Toxic Ingredients in Makeup


Grab one of your products from your makeup bag. Does it have a label? If so, what are the ingredients? Chances are if you read the parts, most of them are chemical names you have never even heard of. What may be worse is that the label may have come off with the wrapping as in the case of eyeliners—if it also had an ingredient label, to begin with. You will often see a list of ingredients with the words: “may contain.” Does it contain all of those ingredients? Or just maybe? It is scary to think of what you might be putting on your face every day. Here are some of the makeup label ingredients that are toxic with long term exposure.


Next to dioxin, the worst ingredient is Talc. Talc powder often contains asbestos, which has been ruled a highly dangerous toxin. When it is found in houses, a team of professionals has to come in and remove it with special equipment. Yet, women have put it on their faces for decades. Asbestos causes mesothelioma, cancer that does not appear right away. A woman can be diagnosed with cancer 30 years after being exposed to it.


 PEG, known as polyethylene glycol, contains dioxin. It is found in personal care products as well as the baby care and sunscreen products that you and your children are using.


 According to studies, phthalates are xenoestrogens, which are known hormone disruptors. They are in perfumes, hair sprays, skin care lotions, nail polishes, and cosmetics. If used enough, they can cause damage to the kidneys, liver, or even cause birth defects.


BHA/BHT has been found in food as well as makeup products. BHA stands for butyl hydroxyanisole, and BHT stands for butylhydroxytoluene. In high doses, both of these compounds can impair blood clotting. When large amounts are applied to the skin, they can lead to carcinogenic effects (they can cause cancer).


Do you know what is scarier than named ingredients? The unnamed ones. Dioxin is usually listed under PEGs, which are supposed to be antibacterial ingredients. Yet this is a super-toxic chemical that can cause nervous system disorders, birth deformities, and miscarriages. It is also known to cause cancer. Even the tiniest amount can cause damage to the skin.

Color and Pigment

 FD&C color pigments are synthetic colors used in makeup products. The main ingredient to the color and dye is coal tar. Coal tar is known to contain heavy metal salts, which can cause irritation and skin sensitivity. Certain colors can be absorbed through the skin, which causes oxygen depletion. During animal studies, it was found that these toxic color pigments contained carcinogenic properties, meaning they caused cancer.

DMDM Hydantoin

 This is formaldehyde. It is often found in hair conditioners, shampoos, hair gels, cosmetics, and skincare products. It is used as a preservative, but tests have found that it can cause a type of dermatitis due to an allergic reaction. It can lead to reddened skin that scales and is difficult to correct.

Diazolidinyl Urea and Imidazolidinyl Urea

Both are formaldehyde concoctions used as preservatives that, again, lead to contact dermatitis due to allergic reactions. In extreme cases, skin grafts to repair the damage have been necessary.


An ingredient called diethanolamine, or DEA, is a liquid made from fatty acids in coconut oils. It undergoes a chemical reaction used to help thicken shampoo, facial cleansers, and body wash. The chemical process makes this a toxic ingredient that causes skin irritation in addition to liver and kidney cancer. It has also been linked to miscarriages. 

When the chemistry is applied, even unassuming ingredients, like fatty acids from coconut oils, can have damaging effects on your body, whether it is to your skin or your reproductive system.

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