What is in those products?

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DETROIT — Empty lip balm tubes stand in rows, waiting to be filled with the still-hot beeswax-castor oil-vitamin E concoction. A foot away, perfectly white eye cream is squirted into tubes using an equine medical syringe.

The two women, in hair nets and surgical masks, work slowly against the backdrop of dozens of plastic containers, filled with a rainbow’s worth of mica, ground rock jazzing up an otherwise nondescript room in shades of pinks, blues, purples, browns and mauves, destined to become lip gloss, eye shadows and foundations.

Eve Organics is a Chesterfield Township, Mich.-based organic makeup company that sells its natural products as far away as Ukraine. Founded in 2007, the six-woman business earned $200,000 in sales last year. Its first-quarter 2011 sales are quadruple its first-quarter 2010 figures, according to founder and co-owner Sharron Pinheiro, a former massage therapist who started by making lotions for clients before segueing into cosmetics.

To her, the issue is the possible harmful health effects of many of the ingredients found in mainstream cosmetics. She quotes research that some dyes cause cancer and contain arsenic and lead, that certain fragrances are linked with multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, that petrochemicals, like paraffin, are banned in Europe.

“People are feeling duped in a way — ‘We were never told these ingredients do things. They were just put in there,”‘ Pinheiro said. “Part of our mission is to educate women about ingredients. We don’t want to force them to buy a product, but educate them, so they can make a choice.”

All products are made by hand in the 2,750-square-foot strip mall space, next to a tanning salon. Eve Organics has standard shades, but also custom-mix colors.

Prices range from $3.95 for lip balm to $29.95 for body butter, comparable to what a typical drugstore charges for its higher-end products.

The skin care products and makeup have no preservatives, but last 12-18 months, according to Pinheiro.

“Once they realize that it performs just as well without the crappy ingredients, they figure, ‘Why not?’ It’s a no-brainer at that point,” she explained. “The skin is the largest organ in our body, so it is absorbing what you’re putting on it. They wouldn’t have nicotine patches or hormone patches if that wasn’t the case.”

Rouge Makeup & Nail Studio in Ferndale, Mich., is one store in metro Detroit that sells Eve Organic products.

Owner Cheryl Salinas-Tucker sees natural mineral makeup and skin care as the next step in a world where everything’s organic from your breakfast cereal and laundry detergent to your hemp shopping bag and pet food and where people embrace hybrid cars and consider corporations’ environmental records before buying their products

“They may be eating organically and very conscious about recycling and they’re conscious about food intake and gas intake, they’re concerned about their footprint,” she said. “However, when it comes to makeup and skin care, it’s, ‘Oh, I use drugstore brands,’ which are loaded with chemicals. We’re just waking up to this, and it makes it easy for me to tell the story when I tell them, ‘This is the ingredient list. You can count on it being up to 98 percent organic ingredients.”‘