Beauty queen reveals 'ugly truth' about cosmetics
Former Ms. America Susan Jeske brings her campaign to USM
PORTLAND — As a former Ms. America with a successful career spanning two decades in the beauty and cosmetics industry, Susan Jeske makes an unlikely advocate for rejecting conventional personal-care products.
Seven years ago, she was at the top of the pyramid in an international cosmetic direct sales company, until a health crisis changed everything for her.
"You name it, I had it – chronic fatigue, arthritis, weight gain, bad digestion, skin problems," Jeske said in a telephone interview. After nine gallbladder attacks, her doctor recommended she have her gallbladder removed. She was hesitant after the doctor admitted five of the 35 gallbladder operations he'd performed resulted in complications. "As the nurse was wheeling me away, she whispered to me 'go find a holistic doctor and do a gallbladder flush,'" Jeske said.
She was skeptical, but willing after she found a naturopathic doctor who specialized in gallbladder flushes. The flush appeared to do the trick – "I expelled three cups worth of gall stones," Jeske said.
After triumphantly returning to her traditional doctor, who conducted follow-up tests and declared her gallbladder to be "fine," Jeske was hooked.
She dove into alternative health practices, eating only raw foods for two years, doing numerous organ cleanses, attending courses at the Optimum Health Institute. She got rid of all her health problems, she said, except for her itchy skin and scalp rashes. She went back to the naturopath, who suggested she stop using her conventional beauty products and start using natural, organic products. Two weeks later, her skin problems were gone.
"This was a huge shock for me," said Jeske, an admitted "makeup girl who loves products."
Eventually, she quit her lucrative job with the cosmetics company and started an intensive fact-finding mission about toxic chemicals in cosmetics and skin-care products.
The information she uncovered was so disturbing, Jeske said, that she felt compelled to start a grassroots campaign about the toxic ingredients in conventional personal-care products. She will share her personal journey and advice on quitting toxic cosmetics in a lecture at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 27, at the Abromson Center at the University of Southern Maine.
"Americans are less protected than other countries. Just to give you an example," she said, "The FDA has banned 10 chemicals from personal-care products. The European Union has banned over 1,100 known toxic chemicals."
A major component of Jeske's platform is to encourage consumers to educate themselves about the risks of certain ingredients commonly found in traditional cosmetics. She disseminates a list of the worst chemicals in personal care products, dubbed "The Toxic 12," and encourages people to take the list with them when they buy products.
Jeske said she is optimistic about consumers wanting to become more aware about green and organic products. She stressed that the best thing to do is to "vote with your dollars" and buy organic cosmetics and care products.
After her lectures, she also circulates a petition from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics asking
Congress to support safe cosmetics with stricter testing and
Jeske said she is skeptical about the cosmetics industry "voluntarily self-regulating" and halting the use of inexpensive, but toxic chemicals in beauty products.
"Can you believe that there is still mercury in most conventional name-brand mascaras? Or that most lipsticks contain lead?" she said. "Right now, we have to protect ourselves until we can convince the government to protect us."