The laundry room has been detoxed, you’ve replaced all of your synthetic cleaning products with eco-friendly alternatives, and you’ve even started relying on natural essential oils for aromatherapy. Surely, you’ve covered all the bases to achieve a truly healthy home, right?
Well… not quite yet. Toxins have a way of sneaking into even the most unexpected everyday products, and unfortunately, makeup is no exception. Since beauty products are applied directly onto the body, it’s inevitable that micro-portions will make it into the body. If these portions are allowed to accumulate in your system over time, you could potentially be exposing yourself to some pretty harmful side effects. (And definitely not the kind that the phrase “beauty is pain” was referring to.)
It sounds easy enough to incorporate checking makeup labels into your health routine, but loose FDA regulations coupled with deceptive chemical names often make it hard to determine what’s actually going into these products, and whether or not the ingredients are harmful. To help you avoid keeping chemical cosmetics in your makeup bag, we’ve compiled a list of the ten most common toxins – and their alternative label names – found in beauty products.
Infamously known as one of the most widely used preservatives in the beauty industry, parabens can be found in everything from mascara to moisturizer. Containing estrogen-mimicking properties, these toxins can interfere with the endocrine, nervous, immune, and reproductive systems, and have even been linked to breast cancer.
Check your labels for:
- Any ingredients with the suffix “-paraben”
- Phenoxyethanol, a similar substitute with introduced after the negative effects of parabens became common knowledge
2. Heavy Metals
Brain damage, lung cancer, and miscarriage are just some of the severe health risks associated with exposure to heavy metals. Although not an intentional ingredient, nickel, chrome, and even lead have been detected in a variety of makeup products as a byproduct of color additives. Since these substances are contaminants and not ingredients themselves, you won’t easily find them listed on a label. The best way to avoid these chemicals is to purchase products that are colored with fruit or natural pigments.
Responsible for endocrine disruption, reproductive birth defects, and increased breast cancer risk, phthalates are a group of chemicals commonly found in deodorants, perfumes, lotions, and nail polishes. Used to plasticize products, these chemicals allow cosmetics to better retain colors and scents. As a result, they are often listed under the ambiguous term “fragrance” on labels.
Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP’s) are used in a variety of products to prevent bacterial growth. They are known to cause skin irritations, but pose a more dangerous risk of nasal and nasopharyngeal cancers when inhaled, and are classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a carcinogen. (Think: nail polish remover)
Check your labels for:
- DMDM hydantoin
- BHUT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
- Diazolidinyl urea
- Sodium hydrozymethylglycinate
- Imidazolidinyl urea
5. Carbon Black
Used as a pigment in eyeliners, mascaras, and eyeshadows, carbon black is another carcinogen that has been linked to both skin cancer and organ toxicity.
Check your labels for:
- Acetylene Black
- Channel Black
- D & C Black No. 2
- Furnace Black
- Lamp Black
- Thermal Black
- Pigment Black 6
- Pigment Black 7
6. Polyethylene/PEG compounds
Polyethelyne glycol, also known as PEG compounds, refers to a class of synthetic chemicals responsible for those tiny exfoliating beads in your scrubs and body wash. Containing varying levels of 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide, they are equally harmful to both the environment and your nervous system. These chemicals result in an enhancing effect when other ingredients are applied to the skin, indicated on the label by a number (i.e. “PEG-4” or “PEG-100”). The lower the number, the easier a product is absorbed.
7. Butylated Compounds
Used as a preservative in industries ranging from food packaging to cosmetics and skin care, butylated compounds are often listed on labels as BHA or BHT. They are prohibited by the European Union under evidence of hormone disruption and have been linked to skin depigmentation and irritation.
Siloxanes are silicone-based compounds used to soften, smooth, and moisten. As such, they are often found in hair products, deodorants, and moisturizers. Classified by the E.U. as an endocrine disruptor, laboratory tests determined these chemicals have a potentially harmful impact on the immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. Check for the suffixes -siloxane and -methicone when inspecting your product labels.
Valued for its ability to keep cosmetics intact after sun exposure, octinoxate has been linked to endocrine disruption, breast cancer, and thyroid disorders. It is commonly found in sunscreens, skin creams, and lipsticks.
A byproduct of coal processing found in hair dyes and shampoos, phenylenediamine is a known human carcinogen. A respiratory toxicant and skin irritant, it is often listed on labels as “CL” and followed by a five-digit number.
It can be shocking to see just how many of our trusted brands and beauty products are compromised by one or more of these toxic ingredients. If these products are a regular part of your cosmetic routine, there are tons of healthy alternatives out there. As a general rule of thumb, search for products derived from natural plants and herbs.
If squinting at labels isn’t your favorite past time, you can even try downloading one of these helpful apps to scan products, instantly view ingredient lists, and receive clean product suggestions. Making the transition to a toxin-free cosmetic collection may seem overwhelming at first, but the benefits greatly outweigh the cost. Makeup is expensive enough already… it shouldn’t come at the price of your health!