Between washing your face and applying your foundation to styling your hair and applying nail polish, it’s likely your beauty routine is somewhat on autopilot. These seemingly simple steps and essential products are so mundane you likely don’t think twice about applying them or restocking when they run out. That said, HBO Max’s latest docuseries Not So Pretty is aiming to make you think twice about your beauty habits. Just ask the show’s narrator Keke Palmer, who claims her makeup and skin care routines have been forever impacted by her participation in the exposé.
“So many beauty products are not well investigated upon,” says Palmer to TZR at the ZOEasis event at Coachella on April 16. The actor explains that there aren’t many rules in the U.S. that enforce transparency in the beauty industry. “You really have to do a lot of research, which is the point of Not So Pretty — to help people who may not have the time or know all this stuff to get informed in a fun but educational way.”
Indeed the four-part series expose some of the more common ingredients in beauty products that can be harmful to the body. Talc, for example, is a popular presence in everything from baby powder to face makeup. But, the ingredient is often sourced next to the toxic mineral asbestos (which can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other cancers), leading to cross-contamination. “You always see these commercials about mesothelioma,” says Palmer. “And many of these ingredients in makeup products are a big cause of it. Obviously a lot of it is so specific and there’s a lot of legal to it. But I think finding out about talc, asbestos, and their connection to diseases, and to know it’s in something you would never guess like makeup is just insane.”
In Not So Pretty, which debuted on HBO Max on April 14, real testimonials are captured of individuals who’ve experienced the negative and sometimes life-altering impacts of the harmful chemicals found in everyday beauty products. “I was shocked,” says Palmer. “Of course, I’ve had skin problems all these years. On top of whatever stress and personal things I might struggle with, these [toxic ingredients] can aggravate [my skin] more. I just loved being a part [of the project] and learning. If I can work and learn, that’s always the best scenario.”
Since working on the project, Palmer says she’s become much more “thoughtful” about her own makeup and skin care regimens. “I definitely am keeping things more condensed,” says the actor. “I’m a little less willing to try newer things, because I know what works and I know what doesn’t. I was kind of that way before, having really sensitive skin.” Palmer has been very open about her experiences with acne as a possible symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome — PCOS — a hormonal imbalance that affect one in 10 women.
But, the actor explains that many of these unregulated products and ingredients do more than just impact the texture or state of your complexion. “This is an even bigger issue of [overall] health,” says Palmer. “Because it’s not just what you put on your face. It’s what you put on your scalp, what gets into your skin, what gets into your blood. It can really be a health issue, especially for women who may want to have kids. It just made me a lot more thoughtful.”
Not So Pretty is now streaming on HBO Max.