So, Do We Have A Right To Know Exactly What Is In Our Make-Up?


It’s probably safe to say that most of us are at least vaguely aware of the various cosmetic controversies of the past and present. Whether this be the prevalent moral issue of testing on animals or the worries concerning what materials our make-up is actually comprised of. We do not always know what we put on our faces every day and, possibly, most of us have little inclination to find out. Well, this is the point at which ignorance may be considered bliss…

So just what kinds of things can be found in our make-up?

The acid produced by the Cochineal beetle can often be found in lipsticks and blushers and continues to be used due to the vibrant red colour it creates.  Boiled animal fat (tallow) can be derived from many sources although road kill may predominantly induce the gag reflex. It’s use?  It may potentially act as a skin conditioning agent or an emollient in lipstick, eye shadow and soap. Although now having been replaced largely by synthetics, whale vomit can still be used as a fixative perfume base. Scientifically termed ambergris it is worth almost its weight in gold, and is formed in the digestive system of the sperm whale.  Yes, whale vomit, although it can also be derived from faecal matter…Feeling queasy yet?

Perhaps some of you are already running to your make-up bags, feverishly scanning the contents for any sign of squashed squirrel or whale poo. Or, as is equally likely, you may read this, shrug your shoulders and go on your merry way.  

But what do you think? To identify some of the inevitably diverse reactions towards this subject, a small number of female Uni of Liverpool students were asked for their perspectives. Is this information disgusting and off-putting or not? Are we, as consumers, entitled to know more about what is in our cosmetics, or is the information already out there for those determined and concerned enough to find it? After running a poll on the very question, here is a summary of the reactions gathered:

‘If you’re going to use animal products such as meat and dairy, then it seems hypocritical to be adverse to these things’ – Harriet Hey

‘It should definitely be made clearer what we’re putting on our faces! At the same time I love my make-up and would fear that knowing would put me off it’- Charlotte Butler

‘I think it is all such a controversy, not because people are necessarily against it, but because they didn’t know it was there’- Jess Nolan

‘I think the problem is in the advertisement and packaging of cosmetic products as companies don’t always make it clear what their ingredients are- they use scientific names. It’s not the fact that these things are used that disgusts me, it is more that people cannot always make an informed decision because they don’t know what they’re buying! – Beth Wood

‘I am actually creeped out about the whole whale vomit. It’s vile!’ – Tiffany Alexander

‘I would have preferred to just not know I think! It is very unlikely that knowing would stop any of us buying the cosmetics’- Becca Gooch

‘Hmmm… Not that disgusted. I don’t think we particularly need to know the specifics, especially as the majority of consumers probably don’t have the budget or inclination to buy products according to their ingredients’- Steph Wescott

‘It shocks me that more companies don’t use alternatives, but as long as animals aren’t harmed in any way, it doesn’t bother me (although it is a weird concept).’ – Michaela Jones