22 Makeup Ingredients That Are Making You Sick

toxic makeup ingredients

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.[bctt tweet=”Knowing what’s in your makeup isn’t just being a conscientious consumer— it’s life or death.” username=”redapplelipstic”]Isn’t it ironic that behind the slick marketing and beautiful models are deadly chemicals that may destroy your beauty and risk your life?

[content_upgrade cu_id=”68658″]Take this printable list of 22 toxic ingredients to avoid with you when you go shopping for makeup.[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

toxic makeup ingredients

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.

2. Aluminum

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.

4. Benzophenone

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.

7. Butoxyethanol

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.

8. Dimethicone

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.

9. Ethanolamines

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.

10. Formaldehyde

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.

toxic makeup ingredients

11. Hydroquinone

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.

12. Lead

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.

13. Mercury

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.

14. Parabens

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.

17. Phthalates

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.

21. Talc

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.

22. Triclosan

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

[content_upgrade cu_id=”68658″]Don’t forget to download this list of 22 toxic makeup ingredients so that you know exactly which cosmetics products to avoid.[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]


  1. I found it hard to get back to the page to order the mascara. Can you help me or send me the direct link? I don,t have an account no. With you. How do I do this or can I call and order by phone which would make it easier on me.? Help!

    1. Ashley Teague says:

      Hi Patricia, here’s the link to the mascara page: https://www.redapplelipstick.com/mascara/ You can order online or by phone Mon-Fri 10am – 1pm CST 1-877-897-LIPS If there’s anything else I can help you with please let me know.

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