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Are you still relying on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the safety of your cosmetics? Think again. With new cosmetic products coming to the market continuously, the FDA has its hands full in trying to monitor the safety of every product. As a result, you’re left to fend for yourself. It’s your job to source safe cosmetics that don’t hurt the earth and don’t hurt you.
But here’s the rub: A lot of cosmetics contain toxic ingredients that can lead to all sorts of nasties, from redness and rashes to cancers and infertility. Knowing exactly what’s in your products isn’t just being a conscientious consumer— it’s life or death.Knowing what's in your makeup isn't just being a conscientious consumer— it's life or death. Click To TweetIsn’t it ironic that behind the slick marketing and beautiful models are deadly chemicals that may destroy your beauty and risk your life?
Take this printable list of 22 toxic ingredients to avoid with you when you go shopping for makeup.
Common Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics
1. 1,4 Dioxane
Found in: Facial cleansers
1,4 Dioxane is a chemical by-product of ethoxylation, which is used to make cleaning products, like sodium laureth sulfate, less abrasive and irritating to the skin.
This is a human carcinogen and is toxic to the blood, brain, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, immune system, kidneys, respiratory system, and the skin.
Found in: Color cosmetics, deodorants, lipsticks
Aluminum is often used as a thickening agent. However, it’s toxic to the body because it’s a heavy metal. Heavy metals, such as aluminum, lead, iron, and zinc, accumulate in the body and are difficult to flush out. This leads to an increased risk of cancer, especially breast cancer when applied to the area near the breasts.
Aluminum has been linked to reproductive issues and is a known immune disruptor. Many people experience an allergic reaction to this ingredient.
3. Benzalkonium Chloride
Found in: Moisturizers
Benzalkonium chloride is a surfactant and preservative. However, it can cause severe skin and eye irritation along with respiratory distress. Benzalkonium chloride can also lead to an allergic reaction.
Found in: Fragrance, lip balm, sunscreen
Benzophenone is used to protect against UV rays, but is also a human carcinogen and hormone disruptor.
5. BHA or BHT
Found in: Lipsticks, moisturizers
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a synthetic antioxidant that works as a preservative, extending the shelf-life of many products.
Unfortunately, it can also lead to liver damage and depigmentation of the skin. It is also a carcinogen and hormone disruptor. BHA can lead to liver damage and certain stomach cancers like carcinomas. BHA also disrupts thyroid hormone production.
6. Bismuth Oxychloride
Found in: Mineral makeup
Bismuth oxychloride gives mineral makeup that shimmery appearance, but unfortunately, it can lead to skin irritation, including inflammation, itching, redness, and rash.
Found in: Fragrance
Butoxyethanol is a solvent that controls a product’s consistency. It’s a skin irritant that can lead to cancer and reproductive toxicity.
Found in: Acne products, anti-aging products, moisturizers
Dimethicone is a silicone-based polymer used to create a smoothness to the skin. By doing so, it blocks your skin’s pores so that they can no longer draw moisture from the air. This means that the skin cannot release toxins.
Although dimethicone is used in the treatment of acne, it ironically can cause acne. It also creates general skin irritation.
Found in: Cosmetics
Also known as diethanolamine DEA, monoethanolamine MEA, and triethanolamine TEA, ethanolamines are foaming agents and emulsifiers. In the short run, they may lead to skin irritation. With prolonged use, they may lead to organ toxicity and cancer.
Found in: Hair products, eyelash glue, nail polish
Formaldehyde is a byproduct of synthetic preservatives.
It’s rarely listed as “formaldehyde” and is usually known by other ingredient names such as formalin, formic aldehyde, methanediol, methanal, methyl aldehyde, methylene glycol, and methylene oxide. It can also be released from other chemicals, such as 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane, 1,3-dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin (or DMDM hydantoin), benzylhemiformal, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and quaternium-15.
Formaldehyde is often found alongside dibutyl phthalate and toluene.
It’s a known carcinogen and is linked to certain cancers including leukemia, lung cancer, and Hodgkin Lymphoma. Formaldehyde is an eye, nose, and throat irritant and can trigger asthma. Formaldehyde has also led to neurological, reproductive, immunological, and developmental issues and has played a part in birth defects. Stay far away from this toxin, whenever possible.
Found in: Skin lightening creams
Hydroquinone is a skin bleaching, or lightening, agent. It prevents the production of melanin in the skin, and can lead to general skin irritation or a serious skin disease known as ochronosis. Additionally, hydroquinone may contain mercury, another toxic ingredient that you should avoid.
