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9 Seriously Questionable Cosmetics Ingredients

9 Seriously Questionable Cosmetics Ingredients

Snails,  Beetles, Beavers, Foreskins. If you ever needed a reason to move to natural cosmetics, read this

If the rising tide of micro beads wasn't enough to convince you, some of these common icky animal by-products found in cosmetics and beauty products just might.

Who are these people anyway? What kind of person discovers that a snail trail might make a good face mask? Or a Beaver's bum secretions could become a versatile flavouring. Or some random beetle belly is good for colouring things rich red? And chicken feet are full of collagen and rooster combs are a good source of hyalauronic acid.

Well, these ingredients sources are not only real, they are also very common.

To help you make better decisions about your beauty immersion regime, this list discloses some of the more questionable ingredients found in commercially marketed beauty products.

They are all, by definition, perfectly 'natural' and unless you are a vegan or squeamish, presumably won't harm you. But I am pretty sure you won't find any of them in the Body Shop


Snail Trail

First up, snail trail. Seriously, it seems that everyone except me is slapping snail trails on their cheeks and unlike some other product ingredients, this one is so popular, it's marketed for exactly what it is.

Names like Dermal Snail Collagen Essence Mask or Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream  leave no doubt about ingredients, so when you use these products, you would be pretty sure that they are literally sliding that snail trail right on across your face. 

Snail masks are seemingly as common as cucumber masks for those in the know. Which is kind of cool if you have a vege garden. Pick a cucumber or choose a snail.

But beauty is a serious business, at least economically, so best we get down to 'the facts'. Apparently Chondroitin Sulfuric Acid is found in Snail Secretion Extract and it is said to help regenerate skin cells and make troubled skin elastic and smooth. Having seen a few snails in my time, that seems to make sense as it certainly appears to be working for them.


This is an oldie, but a persistent goodie. Pretty much anyone who grew up calling red food colouring cochineal would have been eating crushed cochineal beetle. The beetle's body and eggs contain carminc acid which is mixed with aluminium or calcium salts to make carmine dye, which is then used in food, drinks and lipstick

Baby Foreskins Stem Cells

If this is news to you, well you are in for a big surprise! Foreskin derived stem cell products are in a number of skincare products, usually referred to as Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF).

A couple of scientists won a Nobel Prize in 1986 for discovering that EGF promoted wound healing so it's pretty easy to see how the beauty industry got wind of it. EGF is derived from human tissues, including skin, kidneys and foreskins.

Apparently its application twice a day dramatically improves skin texture, spotting and wrinkles. It's in all kinds of products, mostly identified as EGF. (As opposed to BFSC).

Fish Scales

The shimmer or pearlescence you find in nail polish, lipsticks and body lotions is either a microplastic, or if you are lucky, it's silver shiny substance found in fish scales, most often Herring. 


Shellfish shells are often used to make Glucosamine, an anti-inflammatory that is also thought to be moisturising, and which is used an all kinds of cosmetics. 

Chicken Feet

Collagen is in heaps of skin care products, especially anti aging ones as collagen loss is responsible for much of the visible signs of aging. Most collagen in skincare creams comes from chicken feet and ground-up animal horns.

There is considerable debate around whether collagen's use makes any difference at all to skin because of it's limited absorption opportunity, but apart from Yum Cha on Sundays, I don't know if there's a big call for chicken feet in anything else. 

Rooster Combs

Rooster combs are the major source of Hyalauronic Acid or Hyaluronan, an anti-oxidant and humectant that apparently boost collagen synthesis is used in anti aging products.

Beaver's Bum

Beavers store Castoreum near their anal glands, which they combine with urine to mark their territory in the wild.  Castoreum is extracted and typically used as a natural flavouring in processed food, perfumes or to give anything a 'natural' raspberry, vanilla or strawberry flavour.  How's that Chapstick? 

Urine | Urea

Anyone who has ever watched Bear Grylls knows the wonders of drinking your own urine. Bear Grylls aside, urine therapy is a thing. It is well known to treat cuts and abrasions because of it's anti viral and anti bacterial qualities.

Urea, a byproduct of urine, is used widely in all kinds of beauty products to make your skin soft and supple, extend product shelf life, and increase the effectiveness of other ingredients in a product.

The truth is that most urea now is synthetic, so you probably aren't lathering in anyone's pee. Synthetic urea is made from ammonia and carbon dioxide. (Which kind of makes that pee sound not so bad.)

Common Sense

Common sense is arguably an ingredient missing from several beauty products. In all fairness, some things do work, buy many are rubbish. While a lot of beauty decisioning is very personal, what isn't a personal truth, but a fact, is that much of the content in the beauty industry is bought to you by central marketing so the motivation is all screwed up.

Many natural beauty products are designed and overseen by their founders who are passionate first for your good health. 

Images: Unsplash: Atikh Bana  | Hisu Lee | Pascal Van de vendel / Beetle: Sprudge / Unsplash: Peter Secan | Igor Ovsyannyko | Jordan Opel / Beaver: Shutterstock 
Something incorrect here? Suggest an update below:
Science Notes
If anyone can enlighten us on the real scientific necessity of snail trail, foreskin stem cells, rooster combs, chicken feet, fish scales, beetles, shellfish shells, beaver secretions or urea in beauty products, we'd love to publish them 

right here. 
Related Tip

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last year announced that it is cutting its recommended sugar intake for adults in half, from the original 10% of daily calories to 5%. 

For an average weight adult, that’s about 25 grams or 6 teaspoons a day. That amount will shock many Australians, who, on average eat 27 teaspoons of total sugars a day (including natural sugars).