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The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

Radioactive Cosmetics

Radiating Beauty

Progress is a fact in every human endeavour. Cars are getting faster, or at least more efficient. Bicycle manufacturers are making them ever lighter. Records have ever greater sound depths and fidelity. Make-up is making us ever more beautiful. Well, in a way…

Tho-Radia tin, prominently displaying the quasi medical name, Dr Alfred Curie

Tho-Radia tin, prominently displaying the quasi medical name, Dr Alfred Curie

Equally pleasant to any of the women’s products was The Scrotal Radiendocrinator. Any man looking to restore reproductive function could employ this irradiated scrotum soak.

Recently there have been several scares in the predominantly pseudo-scientific beauty industrypoisoned breasts, faces contaminated with nano-particles and infected, burnt-off faces. Scientists are crying out to help.

But how about harnessing the vivacious power of radiation?

Sounds enticing doesn’t it? Imagine immersing your entire being in an invisible radioactive haze. You could peel off untold layers of skin, to reveal the beautiful, young skin underneath. You could invigorate yourself from the inside out. Radioactive substances were used for all manner of consumer goods, as shown in this slideshow from Environmental Graffiti, but beauty products, topically applied, must be among the most concerning.

Until the 1930s, Tho-Radia was a french face cream fortified with both thorium and radium. Much like Clarins’ Rashid Enamany, Tho-Radia had its own fictional boffin; Dr Alfred Curie had no links to the discoverers of radiation.

Similar creams were marketed to women from a very early point in the last century. This was the beginning of the scientification (The Inquisition’s word) of the beauty industry. Claims went from simple beautification to the safe removal of birthmarks!

Why stop at creams?

Women could buy, at inflated costs, lipsticks, soaps, lotions, foods and more. Men were also looked after in this brave new world.

Equally pleasant to any of the women’s products was The Scrotal Radiendocrinator. Any man looking to restore reproductive function could employ this irradiated scrotum soak. Anyone stupid enough to do so should have applied it to their head instead.

Alternatively, they may also have been interested in Vita Radium Suppositories. After a 15 day course the men of Colorado, where it was produced, would have noticed remarkable changes.

All manner of ingestions were possible to receive the benefits of radiation. Radithor was a concentrated radium tonic. Eben Byers was a well known playboy and an amateur golf champion. He consumed 4 fluid ounces (approx 100ml) of it every day. He died in 1932 racked with anemia, a brain abscess and with a putrid, decaying jaw. Lovely.

Anyone looking to irradiate themselves ought to seek protection – especially for repeated exposure. Unfortunately, even mild doses of radiation are way beyond the frankly wild protective remit of Clarins Expertise 3p.

All of this questions how people still fall for the claims made by the cosmetics industry. Scientists have always brought on board to reinforce these claims, but do those creams really make you look ten years younger? Really? And do the scientists accept the limits of their knowledge – are these products not just effective but safe?

Consumers are easily swayed in a society which places the highest emphasis on physical beauty. After all, that little pot of cream might just work…


Check out this infographic which shows dodgy chemicals still have a place in cosmetics.

Environmental Graffiti Slideshow
Radium cream advertising
Radior Product Shot
New York Times on irradiated beauty products
Quackometer on CLarins E3P
A chemist questions some products’ claims
Invented chemical ingredients
The Scotsman
Nano-particles described in the Telegraph
Multiple Exposures – Chronicles of the Radiation Age, Catherine Caulfield, Harper & Row, 1989
Trafficking Materials and Gendered Experimental Practices: Radium Research in Early 20th Century Vienna, Maria Rentetzi, Columbia University Press, 2007 (

This article was posted by on Sunday, January 29th, 2012 at 17:47.
It is archived in Culture, Food, Health, History, Science, Wild Women and tagged , , , , .

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