8 Weird Things You Probably Didn't Realize Are Hiding in Your Beauty Products

Whale vomit is actually a rather fancy ingredient.

You’ve probably already heardthat little beetles that are mashed up for their vibrant red colour, and perhaps you've even tried now-popular snail slime entirely on purpose. But there are a few other ingredients hiding in popular cosmetics that you probably don’t know about...

Ferrous Oxide aka Rust

Also hiding under the names pigment brown 6 and pigment red 101, rust is what makes some products such a vibrant pink colour! Cute?

Ambergris aka Whale Vomit

This is a waxy oil whales produces internally that protect them from any sharp objects they might consume. This builds up, though, and the whale expels it from... either end.

The best/weirdest part is that it's used as a fixative in perfume, most often in more expensive fragrances. It makes the scent really stick to skin.

Don’t worry, though: it seems a lot of companies have become aware of how gross this is and are now using synthetic versions in their perfumes. (I read this is still an ingredient in Chanel No.5, though, so there’s that.)

Natural Pearl Essence aka Fish Scales

This is easily found in your shimmery nail polishes. And if you’re looking, it also goes by the name CI 75170. I feel sorta lied to, don't you?

Lanolin aka Sheep Wax

This stuff is in EVERYTHING. This oily gunk is basically the buildup that sheep secrete through their skin. The greasy wax creates a waterproof barrier between the sheep’s skin and the elements. It’s basically like your greasy hair in the most extreme form.

Once the wool is sheared off the sheep, the hair is pressed by strong rollers and the oily wax is collected. Kinda gross, right?


Oleoresin Capsicum aka Pepper Spray

If you're a fan of lip-plumping glosses (I’m looking at you, DuWop Lip Venom!) and wondered what exactly caused that hot tingly feeling on your lips, it’s often hot pepper oil, which is the main ingredient in pepper spray. This is an irritant, which your skin reacts to, giving you the warm, plump lips we associate with these glosses. You can also find it in the warming lotions used on your sore achy muscles.

Please note, though, this is for external use only. If you’re thinking more along the lines of warming lube, might I introduce you to the next sneaky ingredient?

Propylene Glycol

This friendly relative of antifreeze (antifreeze = ethylene glycol) is nontoxic and safe to use internally. You can find this ingredient in your most intimate cosmetics like warming lube.

Squalene aka Shark Liver Oil

This one I was surprised by. You know those amazing non-greasy moisturizers and balms that soak into your skin super quick? They probably contain squalene. Lately, it seems cosmetics companies are leaning towards more morally sound alternatives like olive oil. I was shocked to find a few big name brands that still use it, though.

Diatomaceous Earth/Diatomite aka Exactly 1/2 of Dynamite

One half of two things required to make dynamite (the other one is nitroglycerin), it’s basically ground-up fossilized algae, which is super-porous and has a gentle exfoliating effect. You can find it in a lot of “natural” products like toothpaste, deodorant and exfoliating scrubs.

If you want to see more of what’s hiding in your favourite products, check out http://www.ewg.org/skindeep -- it has a huge directory, and you can search by ingredient!

  • Do any of these things really freak you out?
  • What’s the grossest thing on this list?