Chemical Coolness: Anti-Capitalists in Makeup and Hair Dye by Kirsten Anderberg
Chemical Coolness: Anti-Capitalists in Makeup and Hair Dye
By Kirsten Anderberg (www.kirstenanderberg.com) - July 17, 2004
I am trying to figure out why so many of my friends who are eco-conscious,
anti-capitalist, and anti-authoritarian, wear tons of toxic chemicals and corporate beauty
products in the form of hair bleach and dye and face makeup. The pollution created from the
making of the toxins on many an anarchists' head is equal to an SUV's pollution, I would
guess. I do not believe all of the counterculture is buying bio-friendly hair bleach. Does
that even exist? And I also know that a lot of the counter culture is buying cheap hair
dye, full of toxic chemicals not only in the dye itself, but in the output in pollution in
the making of those hair dyes at chemical factories. Additionally, most punks and
anarchists I know cannot afford the designer organic face makeup available in health food
stores. Many of them use cheap chemical cosmetic products, such as Maybelline. But even
"health" products are made in polluting factories. "Tom's Toothpaste" makes it sound
like he is making that stuff in a stream in his backyard. But I have heard from people
who have visited the town Tom's factory is in, and Tom's toothpaste is made in a
factory, polluting like all factories do. I have been trying to figure out for decades
now, why buying a bunch of chemical crap from corporations, then smearing it on your
face, is considered radical or anti-establishment in any way.
Why is it so many anarcho-feminists still pluck their eyebrows off and draw them back
on with a corporate-made chemical "eyebrow pencil" they have to buy at a store? Most
people do not understand how many women pluck their eyebrows off and draw them back on.
It is something like 98% of American women, from what I can tell. I have actually done
casual studies on this. Once on a bus in Seattle, I looked at every woman's eyebrows
that got on the bus, try this the next time you ride a bus. I found that *every*, and I
mean *every* woman on this crowded bus had plucked her eyebrows off and drawn them back
on! What a cash cow! To get all women in America thinking they need to buy "eyebrow
pencils" to have eyebrows, after they pluck their own eyebrows off (with tweezers they
have to buy) is truly a business scam that is royal. Who would have ever thought it
would have worked?
Elizabethan women used to use white lead face paint for their beauty standards. And
they used mercury sulphide as rouge. The white lead made their hair fall out, which is
why high foreheads were in fashion in the Elizabethan period, as their hairlines were
receding from trying to have chalky white faces. Sulphuric acid and rhubarb juice was
also used in this era as a hair tonic and lightener, which also caused hair loss. Galen,
a Greek philosopher, said, "women who often paint themselves with mercury, though they
be very young, they presently turn old and withered and have wrinkled faces like apes."
And I have seen the degradation of skin on women in America due to makeup use also.
I used to sit and watch my sister spend an hour taking off all the chemicals on her face
to "look beautiful," and when all that stuff came off, she had a swollen, puffed up,
chalky white face, with no eyebrows. She looked like a *freak* without her makeup after
such overuse of it. And we'd get up the next morning and I would watch her put on all
that chemical crap again for another hour.
When I was 19, I was in Seattle's top Motown band, with 12 members. I was one of
three backup singers. I was recruited for the group as a woman who was healthy, wore no
makeup, usually wore jeans and a sleeveless undershirt, and sang like a mutherf*cker.
But as time wore on, I was asked to start wearing makeup and high heels. I asked why I
would do that. I was told that you cannot see my face in the audience from stage if I
did not wear makeup. Well, we had a whole band full of men, including a horn section up
front, who also sang, and not a single one of them wore makeup. How is it the male face
could be seen from stage without makeup, but the female faces turned invisible onstage
without makeup? I tried it one night. I wore high heels and nearly fell to my death off
the stage over and over. With 12 people on a stage, there was no room for high heels!
And then the makeup kept bugging me. My eyes were stinging and watering from the mascara
and eye shadow, my lips tasted gross from the lipstick, I felt like a robot idiot woman.
I was unable to play the sex-look that requires makeup and high heels and left the band,
forming a very successful feminist comedy duo, inspired by the sexism in the Motown band.
We sang about how stupid makeup is in my next band. We wrote songs, like "Message from
the Media" that said, "Girls have got to look a certain way, or else, they ain't a-okay.
You gotta wear the right makeup on your face, or else, you're grossin' out the whole
human race. Forget about the beauty that comes from within, to be beautiful, be anorexic
It is not clear to me if this putting fake eyebrows on, instead of leaving your own
eyebrows on, is based on this lead poisoning that made people's hair fall out. In Roman
times, they glued dyed goat skins on their faces for eyebrows. So dyed goat skin is
preferable to your own eyebrows why again? Perhaps, since their head hair fell out from
toxic makeup, their eyebrows also fell out, so the tradition of drawing the eyebrows on
was created then. But I see that makeup predates the Elizabethan age. And I also see
that makeup has been toxic forever, it seems. Lipstick first appeared in Babylon, and
the Egyptians used eye makeup made of a metal named antimony, that was made into pencils.
Yet the remains of makeup found in tombs show that many of the ingredients in the
makeup were lead sulphites and charcoal, which would have irritated the eyes.
In the Renaissance, women glued black circles of velvet on their face as "beauty
marks" to hide blemishes and warts. It is fascinating to me that people would not see
pieces of fabric glued to one's face as silly and so obviously *not* a "beauty mark." Or
that one could glue dyed goat's skin on as eyebrows and everyone would think how
superior that looks to normal eyebrows. But I look around me at anarchist meetings, at
counterculture events, and I see the same type of phenomenon. I see *most* young women
with plucked eyebrows, drawn back on, with chemicals. I also see these women using
irritating things on their eyelashes as mascara. Most men do not realize all the beauty
things women do to look "natural." Most women seem to wear mascara, yet most men do not
realize that most women wear it. And most women pluck their eyebrows off and draw them
Now, as a feminist, and an anti-capitalist, and a nonconformist, what could be more
radical than cutting the chemical makeup complex off and *not* buying once cent of
chemical makeup? And what could be more feminist than saying that I will wear makeup
once 98% of the men wear makeup to look "natural" and "beautiful," on a daily basis,
24/7? And what could be more non-conformist, than *not* playing into the corporate
chemical makeup trap, even if it is considered "uncool," as you do not look "hip" and
in anarchist fashion? I have opted, as an environmentalist, to *not* wear chemical
"beauty" products. I would prefer to be "ugly" than made up with chemical "beauty"
products. I am choosing health over fashion and coolness. I am choosing comfort over
fashion and coolness. I am choosing to spend my time and money on things like supporting
the revolution, instead of spending $50 a month, and 60+ hours a month, on chemical face
makeup sold by corporations. I can write 30 articles in the time it takes most women to
put on their face makeup monthly. I would prefer to give money to the alternative press
to keep it going, than to have chemically bleached hair with a cool green hue. Fashion
and coolness, created by industry and chemicals, is not my idea of cool.
Kirsten Anderberg. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint/publish, please contact Kirsten at firstname.lastname@example.org.