The beauty industry has always had a regulation problem. The worst part, it is us consumers who suffer the consequences. Due to the lack of regulation, the beauty products we use on a daily basis are not as safe as we think they are. Also, cosmetics might be the last thing we associate with anxiety and even cancer, but the shocking investigations done in HBO Max’s latest documentary series, Not So Pretty, proves otherwise.

There are currently no legal requirements for cosmetic manufacturers to test their products before they’re launched into the market, so toxins with such damaging effects can still make it into our products. Personal care products, such as skin care, shampoo, conditioners, nail polish, moisturizers, perfumes, etc in the US contain a lot of chemicals that are banned in other countries. Out of all the 1,300 cosmetic chemicals banned in the EU, the US only outlawed 11 ingredients. 

“Pretty much every other chemical in every other industry has some sort of oversight, and in cosmetics, there’s almost none,” mentioned Kirby Dick, producer of the docuseries, in an interview with The Guardian. “We were shocked to see that something that was so common, so ubiquitous, that everybody uses, there was almost no regulation. And what that means is that consumers have to be aware.”

Not So Pretty exposes the toxic chemicals commonly found in certain beauty products and their potential medical consequences. Narrated by Keke Palmer, a deep dive was taken to present different aspects of the multibillion-dollar beauty industry. Each episode is divided into four parts: Makeup, Skincare, Hair, and Nails, with a focus on one or two products. The docuseries even brought up the decade-long allegation of Johnson & Johnson and the DevaCurl scandal.

Ayesha Malik was a devotee of DevaCurl since 2013 until she suffered from hair loss to internal issues such as memory loss and anxiety in 2019. She never suspected her hair products could be the culprit, especially with the long-term relationship she has had with the brand until she started joining a Facebook group with up to 60,000 members dedicated to a similar complaint against DevaCurl.

In the first episode, as hair explored the DevaCurl scandal, makeup explored the Johnson & Johnson case, nail talks about health risks faced by salon employees, and skincare investigates plastic packaging compounds that are linked to cancer, hormone disruption, decreased immunity, and other serious issues.

By the end of every episode, this docuseries also presents tips and advice on how to check the safety of cosmetics. Alongside exposing horrific things, the producers want to encourage viewers that we, as consumers, have the power to demand more transparency from beauty companies.

If you’re unfamiliar with this ugly side of the beauty industry, even without a chemistry degree, there’s a lot you can take away from Not So Pretty, now streaming on HBO Max.