Ingredients You Don't Want in Your Makeup

Ingredients You Don't Want in Your Makeup
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If you’ve spent a lot of time trying to create a diet that will benefit you with an overall healthy body, demeanor and lifestyle—why hasn’t that spilled over into your beauty products? And even if you are not a vegetarian, vegan or diet aficionado, if you love animals so much: do you really want to eat them, wear them or smear their products on your body? Yes, life is complicated and the cosmetics industry is one of the more complicated businesses. Their advertising claim to want to enhance your beauty, but what is it you are massaging all over your face, eyes, and cheeks? Not to mention, what you are putting under your arms (but that is another story)?

Skin Deep? Hardly

Since skin covers all our vital organs, blood vessels, and well, just everything, it is our body’s largest organ. You knew that, of course. But did you know that skin absorbs 60% of everything put on it? If you don’t want a product in your mouth, do you want it on your skin either? What properties do we want in makeup? Adhesion, slip, function and safety. Adhesion is how long and how well the product stays on and stays put. Like keeping your eyeliner from going Panda or lipstick sliding into Joker-mouth. Slip is how the product feels and applies. Function, of course, is a combination of the right things: ingredients, proportion, and procedure—a good formula that really does what it promises. And safety? Safety is what isn’t in your product. And think about this, we also: breathe in sprays and powders, and swallow chemicals on our lips or hands, in addition to absorbing them through the skin.


Over-the-counter makeup products are hyped-up, overpriced, and chemical-laden with dangerous toxins and many may have been tested on many animals. If you believed that cosmetics went through the same rigorous tests that your food has, you are suffering under an illusion. Cosmetic companies can do pretty much whatever they want. The only things that are curbed from using are some color additives and a few prohibited substances, but in the United States, there is no mandated restriction on any ingredient or raw material.

Read the Label

If you can’t pronounce it, there is probably a good reason. There are more than 82,000 weird chemical ingredients and one in eight can be a carcinogen, a pesticide, a toxin or a hormone disrupter. They can also contain plasticizers, which will keep them soft, degreasers, and surfactants (elements that help to reduce the surface tension in dyes). The sins of makeup basically are perfume, talc, alcohol, mineral oil, preservatives, emulsifiers, additives, and dyes. Common irritants, synthetics, petroleum-based products, and inexpensive fillers add bulk and texture to cosmetics including the use of waxes and oils. The more ingredients a product contains, the higher the risk of it causing skin irritation, allergy, dermatitis or worse. Many unnatural ingredients are in makeup too, to keep them bacteria-free and in order to create a longer expiration date—and thus, longer shelf life. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains it like this, “Generally speaking, except for most color additives and those ingredients that are prohibited or restricted by regulation from use in cosmetics, a manufacturer may use any ingredient in the formulation of a cosmetic product provided that the ingredient and the finished cosmetic are safe, the product is properly labeled, and the use of the specific substance does not otherwise cause the cosmetic to be adulterated or misbranded under the laws that FDA enforces.”

Label No-Nos

Here are some common label ingredients:

  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and its cousin butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), are commonly thought to be carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
  • Diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) make a lather and react with other ingredients creating cancer-causing compounds called nitrosamines. Triethanolamine can cause allergic reactions including eye problems, dryness of hair and skin, and could be toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.
  • (DMDM) hydantoin and imidazolidinyl urea are antimicrobial preservatives and possible known allergens, which release formaldehyde, an irritant and what is used to embalm dead bodies. Imidazolindinyl Urea is mixed with another serious toxin parabens to perform as a preservative. It can be a skin sensitizer used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, especially tinted items like lipstick, eyeliner and skin lighteners. It may go by the name germall or methylenebis as well.
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is a fragrance ingredient and plasticizer that is toxic to the reproductive system—it has been eliminated from nail polish since Fall 2006.
  • Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is thought to be a safe alternative preservative to parabens but it’s a skin irritant and allergen; also believed to be a neurotoxin linked to brain cell and nerve damage.
  • Parabens have estrogen-mimicking properties including propylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparabens which extend a product’s shelf life and can be found in most conventional cosmetics and skin-care products. Scientific American addresses this in an article and says, “…Health advocates are pressuring the FDA to ban parabens in products sold in the U.S.—like the European Union did in 2012—but concerned consumers must take matters into their own hands for now by reading product labels and avoiding products with parabens.”
  • Often there are petroleum ingredients—such as what can be found in mascara—and other petroleum by-products such as butylene glycol, dispropylene glycol, and di, tri- and tetrasodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), polybutylene and triclosan, which typically interfere with the skin’s breathability, clogs pores and can cause contact dermatitis. Conditioners such as triclosan are often used in liquid soaps, have antimicrobial pesticides and can interfere with thyroid function and are found in cosmetics, shampoos and other body-grooming products. They are also super-toxic to oceans and other bodies of water.
  • Siloxanes, which give cosmetics a smooth silky feel, are also found in sealants, windshield coating, and lubricants, and are endocrine disruptors. They are believed to impair human fertility.
  • Sodium laureth sulfate are foaming agents that are also known skin irritants and commonly cause PMS symptoms, and they are often said to be “natural” by saying they are derived from coconut. They are found in shampoos.
  • Bismuth oxychloride, which seldom occurs in nature, is manufactured by combining bismuth, a by-product of lead and copper metal refining, with chloride (a chlorine compound) and water. It’s used in cosmetics because it has a distinct shimmery, pearlescent appearance and a fine white powder texture that adheres well to skin. Some people react to bismuth oxychloride because the sharper elements get stuck in the pores and can cause irritation.

Carcinogens cause cancer and toxins interfere with the brain, reproductive and endocrine functions**.**

Animal Testing

Cosmetic researchers routinely use mice, rats, guinea pigs (how apt), and rabbits to test cosmetics by applying chemicals to their skin, dripping them into their eyes, or force-feeding them. Asphyxiation, neck breaking or worse at the end of a test often kills animals. In the United States animal testing is not required by law and the FDA, (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) nor the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission require companies to test cosmetics on animals. Some animal by-products or animal ingredients may be in your cosmetics: Allantoin (cow urine), Ambergris (Whale vomit, bile), Carmine or cochineal (crushed bugs), Castoreum (beaver scent gland juice), Civet (civet cat anal gland liquid), Collagen (bones, sinews or placenta), Elastin (cow neck ligaments or aorta), Lanolin (wool grease), Squalene (shark liver oil), Tallow (animal fat). References Anderson, Heather. Make Your Own Pure Mineral Makeup. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2017. Book. Brown, Bobbi. Beauty from the Inside Out. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2017. Book. Rayma, Marie. Make It Up: The Essential Guide to DIY Makeup & Skin Care. Philadelphia: Running Press; Perseus Books, 2016. Book. Subramanian, Sunny and Chrystle Fiedler. The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to DIY Beauty: 125 Recipes for Vegan, Gluten-Free, Cruelty-Free Makeup, Skin & Hair Products. Toronto, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc., 2016. Book. Ambergris   Bismuth oxychloride Butylated hydroxyanisole Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Diethanolamine DMDM Hydantoin and imidazolidinyl urea Material Safety Data Sheet Myths on Cosmetic Safety Parabens: Should People Be Concerned about Parabens in Beauty Products? Scientific American Siloxanes Sodium laureth sulfate Triethanolamine Photo courtesy of Pixabay