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Dr. Kestner: Bat poop? In Mascara? You’re kidding, right?

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“No, really!” The Arbonne salesperson assured me. “Our products are all natural. Other major brands of mascara contain bat poop. That’s what gives them that sheen.”

That line just seemed too far-fetched to me. It wasn’t the first time I had heard it, though. In fact, I overheard an Arbonne seller telling someone else the same thing a couple of years ago.

Arbonne is a multi-level marketing company that features cosmetics, nutritional supplements and other products. The company was founded in Switzerland in the 1970s.

Arbonne has become quite trendy of late and is growing very quickly. As more people look for additional income during challenging economic times, the company is likely to continue their rapid growth. The company appears to be successful and has some very attractive products. Their primary marketing position is that their products are more “natural” that those of their competition.

The person I was speaking with is an independent distributor of their products. Although I doubted the story about the bat guano, I wondered whether it originated from corporate Arbonne or was simply a zealous exaggeration from an independent seller.

For this story I attempted to contact the Arbonne Company by e-mailing them from their corporate Web site, but as of my deadline date, I have not heard from them. I have found no indication that Arbonne endorses the story about the bat poop.

You might be interested at this point to learn what I found out about how mascara is actually made.

Since most mascara is very dark or black, it should come as no surprise that carbon black is often a prime ingredient to help achieve the look. Iron oxide (rust) has also been used for brown tones. There are a number of pigments that have been used over the centuries to produce the various shades of eyelash enhancers.

The modern history of mascara credits the founder of Maybelline with the invention of “modern” mascara. T.L Williams is said to have invented the product for his sister, Maybel. Maybelline now claims to be the No. 1 cosmetic line in the world.

Eye makeup goes back at least to ancient Egypt. Remember Cleopatra? She wore mascara and eyeliner, but so did many Egyptian men at the time.

Ever see images of the ancient Egyptian royalty? Legend has it that they wore the dark eye makeup to ward off evil spirits. I wonder if they might have also blackened the skin around the eye to deal with bright sunlight, in the same way athletes do today.

One legend also contends that they used crocodile dung as a base for eye makeup.

What do you think? Myth or fact?

The Egyptians were smart enough to build the pyramids, devise a complex and functional written language, and develop a highly skilled workforce and central government. It is obvious that since they had fire available, they also had charcoal and carbon black. Hmmm. Are they more likely to have used carbon black or crocodile dung to rub in their eyes? I’ll let you decide that one for yourself.

Legends are often more fallacy than facts. Such is the case with the urban legend of the bat guano being used by modern mascara companies.

Let’s think that one through. Modern cosmetic companies have research scientists, color specialists, massive warehouses full of natural and synthetically produced pigments and other materials. Oh yeah, they also have lawyers.

Is it more likely that they would develop their highly competitive products using synthesized products that are safe, easily produced, and consistent from batch to batch, or that they would send out buyers across the globe in search of the perfect blend of bat poop and sit around and wait for the lawsuits?

The answer, of course, is that the legend is pure myth. Modern mascaras are composed of many various ingredients. But no bat poop.

Next week, I’ll tell you about a tall tale titled “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie”. This was the title of an audiotape that was widely distributed a few years ago to sell colloidal minerals. Some claims were true, some were false. I’ll reveal the whole story next week.

Dr. Mark Kestner
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