecs and Mayans. Often used in lipstick, blusher, eye shadow and other make up items it is also used a lot in food and drink items such as gelatines, juices and confectionary. It is made from the crushed body and eggs of the female cochineal insect. PETA reports that 70,000 beetles must be killed to produce one pound of this dye. The bugs are drowned in hot water, dried, and then ground to a fine powder.


There’s no beating around the bush with this one, we all know what Placenta is and where it comes from, but what on earth is it used in? Animal placenta is extracted from the uterus of animals in abattoirs and is widely in skincare products as a humectant (draws moisture up into the top layers of the skin). Even more alarmingly, the company Plazan has created and manufactured an entire line of cosmetics made with human placenta. Apparently cosmetics that use hormones extracted from the placenta, such as Hyaluronic Acid and Protein Hydrolysate, help to promote tissue growth, which is very effective in removing wrinkles.


Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug which is then scraped off trees, in a word it is insect poo! This ingredient is used to create a shiny lacquer in products such as hairsprays, shampoos, mascara and lipstick. More recently you will have probably heard of it in association with nails as it is a relatively new technique for providing a strong, shiny manicure. Although shellac is a secretion that is harvested, the process inevitably leads to the death of lac insects. According to a study undertaken in India, 300,000 lac insects are killed for every kilogram of lac resin produced and up to 25% of unrefined shellac is composed of insect debris.

So there you have it, all pretty gross huh? Maybe it’s a case of better off not knowing, but what you need to answer is what is more important to you – checking every product to buy to ensure the ingredient have derived from plant based natural sources or to carry on buying the same trusty products you always have, but now with that extra knowledge that what you are putting onto your face isn’t all what it seems!

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