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With the advancement of science and technology over the past few decades, the world has literally and figuratively come to our doorsteps. Being said that, it has also opened our eyes to the areas which, before that, were unknown and unproven. Cosmetics being one such area. We can put our skin under a microscope and observe the effectiveness of a particular product if we want to, which, earlier was only availed by researchers and scholars.
Does that mean that companies, especially cosmetics, are petrified since they can’t fool us anymore with their products? Unfortunately, not so much. Reason? Because we are STILL ignorant. So, let us dive deep into one such misunderstood product of all time – Makeup wipes.
Makeup wipes are supposed to easily remove makeup since they come in a small box of tissue paper-like material which is portable and apparently economical. Gym, party, night out, wherever you are, if you need to remove makeup easily, just take out that small box, pull out a wipe, rub it on your face, and experience hydrating and convenient removal of makeup after a long day (Let’s face it, we all have been there).
So why are they bad, you ask, because they do remove your makeup? Sorry to disappoint you, the answer is NO. They do not completely remove makeup. Let us talk about the science of why you shouldn’t be using them –
- At the end of the day, our skin becomes oily, dirty, and party house for bacteria but they just stay on the epidermis i.e. the uppermost layer of the skin (Fig. 1). When you rub your face with makeup wipes, it creates micro abrasion on the skin opening a gateway for those bacteria on the surface of your skin to go inside and party even harder, leading to various skin conditions including premature aging (yep, that’s right folks, your dream of looking like Liu Xiaoqing is long gone, sorry!!). I understand the laziness and tiredness at the end of the day and wipes are more convenient, but at the cost of what? That is something you need to ask yourselves.
- They are extremely harsh on the skin. Most makeup wipes have alcohol in them which may have an instant cooling effect on the skin but at the same time, they strip your face of its natural oils making it dehydrated and dry. The hydrated feeling is temporary and in the long run, it makes your skin extremely dry. To combat that dryness you will use ‘hydrating’ makeup wipes and this vicious cycle keeps on and on.
- Have you seen your skin becoming red and itchy after using wipes? That’s because they also use formaldehyde as a preservative to increase the shelf life of the product but formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and irritant. They also have a fragrance which can cause irritation and skin sensitivity over time. If you see your skin is having an adverse reaction to the product causing erythema and itching, immediately discontinue using the wipes and get help from a physician.
- Most of them have phthalates, triclosan, and parabens which are known endocrine disruptors i.e. they get absorbed into our body and mimic the body’s natural hormone which can increase or decrease hormone levels. In short, they can cause hormonal imbalance (pretty scary!!).
- Do you get breakouts a few days after wiping off your makeup using makeup wipes? That is because makeup wipes DO NOT remove all of the gunk. They have been formulated to breakdown the organic matter of the makeup so the oil, waxes, and other residues of the makeup cannot be removed using makeup wipes, which then sits on your pores, clogs them, causing breakout after few days. If you have acne-prone skin, makeup wipes can be a contributing factor (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2 – Skin under a microscope with makeup on (left) and the same skin under the microscope after ‘removing’ makeup using makeup wipes (Right). Look at all the glitters that barely got removed and not to mention the clear picture of clogged pores (in yellow circles near hair follicles on the right). When I said we can view our skin under the microscope, I was not kidding!!
- They cause over-exfoliation. These wipes mostly work as a mechanical exfoliator and usually, people already use some sort of exfoliation in their skincare, so this may cause over-exfoliation leading to an imbalance of the acid mantle of the skin. Basically, the pH of the skin gets imbalanced.
- Now the most important point – most makeup wipes are made up of non-biodegradable plastic fibers which means that after you dispose them, they stay on even after you are gone. How many wipes do you use in a month? If I assume you use them daily, then 30? In a year? 30×12 i.e 360. Now multiply that by how long you have been using them. That is how many wipes used by YOU have landed up on landfills, water bodies, ocean, or worse – consumed by an animal and killed it. That is YOUR, a single person’s contribution to this planet.
Fig. 3 – Tons of wipes found clogged in the sewer treatment plants daily worldwide. Just because they say ‘flushable’ doesn’t mean toss it down the toilet, y’all!! (PC-dfw.cbslocal.com)
One group estimates 20 million pounds of single-use wipes (including baby wipes and disinfecting wipes) are being disposed of every day in the U.S. What’s worse is that some are actually individually wrapped in plastic, doubling the waste. Of course, that’s just a landfill, many people end up flushing them down the toilet which is devastating for the sewer system since they cause a massive blockage (even if they claim to be “flushable” they are not, Fig.3). Cities, sewer providers, and wastewater treatment plants are suffering massive blockages caused by flushed wipes which are not only gross by also exposed humans and animals to unhealthy bacteria. And those that can’t be removed during wastewater treatment end up in oceans and beaches. Have you ever complained about how beaches look dirty? That doesn’t happen automatically, we are the reason behind it.
Those big companies who want to sell you their makeup wipe stating they are biodegradable or alcohol-free or harsh chemical-free, always remember, anything that you have to rub and scratch on your skin, is extremely harsh for your skin. Unless you want to tear open your skin and welcome the surface bacteria inside your skin, DO NOT USE MAKEUP WIPES. Those big companies, all they care about is making a profit and so that you stick to their product no matter what. Don’t fall for that.
So what is the alternative?? Double cleansers. Those are far safer for your skin and Mother Earth. Reusable cotton pads are also widely available in the markets and online shopping apps. Reusable cotton pads, on the plus side, can be reused as many times as you want. Still, want a more economical option? Take an old cotton t-shirt, cut it in circles, sew two circular pieces together and voila, you have now saved your skin and Mother Earth at the same time. Use it, wash it, dry it, and repeat!! Put your money where your morals are!! PS: One of the most important things this year has taught us is to give the respect Mother Nature deserves from us.
Sorry, But Makeup Wipes Are the Actual Worst by Amber Rambharose, August 23, 2017, Glamour.com.
Do Makeup Wipes Clean Your Face Properly? Dermatologists Weigh In. by Julia Brucculieri, August 11, 2018, huffpost.com.
Are Makeup Wipes Bad? 5 Skincare Mistakes We All Make by Susan Yara, March 13, 2019, Mixed Makeup.