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.

Lanolin aka Grease from Animal Fur

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

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.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

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.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

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.

Squalene aka Shark Liver Oil

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

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.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

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.

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.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

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.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

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.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics


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.

Diatomaceous Earth aka Dead Algae

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

You Might Have it in Your...

Acne treatments, facial cleanser, exfoliators.

Diatomaceous earth (which we shall hereby call DE because it's a lot easier to type) is the fossilized remains of single-celled algae called diatoms. And what's so disgusting about that that? Well, these are the same little blighters responsible for making your fish tank turn slimy.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

Having a few million years on their hands, the tiny little organisms gathered together to bemoan their rough life at sea and dream of happiness in a luxurious fish tank. Over time, nature forced them together so tightly they formed a sedimentary rock known as diatomite, which is actually not the thing that we thought it was when we first heard the word.

The dead algae rock is recognized primarily for its abrasive nature; it is easily crumbled and the grains have a sharpness that is just perfect for slicing troublesome ants in two, or for cutting intestinal worms to death. That's about as badass as a rock made from dead slimy shit can get.

"But I'd Never Use Tha-"

We'll just stop you right there, because the chances are if you've ever used an exfoliating body scrub, you've actually spent time rubbing dead fish tank algae all over yourself. Whilst DE is known to be damaging to some creatures, the grains are too small to do any cutting-based damage to humans, and are still rough enough to remove those pesky, dead skin cells that build up over time.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

Interestingly, the Body Shop invites you to buy its Aloe Gentle Exfoliator, which it does it by promoting how its natural "...jojoba beads, which are round is in shape, glide smoothly against skin's surface to gently exfoliate even the most delicate skin." That's a filthy lie. You're not going to exfoliate shit with round jojoba beads. You need the jagged edges of DE, which you can find sitting inconspicuously in its ingredients list and mentioned nowhere in its ads.

Guanine aka Fish Scales

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

You Might Have it in Your...

Shampoo, nail polish and other personal products.

Guanine shows up on product labels as CI 75170, or to give the more beautiful label bestowed on it, natural pearl essence. Hell, that doesn't sound so bad. It comes from pearls, right?

o ae O


Despite it sounding like the perfect gift for Nana's birthday, natural pearl essence actually is a by-product of one of the smelliest industries we know. Put all thoughts of oysters out of your mind because natural pearl essence is actually made by processing the scraped-off scales of dead fish and suspending them in alcohol.

"But I'd Never Use Tha-"

Sorry to point this out, but yes. Yes, you would. While having nothing to do with pearls, this derivative of guanine does have a similar iridescence to oyster jewels, so it is frequently used in the cosmetics industry to add a certain luster to their products.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

Like this.

So, if you've ever used a colored polish to brighten up the bitten stumps called nails found at the end of your fingers, the chances are you've spent time brushing dead fish scales over your hands, because natural pearl essence is a favored ingredient in a a shit ton of nail polishes. Top brands who have CI 75170 listed in their ingredients include Bourjois and Maybelline.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

Some companies have even managed to train fish to apply varnish directly!


The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

You Might Have it in Your...

Face creams, moisturizer.

Yes, we are talking about that naturally occurring waxy substance responsible for clogging up your arteries.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

Found in cheese, milk, beef, pork and pretty much every damn thing that tastes good, cholesterol crops up everywhere. Which is why we're constantly told it's bad for us and will clot our arteries like grease in a drain pipe.

You've already guessed that you or someone you love has smeared this on your face at some point.

"But I'd Never Use Tha-"

You see, cholesterol is found in another important place: your skin. And, more importantly, animal fat. It is one of the components in the uppermost layer of your skin where it helps to retain moisture while protecting the lower layers from exposure to the elements. Thanks to its skin conditioning and emollient properties, cholesterol is an ideal ingredient for helping the skin to retain moisture, which in turn helps to smooth out any wrinkles that have had the audacity to appear.

The 6 Most Horrifying Ingredients in Everyday Cosmetics

"Hurry, wipe this cheeseburger on your cheek!"

We can't help but notice that there isn't even a fancy sounding name to disguise the use of cholesterol in these anti-aging creams, including L'Oreal, Dove and Elizabeth Arden. We can only assume that this is because the anti-wrinkle cream branch of the industry is so confident of the need of the aging population to keep their youthful looks intact, they assume that there is simply no limit to what these people will rub into their faces. Considering they sell something called Snail Gel in the UK, they might not be wrong.

A fer k hedy SNAIL GEL RP er

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For other disgusting things you treat yourself to every day, check out 5 Horrifying Food Additives You've Probably Eaten Today. Or learn about other things not meant for your meatbag (that turned up there), in The 7 Most Horrifying Things Ever Discovered in a Human Body.

And stop by Linkstorm (Updated 08.09.10) to find out what the kid at Starbucks did to your coffee.

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