Friday, October 21, 2011

Taking Martha Stewart to Task on Beauty:
A Commentary

First, a small disclosure: I'm a long-time fan of Martha Stewart. I've subscribed to Martha Stewart Living since I was a 20-something living in a studio apartment. I save each and every issue, and I DVR her show daily. My three-year-old not only knows who Martha is, she asks to watch her show. My bath towels are Martha Stewart.

I was excited when the magazine recently added a beauty section. Let's face it, Martha's been around the block a time or two and by the (fantastic) looks of her, has a few tricks up her sleeve. So when I turned to page 55 in the November 2011 issue and saw the feature "Striking Gold" proclaiming that "oil isn't the skin saboteur you've always thought it was", I was psyched. "Finally!" I thought. "Martha's going to lay down the law and let people know that oil can be good for their skin!" While that indeed is the bent of the feature, I wasn't 30 seconds into the passage before I saw something that had my eyes rolling.

On the second page of the article, author Sarah Z. Wexler recommends a slew of oils for different purposes. In the cleansing category I noticed a photo of Philosophy Purity Made Simple Mineral Oil-Free Facial Cleansing Oil. As a fan of the original Purity, I skipped right to the product description. According to the article, Purity Oil "dissolves makeup with natural oils from olives, sandalwood, and geraniums instead of pore-clogging mineral oil". 

BIG roll of the eyes. Here we go again...and in an article that I'd thought was trying to dispel myths about oils! Let me restate the claim once again, for those who aren't sure what's got me in such a tizzy.

"dissolves makeup with natural oils...instead of pore-clogging mineral oil". 

Apparently Ms. Wexler, as well as the editors over at Living, missed the memo (by memo, I mean widely quoted study published in the January 2005 Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology). Mineral oil DOES NOT clog pores. It is non-comedogenic. On the 0-5 scale used to rate comedogenicity (the likelihood of an ingredient to clog pores) with zero being the least likely and five being most likely, MINERAL OIL IS A ZERO. It. Does. Not. Clog. Pores.

Now that we've got that cleared up, lets back up a minute. One natural oil the magazine implies is better than mineral oil is sandalwood oil. You all know it as the musky scent so popular in college campus hacky-sack circles. Which should be a red-flag to all: fragrance is one of the most common irritants in skincare products, and natural oils don't get a free pass. Indeed, according to "Cosmetics Cop" Paula Begoun, sandalwood oil can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. I, of course, reinforced this data with several studies archived on PubMed. A brief look at the ingredient list of the Purity oil shows that it includes several other oils that are known irritants, but it also revealed something much more interesting: the first two ingredients in the product, isopropyl palmitate and isopropyl myristate.

Why, you may ask, is this so interesting? Well, remember that 0-5 scale for comedogenic ingredients? Remember how a five is as bad as it gets- the most pore clogging potential an ingredient can have? Well, it just so happens that isopropyl palmitate and isopropyl myristate are a 4 and 5 on that scale, respectively. Yup. Both ingredients are considered highly comedogenic. Big ol' pore-cloggers. Funny isn't it? Or notsomuch.

Now, as a member of the beauty blogging community, I see myths like this perpetuated regularly. While it's bad enough to see bloggers do it, I'm a bit more forgiving when I know it's simply a consumer passing on a personal experience or second-hand knowledge. However, when such misinformation is being sustained by someone who is looked at as an "expert" on the subject- a feature writer or beauty editor for a major magazine- I find it simply inexcusable. So many people look to these writers for education; to become smarter, more savvy consumers. If we can't trust them to do more than essentially reprint a company press-release in the guise of a beauty feature, always have me ;)


Anastasia said...

I love you XD

Also, parabens don't cause cancer!

Ana said...

... And we are glad that we do* -.- .

* have you

B said...


Apriltini said...

Awesome post. I completely agree on the mineral oil, Paula Begoun, and Anastasia's comment about parabens. Woot!

Eden-Avalon said...

<3 Yes!

Absolutely. Even as a beginner, I try to make informed decisions about what I do or do not repeat. No sense in creating an uninformed consumer base.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the love folks! I just can't stand it when I feel like I hold myself to a higher standard than someone with a huge national readership (and salary!)

Research is so easy nowadays- it's called Google, and it is my BFF!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100%! I've used cosmetic grade mineral oil as my oil cleanser for over 2 years and my pores are clog-free! I do use a gentle cleanser (avene soapless gel cleanser) afterwards to remove the oil/makeup residue. Thanks for writing this article!

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