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Prepare to be shocked because today we are diving into the dark side of the cosmetic industry. Have you ever wondered what goes into the beauty products lining your bathroom shelves? We are going to reveal the most disgusting ingredients you can find in your favourite cosmetics. Hold on tight because things are about to get strangely fascinating.
1. Fish Scales disgusting ingredients
I want to start with one ingredient which is not really disgusting. Fish scales have been used for ages in makeup. The most common source of fish scales is dead herrings. Fish scales are very common in lipsticks, nail polishes or eyeshadows. They are added to give makeup a shimmer effect.
Products containing fish scales are not suitable for vegan people. How do we know if a makeup product contains fish scales? Obviously, fish scales will not appear as such in the ingredient list. Instead, look for Guanine or CI75170. Guanine is the name of a protein contained in fish scales. This protein is responsible for the iridescent, shimmer effect in makeup.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth is a powder obtained from sedimentary plankton or algae. We can say that it is a sort of dead algae.
Skeletons of plankton and some algae silicify and deposit as Diatomaceous Earth. This sediment contains minerals like silica, magnesium, calcium, sodium or iron.
Diatomaceous Earth is common in face masks and scrubs.
3. Lanolin disgusting ingredients
Sheep produces a grease which is the lanolin. We can find it in the sheep wool. Sheep produce this grease to protect themselves against cold and rain.
Lanolin retains moisture and helps to heal damaged skin. It is non-comedogenic, which means, lanolin will not clog the pores.
Lanolin is a common ingredient in moisturisers and products to heal cracked lips. It is not vegan-friendly. Some vegetable fats are an excellent vegan alternative to lanolin.
4. Snake Venom
Snake venom is a popular ingredient nowadays. It has an effect similar to the one produced by Botox and allows topical application. The snake venom paralyses the muscles under the skin. As a consequence, the skin looks relaxed and smooth. The appearance of wrinkles and fine lines looks reduced.
It is common in face cream for day or night use. This is a non-vegan-friendly ingredient. However, it is very frequent to find products including man-synthesised snake venom in the formula.
5. Snail Mucin disgusting ingredients
Snail mucin is literally snail mucus, it is snail slime. From a chemical point of view, snail mucin is a mixture of proteins, enzymes, hyaluronic acid, copper peptides, minerals like iron and zinc, and proteoglycans.
Thanks to this complex composition, snail mucin has different beneficial properties for the skin. To mention some, snail mucin moisturises the skin, fights signs of ageing helps to heal wounds, and protects your skin, among others.
Because snail mucin is a complicated mixture of ingredients, it is very difficult to make a vegan alternative mixture of ingredients with the same properties. At the moment of writing this post, unfortunately, I couldn’t find any vegan alternative to snail mucin.
6. Sperm Whale’s Vomit
Another name for sperm Whale’s vomit is ambergris. This ingredient is really disgusting. Ambergris is a mass of partially digested material, mainly squids, covered by a waxy chemical secreted by whales. These whales eat large quantities of cephalopods. They vomit the non-digestible parts of their prey, like the beaks and pens, before digestion.
This substance develops a pleasant scent over time. That is why it is one of the oldest ingredients in the preparation of perfumes. Ambergris is one of the most expensive fragrances available (one gram of ambergris costs approx. $30).
There is no vegan alternative to ambergris. However, it is possible to mimic the ambergris scent by mixing different essential oils.
7. Bird’s Poop disgusting ingredients
A different name for bird’s poop is guano. Guano has a high concentration of urea, among other chemicals. All birds excrete their waste through an opening called the cloaca.
The most popular bird in guano production is the nightingale. The reason is that this bird has a relatively short digestive system and its poop contains ingredients which are beneficial for the skin.
After feeding the birds with organic seeds, they collect the guano produced from the cages and sanitise it later using UV light. After finely ground, the material is ready for cosmetics use.
Urea helps to keep the skin’s natural moisturising factors healthy. Therefore, guano keeps the skin hydrated. A vegan alternative to guano is the synthetic urea.
8. Bull Semen
Bull semen has different applications in cosmetics. I imagine you may be asking now how they collect the bull semen (I don’t blame you; I also did and I have this information for you). In this article, the author mentions that the semen collection makes use of a teaser cow. The bull finishes off in a bag and the material is frozen until use.
Other ways to obtain the material involve manual manipulation and the use of electrodes in some parts of the bull’s body. You can read all the information in this article. Sorry for the euphemistic explanation but I don’t want to trigger Google red alarms.
The main use of this fluid is in hair treatment products. It has a protein which is great for treating damaged hair. Anti-ageing creams also contain this fluid.
Disclaimer: Before you ask me, I should say that there is no scientific evidence showing that the human fluid has a similar effect, so don’t let anybody tell you the opposite to make you do what you don’t want.
9. Carmine disgusting ingredients
Carmine is not only a disgusting ingredient but is also one of the most cruel ingredients you can use. It is one of the most ancient natural colourants used in cosmetics. It comes from the crushed shell of the female insect Coccus Cacti. This insect is a type of cochineal original from Mexico.
This insect’s shell has a high content of carminic acid. The aluminium and calcium salts of carminic acid produce carmine, a bright red pigment.
The obtention of the pigment involves boiling the insect in water to extract the carminic acid. The treatment of this acid with some chemicals like aluminium, cream of tartar, stannous chloride or potassium hydrogen oxalate produces the dye carmine.
Carmine appears in the INCI as E120. Roughly, 15000 insects produce one kilogram of carmine. A suitable alternative to carmine is the artificial colourant.
Carmine is present in nail polishes, eyeliners, eyeshadows, blushes and lip products (lipsticks, lip liners, lip glosses….).
10. Infant Foreskin
In my opinion, this is the weirdest and most disgusting ingredient you can find in cosmetics. However, there is no need to panic. Any infant is kidnapped or killed to obtain his foreskin.
Some babies are circumcised as part of a religious or cultural tradition. The circumcision is a surgical process. During this process, the foreskin (the hood of the skin covering the glans) is removed. Some families decide to donate it. This is the skin used in cosmetics.
The newborn skin is full of molecules called growth factors. These growth factors increase and promote cell turnover. They help to regenerate adult skin, producing a smoothing effect on the skin.
It is essential to mention that the amount of growth factors used in cream is tiny. As a rule of thumb, the foreskin of one baby can produce over a million treatments.
Well, there you have it. We have seen the not-so-pretty side of the beauty world. Who imagines that your favourite skincare product could contain so icky ingredients? The good news is that now you know.
Now keep an eye on the ingredient lists. You don’t have to compromise your values for the sake of looking great. After reading this post, you can make an informed choice about what you put on your skin and so far, build a safer, cleaner and less disgusting beauty routine.
Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.