02/08/2013 14:42 BST | Updated 02/10/2013 06:12 BST

What's in Your Beauty Products? Eight Ingredients You Wouldn't Expect to Put on Your Face


The beauty industry is constantly growing, with a cream for every age, skin problem and time of day. Like many women these days, I love the idea of a new cream that could be the solution to all my skin problems or a mascara that extends each individual eye lash. But do we ever really know what we are putting on our faces and some of the strange ingredients that may potential be in our daily routines? Here are eight of the most bizarre that you probably would never have thought to put near, never mind on, your face.

1. Placenta.

A substance that is potentially hazardous when applied to the skin and therefore subject to stringent restrictions, it is used as an ingredient in many beauty and hair treatments. Usually it is sheep placenta cells, although in 2008 before the most recent review of guidelines for cosmetic products, a woman accused the NHS of having sold her placenta to a cosmetic firm to use in luxury shampoo and anti- wrinkle cream.

2. Cochineal Dye/Carmine.

A small insect, which cosmetic companies use in products such as bright red lipsticks. Cochineal dye is extracted by drying and pulverising bodies of female insects. They can also be found in blusher and face powders as they produce a staining effect, which makes crimson colours last longer. The dye is not only used in cosmetics it is also commonly used in foods listed as E120, although this has become less acceptable due to worries over food colourings, perhaps its time to start question what we put on our faces as well as in it.

3. Cholesterol.

Often used as a conditioning agent, yes that's right the artery clogging lipid. It can be found in face creams and hair products, although it is only allowed in very small doses.

4. Whale Stomach Lining.

The technical name for this is Ambergris and it is found in some perfumes. Ambergris is excreted from Sperm Whales and collected floating beside shores around the world. However, if you have already reached for your bottle of perfume to check its ingredients these days it is a very rare to find it in a fragrance, with traders being put off by its expense.

5. Snake Venom.

This can be found in some anti-ageing products with it being that snakes use their venom to parlayse their prey, so cosmetic scientists now believe in small amounts it can be used as a way of smoothing out human skin. Although I would like to spare a thought for the people trying to extract the venom, I'm not sure beauty should involve that much pain.

6. Roadkill/Slaughterhouse Animals.

It is claimed that companies use the unwanted elements from slaughterhouses and the road side in lipsticks, eye shadow and soap as an adhesive type substance. This is possibly one of those long running urban myths as companies do not seem that willing to admit the clear cut use of animal remains in products. But supposedly cheaper brands use animal bits straight from the slaughterhouse and into various toiletry products.

7. Fish Scales.

The shimmering nature of fish has meant that it has been used as an ingredient for nail varnish. Most commonly it is the scales of a herring, although it is unclear whether this is for it shiny properties or just because it is more co-operative to scrape.

8. Bird Poo-Face Cream/Facial.

Also known as the 'Geisha' facial, because of its Japanese origins it was very popular with Geishas since ancient times. Maybe the strangest of them all, as this is no hidden ingredient, people elect to have this smothered on their faces because of its apparent skin enriching properties. Victoria Beckham is said to be a fan of this cream, which in price at least is a luxury item (the facial will set you back around £120 a session). The cream uses only the best nightingale poo (it is known in Japan as 'Uguisu no fun' literally translated as Nightingale feces), which it is claimed, rejuvenates the skin leaving it smooth and shiny.

Ironically it appears to be the more luxury brands that contained a lot of these odd ingredients. The good news is that as of 2009 strict regulations have been in place stating that

"a company may use any ingredient, other than color additives and those ingredients banned from use in cosmetics through regulation, as long the completed product and its ingredients is safe, is properly labeled."

So anything you don't fancy putting on your face will at least be listed on the label. The question is what lengths would you go to when it comes to eliminating crows-feet? Although if it's the secret of Posh Spice's apparent eternal youth, get me to the nearest poo face-cream manufacturer.