The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

Do you have any idea what's in your shaving cream? Or perfume? Probably not; the stuff you have in your bathroom to make you look or smell a little bit better falls under the same category as, say, sausage. As long as it isn't harmful to us, we don't want to know.

But aren't you just a little bit curious? Besides, how gross can it be?

Let's put it this way: It's worse than the sausage.

#6. Lanolin aka Grease from Animal Fur

You Might Have it in Your...

Shaving cream, lotions, skin creams, shampoo, make-up removers, a butt-load of lipsticks.

Lanolin: it sounds soft and comforting, like the kind of fluffy material you'd use to protect a grazed knee. But lanolin is, in reality, the kind of substance you'd normally like to keep several miles away from your mouth if possible.

Why? Think back to the last time you went a few days without washing your hair, and try to remember the greasy crap that built up. Or, go rub your hands in the hair of the nearest hobo. That sticky substance is sebum, which is made from the delightful recipe of wax and the remains of dead fat-producing cells.

Illustrated here.

Now, imagine a sheep in all its woolen finery going through a similar experience, except rather than having a few bath-free days, we're probably heading towards a bath-free year, and its oil-soaked coat hasn't been cut in that entire time. Finally, picture what it would look like if someone came and collected the greasy substance that had accumulated in the woolly locks, and put the resulting gunk into a jar.

Hint: It would look like this.

This is lanolin, the greasy stuff secreted by wool-bearing mammals to help shed water from their coats, squeezed from their harvested wool and bucketed for many uses, including shoe polish, barnacle repellents and rust-proof coatings.

Oh, and also you smear it on your face.

"But I'd Never Use Tha-"

Do you use shaving cream? Shampoo? Well then there's a good chance you've had this stuff on your face and around (or in) your mouth. And as for the ladies (and the more adventurous males out there) you've likely had much closer contact with lanolin than you'd care to think about. In fact, if you've ever used lipstick, lanolin is the stuff that makes it greasy and sticky.

Maybe she's born with it, maybe she's got sheep grease smeared over her lips.

There are over 100 lipsticks on the market that contain lanolin, including some sold by renowned brands Revlon and Estee Lauder. Neither of whom have, as far as we can remember, based their promotions on the sheepish contents of their lip-smacking miracle workers.

Is it bad for you? We're not saying that. We're just saying it's gross.

#5. Squalene aka Shark Liver Oil

You Might Have it in Your...

Moisturizers, sunscreen, eye make-up, lipstick and bath oils.

Right off the bat, squalene has the gross-sounding name of something slimy collected out of some creature's guts. Specifically, squalene is the gooey oil squeezed from the liver of a shark.

And while some people actually take squalene pills on purpose for its questionable healing properties, we're not talking about that.

The photo of a shark enhances the sharkiness of this product.

"But I'd Never Use Tha-"

If you're a girl and, like most of our readers, have been alive for more than two years, there's a good chance you've had shark liver juice on multiple parts of your body. There are some important benefits of squalene that hold a huge appeal to the cosmetics industry: It's easily absorbed into the skin without leaving a greasy residue; it combines well with other oils; and it is recognized as improving the appearance of skin. For this reason, it is the ideal ingredient for use in all sorts of products from lip balm to sunscreen. The most common use appears to be in facial moisturizer.

Sadly, this isn't how moisturizer is branded.

Many cosmetic companies have shied away from squalene derived from shark livers as it's not considered cool to hunt them anymore, and have instead turned to alternative sources such as olive oil or wheat germ oil (though industry giant Unilever just stopped using it a couple of years ago).

It kind of puts Jaws in a new light, when you realize the sunbathers on the beach were smearing the guts of the shark's buddies all over their skin.

#4. Ambergris aka Whale Vomit

You Might Have it in Your...

Fancy perfume.

Let's say you're a whale. And like every other whale in the ocean, you fancy eating some squid every now and again. Maybe it's date night or something. So you do, even though you know full well that the tasty squid has a sharp beak that's going to cut your insides up. But it's OK, because your belly produces something called ambergris, a waxy oil that protects your insides from sharp beaks and whatnot.

Now let's imagine that your ambergris has been building up for a while now, and it's time to get rid of it. Awesome. As a whale, you have two choices: poop it out, or throw it up.

It's coming out, either way.

Now here's the fun part: Somewhere a human is going to pick up your oily stomach excrement and shout for joy, because guess what? That shit is worth stupid amounts of money. We're talking prices as high as $20 per gram. Ambergris has even been compared to a fine wine, as its quality increases the longer it has spent aging.

"But I'd Never Use Tha-"

People throughout history have used it as food flavoring, an aphrodisiac and incense, but these days you have it lurking in your bottles of perfume.


While it has a natural odor of its own, ambergris also enhances other fragrances by helping their scents to last longer. It is the perfumer's dream ingredient, as long as they neglect to list it as "whale shit" on the back of their anti-stink bottles.

Recently, American companies have tended to shy away from the connotations of using this ingredient, whereas the French, as always, are more liberal in their views. Indeed, it is said that you can still find ambergris in the ladies' favorite Chanel No. 5.

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