Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Usual Unusual Ingredients - Gemstones


Let’s face it. We are constantly surrounded by beauty products containing nourishing plant extracts and seed oils. We don’t blink when we see names like aloe vera, olive oil or wild roses. Resources from the sea and the soil such as sea salt and kaolin are nothing new. Neither are beeswax and royal jelly. Since time immemorial, natural resources have been used for healing and for beauty.

But wait. I spy something sparkly in the list of ingredients. Nestled somewhere between dimethicone and methylparaben are the words sapphire powder. Huh? Bling bling in my makeup??! That sounds really cool but I do wonder if this is all nothing but hollow marketing hype.

Well, the idea is hardly new though. Gemstones were already used by the ancient Egyptians not just for jewellery but also to make cosmetics. One of the gemstones used by them was malachite, a green ore of copper. Malachite is a mineral gemstone which is also called peacock stone because of the swirling concentric rings that look like the peacock eye. Grounded finely, it was used as green eyeshadow, known to the Egyptians as Udju. Lapis lazuli was also used for the same purpose by the wealthy upper-class.

As a slight digression from gemstones, I should add that the Egyptians also used galena, a dark grey ore of lead. Galena is actually an ore mineral and not a gemstone. It was grounded into a powder and was also used by the Egyptians as eye paint or kohl. This was given the name Mesdemet.

Back then with the eyes drawn almond-shaped and beguiling, it really wasn’t just because of pure vanity that they wore eye makeup. It was also out of spiritual belief and necessity. The Egyptians believed that by drawing a dark line around the eyes, they would be protected from the Evil Eye. Also, malachite was associated with Hathor (image left) who was a goddess of many things, one of which was Goddess of Love, Music and Beauty. She was also known as Lady of Malachite because malachite was mined in Sinai, which was Hathor’s spiritual domain. So, it was believed that anyone who applied powdered malachite would be placed under the protection of Hathor. On the practical side, galena was useful as a disinfectant and was good for deterring disease-carrying flies. The dark colour applied under the eyes also served as protection from the merciless Egyptian sun by absorbing sunlight and minimising reflection.

Fast forward a few millennia and beauty companies are now what I would call being forward-thinking-by-looking-backwards in offering consumers beauty products containing gemstones of all sorts. Take for example, Rituals Cosmetics. I mentioned before that it has an entire range of gemstone makeup, christened Pure Beauty. Under this concept, every Rituals makeup product (makeup brushes excluded, of course) contains elements of a gemstone. The face products contain amethyst, the eye makeup products have sapphire and the lip and nail products contain ruby. Physicians Formula has an exclusive blend of pink, orange and white sapphire, green tourmaline and citrine in its Mineral Wear 100% Mineral FaceBrightener. Aveda has a range of eye and facial creams containing tourmaline, this collection being aptly called Tourmaline Charged. Borghese’s nail lacquers contain what it calls micronised gemstones which include amethyst, citrine, tourmaline, rubiosa and aquamarine. I’ve also recently discovered a Dutch nail polish brand that includes topaz in its formula!

And then, there is the girl’s best friend. Sally Hansen has Diamond 12-hour Lip Treatment which literally contains microfine diamonds. Why, just last week, I purchased a nail product from the same brand, with a very mouthful name of Diamond Strength – Diamond Shine Base & Top Coat. I had to see the ‘D’ word for myself and so promptly scrutinised the ingredients list. There it was, the second last item on the list: Diamond Powder!! The image below is a snapshot of the ingredients list. Heck, even Madonna’s makeup artist used a combination of crushed diamonds and white Shu Uemura eyeshadow to give the star’s eyes extra sparkle during her Sticky and Sweet Tour. Oh, you can also take a shower with Nivea’s Diamond Touch Creme Oil Shower and wash your hair with Nivea’s Diamond Gloss Shampoo, both of which contain diamond powder (I kid you not!). I’m gobsmacked. I can actually buy a shower cream containing diamond powder for the same price as one that contains shea oil. Go figure!


So, what’s the deal? Why gemstones? Well, I suppose it depends on which gemstone you’re talking about. Sometimes, it is for their light-reflecting properties to give intense shine and radiance. The use of diamonds is a case in point, although I can’t help but wonder why one would shower with a product with diamond powder – it all gets washed down the drain pipes anyway! But according to Nivea, the fine diamond particles in its shampoo enable the hair to reflect light, thus leaving it looking glossy.

