Why You Should Be Picky About What’s in Your Makeup

As we become more aware of how the food we put into our bodies affects our health, we should also pay more attention to what we put on our bodies, too. Lotions, shampoos, cosmetics, and other personal care products can be just as harmful as eating unhealthy foods, possibly even more so. Many people don’t know that common ingredients found in everyday products like sunscreen and face wash have been linked to some very serious health concerns, including cancer and hormonal disruptions. Some of these ingredients can actually be absorbed directly into the bloodstream when you use them on your hair or skin! Not only that, but certain ingredients can be harmful to the environment as well.

Most of us know by know that sticking to more natural products is better for us and the environment. Thankfully, there has been a significant shift in recent years toward “clean” beauty, with Korean makeup products leading the charge on all-natural ingredients. However, some cosmetic companies are still using ingredients that could be harmful, even in products that are labeled as being natural. Here are several harmful ingredients to look for and avoid in your makeup and skincare products.


Parabens are commonly included in all types of personal care products, including makeup, shampoo, shave gel, and sunless tanners. Several studies show that parabens can mimic estrogen in the body. This could cause serious health issues like skin and breast cancer and even lower sperm count. The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products reports that long chain parabens, including butyl and propylparaben, could be extremely harmful as well. They may be responsible for developmental and reproductive disorders caused by disruptions in the endocrine system. Be wary of an ingredient that has the suffix “paraben” and whenever possible, choose products that say “Paraben Free” right on the label.

Polyethylene or PEGs

You’ll find polyethylene in everything from toothpaste and body scrubs to makeup. This harmful chemical is commonly used to make the little plastic beads found in scrubs because it’s gentler on the skin than walnut shells, a natural exfoliator. Unfortunately, it often contains synthetic chemicals like 1, 4-dioxin, which is considered to be a likely carcinogen that can penetrate the skin. Polyethylene is also known to be irritating to the skin. Not only that, but those tiny beads are not biodegradable. They travel through our sewage systems and end up in our waterways, polluting them and also being consumed by fish and other marine animals. Thankfully, there are much safer options, such as exfoliators made from salt, sugar, and even coffee.

Petroleum Distillates

One of the most common places you’ll find petroleum distillates is in mascara.  This potentially harmful ingredient may cause contact dermatitis. It is can also be contaminated with impurities that can cause cancer. Believe it or not, petroleum distillates are made in oil refineries where they are also making heating oil and gasoline.


Just about any personal care product can contain fragrance, from makeup to body lotions. Unfortunately, chemical fragrances can contain hormonal disruptors. Even natural fragrances are known to cause allergic reactions in many people. It’s best to avoid fragranced products whenever possible and choose products labeled “fragrance-free” instead.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium lauryl sulfate, also commonly called SLS, is used in foundation, shampoos, body washes, face wash, and more. It has been shown to cause problems like eye damage, canker sores, and skin irritation. It may also be a leading cause of cystic acne found on the chin and mouth area.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole

Butylated hydroxyanisole is considered to be a possible carcinogen. It’s often found in perfumes and exfoliants. Some animal studies have shown that this ingredient could cause liver damage, stomach cancer, thyroid issues, and it may even interfere with reproductive system development. It has also been shown to cause depigmentation of the skin.


Triclosan is often included in beauty products intended to treat acne, hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps, deodorant, and even toothpaste. It was incredibly popular in the 1990s. Sadly, triclosan and its counterpart triclocarban (used in bar soaps) have been linked to impaired muscle function, impaired immune function, hormonal disruption, bacterial resistance, and an increase in allergies. Go for natural antibacterials, like tea tree oil, instead.

Coal Tar

This byproduct of coal processing is commonly found in hair care products, like shampoo and hair colorants. Coal tar is known to be carcinogenic, and it is mostly banned in Europe. In the United States, it is still approved for use in things like medicated shampoos, but its long-term use could pose serious health risks.


Retinol, retinoic acid, retinyl acetate, and retinol palmitate are all popular anti-aging ingredients used in foundation, moisturizer, lip products, and unfortunately sometimes sunscreen. This ingredient can be dangerous if it’s not handled correctly. Many people don’t realize that it can actually become carcinogenic when exposed to sunlight. Retinol and its derivatives should only be used at night, and you should never use a sunscreen that contains retinol because it could have the exact opposite effect of what you’re looking for.


You’ll see oxybenzone in the ingredients list on sunscreen, or in products that have SPF like certain lotions and foundations. This high-risk chemical can work just like estrogen in your body, possibly lowering sperm count in men and causing endometriosis in women. Zinc oxide, avobenzone, and titanium oxide are safer options.

Formaldehyde, Toluene, and Dibutyl Phthalate

This toxic trio is still regularly used in nail products, especially nail polish. It has been linked to respiratory issues, headaches, endocrine problems, and possibly even birth defects. It’s especially concerning for anyone who works in a nail salon or for those who go to nails salons frequently for manicures and pedicures. Pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid these ingredients. Look for brands like Zoya and OPI who have pledged to eliminate these ingredients from all of their products.

When was the last time you read the ingredients list on your makeup products? You may be surprised to find out just how many of these harmful ingredients are included in products you purchase regularly. For your health and the environment, it’s time to take a stand and get picky about what’s in your makeup!

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