Makeup Ingredients to Avoid


When I first started learning about the chemicals found in most makeup, I was appalled. I knew that beauty products weren’t perfect, but I couldn’t believe that a few common ingredients found in the vast majority of makeup brands were seriously detrimental to my health!

Alas, it gets worse. Because product labels and advertising can be misleading (and there are no strict regulations regarding “natural” beauty product claims), it can make finding makeup without harmful ingredients a little tricky.

I can’t possibly begin to list every potential health-threatening chemical found in makeup, but there are definitely a few that should be avoided at all costs. The following guide will show you which chemicals to avoid, and how you can be a smarter beauty shopper.

Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid

1. Fragrance

Synthetic fragrances are found in a huge variety of beauty products, including makeup, cleansers, hair dye, shampoos, conditioners, perfume… you name it, chances are, fragrance will be included as an ingredient. What many people aren’t aware of, however, is that synthetic fragrances can be quite damaging to your health. Additionally, “fragrance” can include hundreds of different ingredients combined, each ingredient not required to be on the label!

According to the Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database, artificial fragrances in makeup are known to be an immune system toxicant, meaning many people experience allergic reactions and other side effects from using products that contain fragrance. What’s more, this ingredient has also been linked to several nervous system ailments.

2. Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Commonly used as a food additive, BHT can also be found in makeup and beauty products such as lipstick/balm, foundation, eyeshadow, etc. This chemical has been known to cause cancer in laboratory animals, and has been linked to immune system problems, endocrine system disruptions, nervous system problems, respiratory problems, reproductive harm, and skin irritations.

3. Oxybenzone (or, Benzophenone-3)

This ingredient is typically found in sunscreens and moisturizers, but can also be used in foundation, nail polish, and other beauty products that contain SPF. According to the Cosmetic Safety Database, oxybenzone rapidly absorbs into the skin in large amounts and often results in photoallergic reactions. The chemical has also been linked to cellular damage, cancer, and other health issues.

That sounds scary enough, but consider this: Oxybenzone has been linked to so many health problems that some countries have severely limited its use in cosmetics or strictly banned it from use — period. Knowing that, you have to wonder why this toxic chemical continues to be used in the cosmetic industry.

4. Triethanolamine

Used as a fragrance ingredient, or a pH adjuster and/or an emulsifying agent, triethanolamine can often be found in mascara, anti-aging products, foundations, moisturizer, and other beauty products. There’s some pretty compelling evidence that links this chemical to immune system problems and skin allergies, and may cause respiratory distress or other illness.

5. Phthalates

Phthalates (comprising several different chemicals, including dibutyl phthalate and diethyl phthalate) are typically used in nail polish, hair gel and other products to give the product more staying power. However, these toxic chemicals have been shown to cause liver, kidney and other organ damage.

Phthalates have also been linked to lung problems and a host of other potential health and reproductive harm. The use of phthalates have been banned in Europe, but the United States and Canada continue to expose consumers to the potential toxicity of these chemicals.

These are only 5 ingredients that have been shown to cause potential health problems in consumers. Unfortunately, I cannot possibly begin to list all of the makeup ingredients known to be carcinogenic or harmful, but these are definitely some of the worst ingredients you should strive to avoid at all costs.

It pays to be a conscious consumer, so you need to diligently read labels on all makeup and other beauty products you buy. Look for products free of these chemicals and other ingredients that are questionable. By visiting the links in this article, you can read more about these and other ingredients you should attempt to avoid.

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