Tourmaline is often used because of its unique ionic properties. It has been scientifically proven that it can become electrically charged when heated, having positive charge on one end and negative charge on the other, and is therefore useful in hair styling tools like straighteners and hairdryers. The negative ions generated by tourmaline hairstyling tools help to remove static which causes hair to frizz and it also helps to close the layers of hair follicles, allowing the hair to look smooth and shiny. In cosmetics, tourmaline is used for its revitalising properties as it is said to be able to boost the skin’s energy and radiance.

With the other gemstones, well.....I think this is where the mysticism of gemstones comes into play. Ruby, for example, symbolises life and warmth and is therefore good for stimulating blood flow and detoxifying the body. Amethyst is good for the mind. It brings clarity of mind, calmness and soberness. Sapphire symbolises loyalty and fidelity. It is said to strengthen intuition. Topaz helps to heal wounds and can dispel anger and sadness. Etc, etc, etc.

It’s intriguing. I struggle with whether I should be a believer or a skeptic in the mystical powers of gemstones. But more importantly, how far would you believe the companies who claim to have gemstones in their products? I guess for me, it’s not a matter of “Does the product really contain gemstone?” but more a matter of “How much?”

How much gemstone does the product really have? I’ve been checking out the ingredients list of many of these products. Sometimes, the gemstone element is shown somewhere at the bottom of the list, before the preservatives and/or colour additives. With some other products, they could be item no. 7 in a list of about 40 ingredients. As convention goes, the ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance/concentration (with some exceptions). So, I suppose, in many cases, the gemstone element, while present, could be minimal. Another question: How much of a gemstone must there be in a product to bring forth its mystical benefits? Hmmm, who’s to know?

So, do these products contain only a token quantity of gemstone elements, just sufficient to qualify to be on the ingredients list? And if they are on the ingredients list, the name of the gemstone can then be flaunted on the front of the packaging. That would always help with publicity. I came across an eye-opening article the other day, entitled Are There Actually Gemstones in This Makeup?. Have a read if you have the time. Note: I’m not affiliated in any way to the writer of the article and the website.

I can’t pass judgement on the claims made by the beauty companies. I can only ask questions as I am no expert. I wouldn’t know if what I read is the truth or the twisted truth, so I would sum up my thoughts this way: I want to believe BUT I do not want to be fooled. These days, I try to take what I read with a pinch of salt. In my future reviews of beauty products containing mineral gemstones, I will review the products from the point of view of a layman. I will mention if it contains gemstones but that would be as far as it goes.

You would understand why, wouldn’t you?

11 comments:

twinsouls888 said...

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witoxicity said...

@twinsouls888
Aw, thank you so much for the award! You're too kind! I really appreciate it. Congratulations on getting the award yourself! :)

Danielle said...

Very interesting post! It is very intriguing to see what "sells" a product. There does appear to be so much more emphasis on diamonds lately! Well, they are a girls best friend after all! ;). In all honesty, I'd like to think gemstones worked for the good and not the bad!

Natalie said...

That was a great interesting post!! I enjoyed reading it as I enjoy learning about history =) Now I'm going to be more aware about these kinds of products on the market! Thanks for this post!!

Lorla said...

Thanks again for such an informative and fascinating post. As always, an interesting departure from the norm!

witoxicity said...

@Danielle
Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. Yes, you're right about the goodness of gemstones. I think if you wore a gemstone with the best of intentions, the benefits will naturally flow in.

I must admit that beauty products containing diamonds do have great appeal. Even I am tempted to buy Nivea's Diamond Touch Creme Oil just to try out for fun! :D

@Natalie
I'm pleased that you liked this post. Keep your eyes peeled the next time you're out shopping. You're bound to spot some bling bling in some beauty products. :)

@Lorla
The pleasure's all mine, Lorla! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. :)

Caramel Diva said...

I really enjoyed reading this post...I like your attention to detail.

witoxicity said...

@Caramel Diva
That's great to know. Thanks! :)

aestheticcoo said...

I really enjoyed reading this post! I don't put much stock into gemstones being helpful if it's in beauty products...I think it's more of a marketing ploy. But it does sound nice:)Hope all is well with you!x

witoxicity said...

@aestheticcoo
Hello! I'm fine, thank you, and I trust that all's well with you. :)

It's lovely to know that you liked this post. I agree with you about the gemstone concept sounding nice, but, yes, it would be better for us consumers to proceed with caution.

Have a lovely week ahead!

Cassie said...

I never thought of gemstones being used as ingredients, then again, there are items like quartz and mica that is used. This article makes me think of those hot stone massages. Now that would be lovely.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway hon!