My grandmother celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by a large crowd of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Bewilderment seemed to have the upper hand every time she was congratulated with reaching the milestone. “One hundred years old….” she murmured contentedly, and you could see her drifting back to memories of the little girl who clattered through the Frisian village on her wooden clogs almost a century earlier. Her back was mis-formed like an old apple tree, and her dark-blue party dress hung on her body like a scarecrow. But what really impressed us grandchildren was her deeply-lined face. Deeply furrowed, like a crumpled-up piece of paper.
When I reached the respectable age of 30, my friends teased me with a jar of Oil of Olaz to fight off my rapidly approaching old age. On the TV, the product was highly recommended by a lady in her fifties with the skin of a twenty year old. It was not quite clear how she managed that: “The secret of a young skin is the secret of Olaz”.
Cosmetics manufacturers seem totally dedicated to wrinkle-free feminine skin. Year after year, new potions appear on the market that seem to promise an everlastingly youthful skin. The website promises visible results if I religiously anoint myself with Olaz Total Effects for a period of 28 days. And there are photos to prove it, the “before” and “after”.
At the request of the Plastic Soup Foundation, the VU University Amsterdam tested one of the anti-wrinkle creams (Olaz SPF15 moisturiser day cream). The result? Every jar contains about 1.5 million tiny bits of polyethylene: in other words, plastic. Each time you use the cream, you rub about 90.000 bits of plastic onto your face.
Chances are that you swallow some of the plastic if you get it on your lips or there’s some left on your fingers. The plastic particles that the researchers found are so small that they could make their way through your intestinal wall and end up in your blood or your organs. Whether that really happens, and the consequences for your health if it is indeed the case, is as yet unknown.
The present I received on my 30th is still in the cupboard, untouched. I value it as a fond memory. It may serve to keep my spirit young, but not my skin. My skin is beginning to show the tell-tale signs of a 50-plusser from before the Olaz generation: contentedly on its way to resembling a screwed-up piece of paper, plastic-free paper.
(Photo: Jeroen Gosse)