10 Toxic Ingredients in Makeup and Other Beauty Products To Watch Out For


1. Parabens

This one is used as a preservative to keep mold, yeast and bacteria from taking up residence in your makeup and other beauty products  such as deodorants, shampoos, facial cleansers, and more. It is said to promote the increased risk of breast cancer

2. Synthetic colors

Check the ingredients lists of your cosmetic products and watch out for FD&C or D&C, which should be followed by the name of a color and a number. If it’s present in the list, your makeup contains synthetic colors–which are considered to be a human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance)–and you should chuck it out immediately. 

3. Fragrance

When choosing makeup, always go for the one that says “fragrance-free.” The term “fragrance” stands for a term that means an undisclosed mixture of scent chemicals and various other ingredients. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, fragrances in makeup are associated with “allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.”

4. Phthalates

Known to interfere with the body’s endocrine system, possibly increase the risk of breast cancer, and cause reproductive birth defects, pthalates can be found in perfume, hair spray, deodorants, and lotions. And the scary thing is, you may not find the word “pthalates” on a product’s ingredient list, as it is usually included in the mixtures that they label as “fragrances.”

5. Triclosan

This ingredient, which is usually included in toothpastes, antibacterial soaps, and deodorants, is an antimicrobial chemical that can also interfere with the endocrine system and cause skin irritation.

6. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)

Sulfates are usually included in foaming products–anything used for hair and skin care, or household cleaning products. They are known eye, lung and skin irritants and can become a carcinogen when combined with other chemicals.

7. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a cancer-causing chemical, and it can also cause allergic reactions. It has been linked to nasal and nasopharyngeal cancers for those who are exposed to them frequently due to their occupation. Another freaky fact? Formaldehyde is used in embalming corpses, so you don’t want that in the stuff you put on your body, do you?


Derived from petroleum or coal tar sources, this petrochemical can cause skin irritation, nausea, respiratory issues, and more. “In human epidemiological studies and in animal studies toluene has been also associated with toxicity to the immune system and a possible link to blood cancer such as malignant lymphoma,” explains the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database.

9. Propylene glycol

Found in makeup products, moisturizers, sunscreen, and hair care products, propylene glycol is a small organic alcohol that is used as a skin conditioning agent. While low on the hazardous scale, it is still harmful as it can cause allergic and toxic reactions.

10. Sunscreen chemicals

If you see benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate or ethoxycinnmate in the ingredients list of a product, ditch it. These ingredients are sunscreen chemicals that absorb ultraviolet light and can cause endocrine disruption, cellular damage, and cancer.

Photo by pomo mama / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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