Chick Wit

A weekly column published in the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer

Chick Wit Column Francesca Serritella and Lisa Scottoline

Finding humor in the everyday moments of life was the hallmark of growing up in Francesca's home. Laughter made the rough times easier, and the good times great. Of course, with her wacky family, there was plenty of material. Those laughs fill the weekly Philadelphia Inquirer column, "Chick Wit," which you can find in their latest collection, I See Life Through Rosé-Colored Glasses. The column is a witty and poignant take on life from a woman's viewpoint, and Francesca provides her twenty-something perspective on family, love, and making her way in the big city. Earlier collections include I Need A Lifeguard Everywhere But The Pool, I've Got Sand In All The Wrong Places, Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?, Have a Nice Guilt Trip, Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim, Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog, My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space, and Best Friends, Occasional Enemies. You can find the column every Sunday in The Philadelphia Inquirer, but if you don't subscribe, you can always read the columns here. Francesca would love to know what you think, so feel free to share your thoughts with her here.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Ugly

By Francesca Serritella | August 19, 2018

Have you heard of clean beauty? It addresses the concern that the typical beauty and hygiene products we use are rife with toxic ingredients.

Basically, if you thought there were laws protecting you from weird crap in your personal care products, you were wrong. The beauty industry is a largely unregulated science experiment.

I remember when the only thing I looked for on my cosmetics label was “Not Tested on Animals.”

Turns out, the animals being tested on are women.

I can’t believe the corporations who sold us the idea that crow’s feet signal oblivion aren’t concerned with women’s health and longevity.

My awareness of toxic beauty products began with deodorant. I got the idea that my drug-store deodorant might be a secret killer from the place where all fears, warranted or irrational, come from—my mother.

She became very worried that my deodorant could give me breast cancer, something about the ingredient aluminum. I’m not sure, because I did zero research of my own, but I can believe metals are dangerous so close to my breasts.

I’ve been stabbed by enough errant underwire to know.

Her warning stuck with me, and every time I swiped on my conventional deodorant, I felt like I was playing Russian Roulette with my side-boob.

The first all-natural deodorant I tried gave me a terrible, itchy rash under my arms.

You know what’s less attractive than pit stains?

Scratching your armpits until they bleed.

I looked online, medical consult of champions, to see if anyone else had the problem, and read that it wasn’t the natural deodorant causing my rash, it was my body expelling its toxic contaminants from before.

What do you do when the toxic ingredient is you?

Sounds like a question for my therapist.

It didn’t pass the smell test. If you put something on your skin and get a rash, stop using it.

And I asked my therapist; she says I’m codependent, but not with deodorant.

Eventually I found a brand that worked for me, and so began my clean beauty journey.

A lot of this information seeps into my consciousness without my complete understanding, like how I know to shop for skincare that is paraben-free.

I don’t know what a paraben is, but it sounds parabad.

I buy shampoo that is sulfate-free. To avoid a pun as bad as that last one, I looked up sulfates. Sulfates make shampoo feel sudsy but cause hair damage and “follicle-stress.”

My curls need to unwind.

Never mind that I pay a colorist to paint bleach on my hair.

Does drinking bleach qualify as stress?

I’m on book deadline, so I didn’t get a vacation this summer, but with highlights season, my hair really needs the time off.

I never realize I’m using a toxic product until I’m presented with the non-toxic version, like how I recently discovered “safe” nail polish.

I paint my own nails, often as a cure for writer’s block, and I always keep a few polishes at my desk. Apparently this counts as living dangerously.

But it made sense that nail varnish was toxic. A guy once told me I had “smoker’s fingers” because my nails were slightly yellowed from recently removed red polish.

Let’s table the toxicity of dating men who evaluate you down to the whiteness of your fingernails.

I blamed the color, but maybe it was the harsh ingredients, like formaldehyde.

Mother Mary was ahead of her time on this. She used to make me take off my nail polish before I could make meatballs with her.

She may have smoked cigarettes for most of her life, but her meatballs were pure as the driven onion powder.

And I recently saw selling organic cotton tampons.

Wait, what have I been putting up there?

“Cotton is the most sprayed crop in the US,” the description warned.

I would’ve thought tampons were like medical-grade gauze, but no, it’s just whatever bleached, pesticide-soaked cotton the companies want, with no FDA oversight.

I always knew the government would screw us, but not like this.

Now I want tampons made of only the finest, cleanest, purest cotton.

Maybe something Egyptian, in a nice thread-count.

Cotton so healthy you could swirl it around a stick and eat it at a carnival.

I want farmer’s market organic cotton, grown and picked by earnest hipsters, then spun into neat little bullets with ironic mustaches drawn on the applicators.

Non-BPA plastic applicators, please.

It’s hard to know which warnings are worth listening to and which are just the typical beauty-product fear mongering.

It’s always: “Buy this, or else.” It used to be, “Buy this, or else you’ll be unattractive and worthless.” Now it’s, “Buy this, or else you’ll die.”

Being the empowered feminist that I am, I choose worthless life!

Now as soon as I cut out Twitter, Instagram, alcohol, and most men on the dating apps, I’ll have eliminated everything toxic from my life.

And maybe I have some of my facts wrong, I should do more research, but between trying to make a living, eat healthy, work out, see friends, find a boyfriend, recycle, hand-wash my delicates, and now, use clean beauty, I’m doing my best.

Today, my best is wearing no makeup.

Copyright Francesca Serritella 2018