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Dr. Lipstick: A Local Biochemist Says Your Cosmetics Are Toxic (but she’s here to help!)

Dr. Jen, wearing her signature pink lab coat, in her Capitol Hill shop. Photo by Rachel Belle.

Jennifer Dietrich is better known as Dr. Jen.

“I have a PHD in biochemistry and biophysics. So I spent many, many years slaving away in a lab.”

That is, until she had an epiphany in her bathroom. Dr. Jen accidentally stumbled upon the
Environmental Working Group’s website, Skin Deep, and learned that the FDA does not regulate skin and hair products.

“They have a database where you can look up your products. When I looked [mine] up, they got a seven and an eight out of 10 on the hazard scale. So I had a little nervous breakdown and I threw everything in my bathroom away. Then I was standing in my bathroom going, ‘What do I do now? I have nothing.’ I was like, well, this is just emulsion chemistry. Let’s go do this.”

So she decided to make her own toxic free skin care products. She started formulating her own anti-aging creams.

“I wasn’t going to do makeup until I looked up my favorite color of purple eyeshadow and it got a nine out of 10 and I was like, alright, I’m making makeup now!”

Now she sells her Atomic cosmetics and Xerion Skin Science products from a sunny, rhinestone encrusted boutique in Capitol Hill while wearing a pink lab coat. She offers everyone a handy card with a list of the 12 most toxic ingredients present in most cosmetics.

“Parabens, for instance, they’re a preservative. They have been linked to everything from endocrine disputation to increased UV sensitivity. It’s staggering how bad these things are. Because there is no law to prevent them from being used, we put them on our bodies all the time. If you go in your bathroom right now, and start looking at your products, you will see the the word paraben on 90% of things in your bathroom.”

What about the expensive cosmetics we buy at department stores? Are these toxic ingredients in those products?

“Yes, absolutely. In fact, the other day I was sitting next to a counter that was selling Creme de la Mer. So just for fun I pulled out one of the $300 jars of Creme de la Mer and just read down the ingredient list and five of these are on there. People think if they pay more it’s better, and that’s really not the truth.”

Some of Dr. Jen’s best clients are local drag queens, like Robbie Turner, who has given up the products his mother was raised on for Jen’s bright colored palettes and non toxic lotions.

“What is this actually doing to you? You smell heavenly for how long, and then the scent wears off. What do you have left? Cancer.”

If you don’t want to leave your favorite brand of lipstick behind, don’t worry. Dr. Jen can replicate the color perfectly, and make you a custom, toxic free tube of lipstick while you wait. She made me an exact replica of the expensive, toxic lipstick I use and it even comes with a customized label. My custom color is called Belle.

Jen continues to do other scientific research.

“I’m working on information processing in the brain. Like an Alzheimer diagnostic essay.”

But creating healthy cosmetics for her customers is very fulfilling.

“No one ever comes up to me and is like, ‘Hey, thanks for building that single molecule flow cytometer. That was so awesome! I love it!’ But, you know, when I make them a good skin care product, it’s an instant gratification for me.”

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