By far and away the very first thing consumers do when evaluating a new cosmetic product is smell the emulsion. Smell is a powerful sense, and fragrance elicits so many emotional responses. Cosmetics companies know that consumers respond to fragrances in a way that compels them to shop. One of the most researched (for marketing ability) ingredient categories is fragrance. Last year, I read a report on how Biotherm spent literally millions of dollars to develop the fragrance used in their Skin Vivo line. The fragrance was developed to make consumers think of youth when smelling it.
There's a real problem with fragrances in cosmetics, however—almost always, fragrances create reactions on the skin that lead to more cellular damage than the overall product is helping prevent.
The way fragrance is released in a cosmetic formula is always through a volatile reaction of evaporation. This will almost always cause serious inflammation on the skin—if not visible, then at the microscopic level. Any time the skin is inflamed it will go into vaso-constriction, thus preventing the active ingredients from penetrating the skin and, of course, doing the job for which they were designed.
This inflammation causes several physical changes in the skin:
1. Collagen breakdown
2. Free radical damage
3. Inhibits natural healing processes
4. Inhibits natural defenses against bacteria and microbes
5. For sensitive skins it will even increase visible redness
Fragrance is not always readily detected in cosmetics either—often masking agents are used to disguise the natural smell of the active ingredients (which often have really unpleasant smells). These masking agents are so "clean" smelling that often consumers think the product is fragrance-free.
Natural oils are no better—the vast majority of fragrant plant oils are incredibly volatile by nature. Some can be as damaging as synthetic compounds.
Does this mean every fragrance in every product is harmful to the skin?
No, of course not. Chances are, however, the compounds that are being used include many of the oils which are.
As a consumer, it becomes important to read the ingredient labels carefully to avoid harmful fragrance compounds. Fragrances are responsible for some 80% of all known allergic reactions to cosmetics. If you have had difficulty with cosmetics causing irritation, one of the best ways to solve this problem is to seek out fragrance-free cosmetics.
Remember not all fragrance compounds are harmful. For example, Rose Oil is one of the most healing and hydrating ingredients used in cosmetics.
Here is my list of the most commonly used fragrance compounds to avoid in cosmetics—look for these words on ingredient lists:
Being "Scentsitive" to fragrance is no joke. Many people can actually suffer an anaphylactic reaction as a result of exposure. So, how can you help?
One of my favourite things about my job is working with super talented women. Sharron Matthews is one of the most fun people I have ever collaborated with. It's a little odd to me that I actually know her, because, while she never actually knew it, she was an inspirational part of my love of theatre, which in turn led me to makeup, which in turn led me to becoming DTB/Beauty: BUSTED!
I must have been 17 or so the very first time I saw Les Miserables, the musical. I remember how fortunate I was, because I got to sit third row for a cast dress rehearsal. My Sunday school teacher's daughter was in the cast and he got a bunch of tickets and he took our whole Sunday school class to see the show. I had never seen a major musical before. I had always dreamed of seeing one, but, of course, tickets were expensive even back then (I remember seeing an ad for Phantom of the Opera, and begging my mother for tickets that were $100 each—she, of course, thought I had gone insane). So when I was offered a chance to see Les Mis, I was over the moon. There were two performers I remember from that night—sitting in the dark at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium—Louise Pitre performing Fantine, and Sharron Matthews performing Mrs. Thenardier. Both the opposite end of the spectrum (one full drama, the other comic indulgence), and I will never forget that night. When the curtain came down I was in full tears, I jumped up and was clapping so loudly, the sweet senior lady sitting next to me just whispered, "You enjoyed that, didn't you, Dear."
Les Mis is still my all time favourite show—I have seen it dozens of times, but none of the productions have been as magical as that night. I remember the music, the lights, the costumes, but mostly I remember the makeup. I kept looking from the pictures of the actors in the program to the people they played on stage, and I just thought, "How can makeup do that?" They looked so different on stage.
It wasn't long after that that I embarked on my journey into the world of makeup, but that night was part of the very beginning of my fascination with colour, paint, and textures.