Found in: Many cosmetics, such as lipsticks
Lead is used to create shimmer and enhance color. You’ve probably heard of this one before. Lipsticks from big-name cosmetics brands have lead in them, and to a high percentage (up to 7.19 parts per million). However, there is no amount of lead that is safe.
Lead toxicity can cause damage to fetal development. It can be absorbed into the skin and pass through the placenta. Lead also accumulates in the bones, lungs, livers, and kidneys and can cause internal damage. It’s also a known neurotoxin.
Found in: Mascara, eye drops, glosses, lipstick, eyeliner, whitening cream
Mercury is a heavy metal that’s used in the lightening of the skin, such as bleach creams. It can also be absorbed by the skin and enter the bloodstream. Mercury poisoning can often lead to vision and hearing problems, irritability, and even tremors. This metal has been linked to brain damage.
Found in: Many cosmetics
Parabens are preservatives that prohibit the growth of bacteria and mold. They can lead to skin irritation, contact dermatitis, and rosacea. Some people are sensitive to parabens and may develop allergies.
They are also endocrine system disrupter. This chemical can mimic the estrogen hormone which may lead to the development of breast cancer.
Parabens may also contribute to DNA damage, rapid skin aging, and fertility problems.
15. PEG Compounds
Found in: Skincare, cosmetics, contact lens cleaner
PEGs are petroleum-based compounds used to help products maintain moisture. These compounds also thicken and soften.
PEG compounds may be contaminated by 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide. As a result, PEG compounds are human carcinogens. These compounds can also harm the skin.
16. Petroleum or Mineral Oil
Found in: Concealers, eye shadows, face powders, foundations, lip balms, mascara, moisturizers
Petroleum is made from crude oil and used to create a seal on the skin. Unfortunately, that seal blocks air and moisture, leading to skin that cannot breathe or perform its natural functions. Petroleum may lead to contact dermatitis and other skin disorders.
Found in: Lipstick, nail polish, perfume, synthetic fragrance
Phthalates add flexibility to certain cosmetics and allow them to stick to the skin (such as the case with nail polish and lipstick). However, phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. They affect fertility and may lead to birth defects and issues with fetal development. They can also damage the kidney, liver, and lungs.
18. Propylene Glycol
Found in: Cosmetics, moisturizers
Propylene glycol is a liquid alcohol that’s also used in antifreeze and brake fluid. It can damage the heart, liver, and nervous system. It also leads to hives and eczema.
19. Sodium Lauryl and Laureth Sulfate
Found in: Facial cleansers
Sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate are used to create foam. These toxins enhance penetration by making it easier for other chemicals to enter the system. They also strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation, and may cause an allergic reaction.
They can create canker sores and lead to acne around chin and mouth.
20. Synthetic Fragrance
Found in: Almost all types of cosmetic products
Also known as parfum, a synthetic fragrance may contain hundreds of ingredients, but finding out the exact ingredients can be challenging because they’re protected by federal law as “trade secrets.” If you see “fragrance” it’s safe to say that you could be dealing with a pandora’s box of other ingredients.
Synthetic fragrance is the second most common skin irritant. This hormone disruptor also leads to coughing, dizziness, headaches, hyperpigmentation of the skin, rash, redness, sneezing, and vomiting.
Found in: Eye shadows, foundations, lipsticks, lotions
Talc is a powder-based mineral that’s used to created to minimize moisture.
Talc can get into the lungs and lodge into the lining, creating respiratory issues. Talc has also been linked to ovarian cancer.
Found in: Cosmetics, facial cleansers
Triclosan is a chemical used to prevent the spread of bacteria. Unfortunately, it has created a mutant strain of bacteria that’s resistant to antibiotics.
Additionally, triclosan is an endocrine disruptor. It is a known eye, lung, and skin irritant. Triclosan also impairs immune function and may invite allergies.
That was a lot of bad news, but the good news is that not all cosmetics are unhealthy. There are cosmetics companies that produce wholesome, safe, and toxic-free products that you can feel good in and about.
We’re one of those companies! When you shop at Red Apple Lipstick, you can feel safe knowing that none of our products contain toxic ingredients. Start shopping now.
Don’t forget to download this list of 22 toxic makeup ingredients so that you know exactly which cosmetics products to avoid.