Cockroaches, Now in Your Beauty Products

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Photo: Shutterstock.com

In today's gross-out moment, the Los Angeles Times informs us that cockroach farms are not only on the rise — they are used by cosmetics companies as a cheap protein-filler in beauty products.

In 2011, the FDA ruled that cosmetics companies had to note on ingredient labels when carmine and cochineal (beetles) were being used in products. Cockroach usage has yet to come under scrutiny. But don't worry, only specific cockroach breeds are preferred for beauty product usage.  

The favored breed for this purpose is the Periplaneta americana, or American cockroach, a reddish-brown insect that grows to about 1.6 inches long and, when mature, can fly, as opposed to the smaller, darker, wingless German cockroach.

Great, because I was really worried about getting generic cockroach in my beauty products. No low-quality German cockroaches in my face cream!

With its low start-up costs and high return on investment ("I thought about raising pigs, but with traditional farming, the profit margins are very low," one farmer told the L.A. Times), cockroach farms are appealing to entrepreneurs looking to get rich — and quick.

"People laughed at me when I started, but I always thought that cockroaches would bring me wealth," said Zou Hui, 40, who quit her job at a knitting factory in 2008 after seeing a television program about raising cockroaches.

It's not exactly a fortune, but the $10,000 she brings in annually selling cockroaches is decent money for her hometown in rural Sichuan province, and won her an award last year from local government as an "Expert in Getting Wealthy."

But don't think that cockroaches are in beauty products just as filler. They have beauty benefits, too:

Li reels off an impressive, if implausible, list of health claims: "I lost my hair years ago. I made a spray of cockroaches, applied it on my scalp and it grew back. I've used it as a facial mask and people say I haven't changed at all over the years.

And in beauty, there's always the vanity aspect:

"What is disgusting about them?" Li Wanrong, Wang's wife, asked as a roach scurried around her black leather pumps. "Look how beautiful they are. So shiny!"

She may have a point. But I'd still prefer cockroaches to be stamped out in my beauty products.