A friend of mine returned from Korea recently. Since she knows I am obsessed with everything skincare, she brought me back some K-beauty masks, being the good friend she is. One of them is formulated with snail mucus which, aside from making me gag a bit, got me thinking about other odd ingredients in skincare and beauty. A few years ago I tried some eye cream in New Zealand with sheep placenta, so what else is out there?
Let’s start with sheep. Lanolin should be familiar – it’s in many lotions and moisturizers and lots of other skincare ingredients. Any idea where it comes from? Well, it’s actually grease from the wool of sheep… Don’t worry, lanolin is “cleaned” before it is used in your favorite beauty and skincare products, though cleaning methods vary widely. A side note but not the topic of this post…some lanolin can contain pesticides because live sheep are directly sprayed with pesticides to control mites and pests. Eww. Lanolips is a relatively new Aussie brand and it has some cool products featuring Lanolin. (Side note – outside of the US, they are known as Lano + Lips + Hands + Allover).
Carmine is what gives makeup its red hue – think lipsticks, eyeshadow, you name it, it likely has carmine, also known as cochineal extract, in it. A staple in beauty products and makeup for many years, carmine has an interesting origin. Cochineal extract comes from insects that are dried, crushed and chemically treated to produce the red pigment. Around 70,000 insects produce a pound of red dye. Until 2009, products could simply cite “natural color” but due to its role as an allergen, it has to be explicitly discloses as carmine or cochineal extract. It might sound gross, but other red dyes used in beauty are derived from petroleum byproducts or coal, which arguably are…grosser and definitely have other health risks. If you want to avoid dried red bugs on your eyes or lips, fortunately, there are a lot of new vegan blends out there that have beautiful red hues, minus the bugs or petroleum.
am really excited about bee venom because I really love bee products. I love flowers,smoothies with beeswax and basically anything with honey. Who doesn’t? Until recently, however, I was unaware of its role in skincare and beauty. Purified bee venom claims to rejuvenate skin, repair damaged cells and prevent sun damage. Also, Kate Middleton supposedly uses the stuff too, so if it’s good enough for a bona fide princess, it’s good enough for me! There are a few products that feature bee venom, including Bee Venom Mask by Deborah Mitchell, Bee Venom Moisturizer by Rodial and New Zealand Bee Venom Serum by Wild Ferns. I am still on the search for one that really tingles when you put it on, because that tends to signify a high potency of bee venom. So far…..many products, including the pricey Rodial, list bee venom as a last or near-last ingredient. That is not what I am looking for….Oh, and in case it isn’t obvious… probably best to stay away from this one if you have an allergy to bees!
Snail extract (or, um, mucus) is chock full of skin-loving ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, enzymes and copper peptides, all of which are great for the skin and commonly used in beauty products (albeit usually from other sources) and skincare. These elements help protect the snail from damage, dryness and UV rays and they can do the same for our skin! Further, snail extract (snail mucus) helps stimulate the formation of collagen and elastin, so ranks really highly in skincare anti-aging products. In some spas in Asia, snails crawling on your face are actually a featured part of the treatment… No comment. A few of my favorites are Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream and Missha’s Black Charcoal and Snail Sheet Mask (which I am still trying to find stateside so will post that link soon).
I know exactly what guano is thanks to Ace Venture: When Nature Calls (Yes, I saw that movie and am sure a lot of you did too). It is bird excrement….i.e. poop. I did NOT know Guano is used in some skincare and beauty products. Guano contains urea and an amino acid called guanine and these are known to brighten and soften the skin. It’s usually from nightingales, based on what I can find. Japanese geishas wore thick traditional white makeup made with zinc and lead, which can be really drying not to mention, unhealthy! Guano acted as a conditioner for skin, making it softer, so it became a beloved skincare ingredient. Well….yummy. Fortunately, I can’t find mainstream ingredients with it but am sure I just haven’t looked hard enough. I’ll keep on it.
I first encountered placenta (from sheep!) in New Zealand, which has more sheep than people. By a huge margin (~30 million sheep versus ~5 million people). So, as one can imagine, they’ve discovered a LOT of uses for sheep and sheep byproducts. Since shaving the sheep for wool and squeezing the milk out of it aren’t enough, let’s grab its placenta too. Placenta is very popular as an effective beauty ingredient because it supports skin elasticity and healthy cell growth. Benefits include enhancing cell turnover and renewal of skin, adding strength to hair. and reducing redness of rosacea. I’ll admit…. I did actually try some placenta-based skincare products during my trip to New Zealand and was not impressed. However, I’ll try again next time and will hopefully have some better recommendations for all of you just chomping at the bit to try placenta in your skin cream. I have a good feeling about next time…after all, I have a lot more wrinkles than I did 8 years ago during my visit. 🙁
Side note: in researching this, I did throw up a bit in my mouth reading articles about whether or not to eat placenta. I’ll leave that right there.
Know any other weird, gross, bizarre or just downright unusual ingredients that I didn’t cover here? Let me know!
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