Sharron was there, but of course it wasn't until decades later that I actually met her. Her ability to make people laugh is her gift to the world and besides from being an accomplished actor, Sharron has performed around the world as a cabaret performer. In fact, in 2010 her one woman show was named the #1 cabaret act in New York City.
This talent from Hamilton has been seen in movies, such as Mean Girls (with Tina Fey, Lindsay Lohan, and Rachel McAdams), Cinderella Man (with Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger), Hairspray (with John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer), and The Music Man (with Matthew Broderick and Kristen Chenoweth). Sharron is also one of the stars of Canada Sings on Global TV.
Recently, I asked this dynamo what beauty means to her:
"I would like to think that beauty and personal style mashes up this way, for this gal—fun, funky, and functional during the day, cocktail dresses, heelsc and sass at night!
I have learned that beauty is finding the way to feeling wonderful in your skin exactly as you are that day. Not worrying about the waist size or the blemish . . . but loving and accepting yourself as is. I know we have all heard this 100 times, but we can never hear it enough.
Curves are key. I don't pick things that hide my curves . . . I like to buy things that lie ever so perfectly around them. Comfort in beauty and fashion is also key. Even if you are in a cocktail dress and/or high heels, there is no reason that is should be torture. I don't like to subscribe to the "if it looks good it might just have to hurt" mentality. Lord, no.
I like spending a couple hours in the makeup store (I say the "makeup store," because I don't wanna say where, because I wish that I lived in TO so the "makeup store" could be Dan Thompson's house) looking for the perfect matt lipstick. ALSO the perfect red. Which is such a challenge to find. And Lise Watier just came out with a new line. It goes on like silk and stays on like . . . like . . . well . . . like I always hoped it would (lasts for a whole stage show, my friends). I picked "gourmand velours." A bit red, a bit orange. So perfect. I take it everywhere."
Sharron is the cabaret-artist-in-residence at Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto. She can be seen next performing with Gavin Crawford in "Gavin Crawford and Sharron Matthews are Vicious Bitches!" The King of Monologue and the Queen of Songologue together for the first time. One has killer Elaine Stritch stories, the other has Elaine Stritch legs, but you have to see the show to know who has which!
Tickets are available now and I will be there laughing my ass off!
Check out what beauty means to these other amazing women . . .
One of the most under-appreciated cosmetics is brown mascara. I am a huge fan of brown mascara, and I happen to think every woman should own both black and brown mascara. While most women opt for black, brown is a subtle change that allows the wearer to create soft definition for that "no makeup makeup" look. And all in just two quick steps:
Step 1. Using a soft brown eyeliner draw a line tight to the root of the eyelash. Don't worry about being precise, because this line will be blended and smudged down to create soft colour.
Step 2. Apply brown mascara to the top lashes only—not the bottom. Apply to the back of the lash first—this will create pliability and allow the natural curl of the lash to happen. Then apply to the underside and remember to coat the mascara form the root to tip of the lash for a perfectly polished effect.
For me, makeup is about creating fast and easy finishes for women on the go, with precision products that allow applying makeup to be effortless.
I spend many weeks a year making personal appearances to teach these techniques, and whenever I make a personal appearance you can have a personal one-on-one appointment with me absolutely free of charge. (In my studio I normally charge $250 for a one hour makeup lesson).
Join me, and the Daniel Thompson Beauty experts, at each of these locations for the most comprehensive makeup lessons . . . all free of charge! Call to reserve your personal appointment with me right now.
My summer schedule of appearances:
June 19: Whitby, Ontario, Newskin Laser and MediSpa, 3500 Brock Street North, (905) 666-0772
June 21: Toronto, Ontario, Paramedical Skin Health, 2120 Queen Street East, (416) 916 7375
July 10: Ottawa, Ontario, The Loft, 380 Elgin Street, (613) 232 0202
For more beauty tips, check out The No-Fuss Home Manicure and Makeup For Beginners.