Every morning, she uses an array of products in the shower, ranging
from shower gels and exfoliating scrubs to 'body building' lotions
to give life to her fine hair.
Her make-up regime includes blusher, bronzer, eyeliner, eye
shadow and mascara, and she never leaves the house without covering
her head in a thick cloud of hairspray.
Her 24-year-old sister Emma, a personal trainer, follows a
similar routine, but she also has an obsession with lipgloss: she
owns 60 different ones and touches up her lips every few minutes.
In a bid to ensure she always has fresh breath, Emma also cleans
her teeth seven times a day and carries a tube of toothpaste in her
handbag, which she rubs into her teeth and gums at almost hourly
Between them, the two girls get through four cans of deodorant a
week, and spend £1,000 a month on cosmetics.
"We have been into cosmetics since we reached our teens," says
"We're the sort of people who rush out to buy a new mascara just
because it claimed to do more for our eyelashes than any other
"I'm a complete sucker for anything that says it can make me look
or feel better, or that is endorsed by a celebrity."
And Charlotte and Emma are not alone. Last year, Britons spent
£6.4billion on cosmetics and grooming products, with the average
woman applying 12 toiletries every day.
But here's the rub - these toiletries can bring with them at
least 175 chemical compounds.
A recent study found that British women are one of the heaviest
users of cosmetics in Europe and, as a result, we ingest through our
skin, and occasionally through the mouth, up to 5lb of chemicals a
Take Emma's favourite fuzzy peach lipgloss for instance: she
loves its colour and the fact it 'tastes nice', but according to the
list of ingredients, it contains 28 manmade chemicals.
Her deodorant contains 26 chemicals and Charlotte's hairspray has
Of course, the manufacturers would say these chemicals and
resulting products are safe, but a growing school of thought begs to
As part of a new television documentary, presented by Sarah Beeny
(who for the past two years has been on a personal mission to remove
as many chemicals from her lifestyle as possible), Charlotte and
Emma agreed to have their blood and urine tested for a selection of
chemicals found in their cosmetics.
They were then challenged to live without their beauty products
for eight days, swopping everything for natural chemical-free
They also stopped using domestic cleaning products.
The results will surprise even those who find it hard to believe
that everyday cosmetics could really be doing us any harm.
Certainly, both sisters did not think there would be anything
potentially dangerous in their make-up bags.
"The ridiculous thing is that I've always tried to avoid
chemicals whenever I can," says Emma.
"I always buy organic food.
"I never in a million years thought I could be exposed to
chemicals which could damage me through my make-up.
"Make-up makes me feel good and it wouldn't have even crossed my
mind that it could be doing me harm."
Cosmetics contain many different kinds of chemicals, but of
particular concern are a group of preservatives called parabens,
which by some estimates are found in 99per cent of all 'leave on'
cosmetics, and 77per cent of 'rinse off' cosmetics.
These are known hormone disruptors: evidence suggests they can
mimic the female hormone oestrogen, and a lifetime of increased
exposure to oestrogen is linked to a heightened risk of breast
One study found parabens present in 18 out of 20 breast cancer
tissue samples (though it is important to note that the study did
not prove they'd actually caused the breast cancer).
Parabens are also thought to adversely affect male reproductive
Another troubling chemical is the antibacterial agent and
pesticide triclosan, which is used in toothpastes, soaps, household
cleaning products and body washes.
It belongs to the chlorophenol class of chemicals, which are
suspected of causing cancer in humans and taken internally, even in
small amounts, can cause cold sweats, circulatory problems and - in
extreme cases - coma.
Also of concern are phthalates, a substance that gives our
lotions that silky, creamy, texture, but which are also a
'plasticiser' used to make plastics flexible.
Certain phthalates are known carcinogens, and studies have
suggested they damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and the reproductive
system, as well as affecting the development of unborn baby boys.
The list goes on. Sodium laureth sulphate, a frequent ingredient
in shower gels and shampoos, is a skin irritant; Propylene glycol,
found in soap, blushers and make-up remover, has been shown in large
quantities to depress the central nervous system to make it function
less effectively, and aluminum in deodorants is linked to breast
cancer by medical research.
And did you know that certain eye shadows contain arsenic?
One thing is for sure: few of us would want to rub any of these
chemicals into our eyes, far less ingest them in liquids by drinking
Yet, every day, we rub them into our skin, and allow them to
enter our bodies.
Given the facts, it's hardly surprising that a growing number of
experts believe these substances have a cumulative effect on our
They think the 'chemical cocktail' inside us is contributing to
the increased frequency of a host of illnesses ranging from eczema
to cancers as well as developmental problems such as autism and
"It's difficult to see the link between chemicals in cosmetics
and damage to health unless you stand back and look at the wider
picture," says Dr Paula Baillie-Hamilton, author of Toxic Overload
and supporter of the campaign group Chemical Safe Skincare.
"Man-made chemicals first emerged 100years ago, and every decade
since, the overall production of these synthetic chemicals has
"We are surrounded by chemicals: in the air, in our food, in our
water and especially in our cosmetics, and the fact is that our
bodies can't break many of these substances down.