National Post - That lipstick on his collar is safe


(Op-ed by Joe Schwarcz): These days having expertise in a subject is not a requirement for writing about it. Cosmetic chemistry is a complex business even for experts, and struggling fruitfully with its nuances is way beyond the capabilities of a magazine editor and a fashion consultant. But books about toxic chemicals and callous corporations sell. Books about unfounded alarmist claims don't.

No More Dirty Looks is really a book about biology, chemistry and toxicology, written by authors who have no background in any of these fields. So it isn't a great surprise that the book comes off as an essentially unscientific attack on the cosmetics industry. The authors' conviction that cosmetics contain toxic chemicals was triggered by their discovery that a hair-treatment product contained formaldehyde. Formaldehyde's use in embalming makes it easy to vilify, even though that fact has absolutely nothing to do with evaluating its risk in cosmetics.