Turns out that mainstream inexpensive cosmetics – many that are regularly bought online or in drug stores – may contain contaminants that are dangerous for humans.
Alright, so this may not be that surprising given our money and consumerism based culture.
But how about this? A woman was hospitalized after using a knock-off Ponds cream due to mercury poisoning. This specific cream had 500 times the legal amount of mercury in the cream. Well, maybe not surprising, but absolutely terrifying.
This is partly due to inexpensive brands being less regulated, produced quicker, and therefore having more slip-ups in the process.
With that said, knowledge is power! Understanding which ingredients are dangerous, why they should be avoided, and how to identify them, is the first step. Next, choosing a brand that you can trust is a great way to take the labor out of your love of cosmetics.
Plus, it turns out that by choosing vegan-friendly, organic, all-natural, and small batch cosmetics businesses, you can lower your risk of receiving a contaminated or bad batch of makeup. On top of that, you’ll be able to avoid a whole bunch of chemicals that you probably don’t want your body absorbing.
What is Toxic Makeup?
The term is actually pretty terrifying… toxic makeup. And, the truth is, you should be somewhat terrified. At least enough to take note of and start reading the ingredients labels of the make up your purchase.
So, what do we mean when we talk about toxic makeup? Specifically, we’re referring to brands that use ingredients that can cause major health issues. In fact, there are “certain chemicals present in makeup and other cosmetic products” that have been linked to cancer, endocrine disorders, — which “affect the production of hormones in the body” — developmental delays, and neurological problems.
In a country that has such strict regulations on, well, it seems everything else, how in the world is this being allowed?
While the Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) highly regulates foods and drugs, there’s “no law that requires the [FDA] to approve cosmetics.” None at all! So, the end product, “other than color additives, cosmetics can contain a number of dangerous chemicals with no regulation.”
Common Dangerous Cosmetics Ingredients
We know they’re out there, but how do we identify those dangerous cosmetic ingredients in order to avoid them? Luckily, just for you, we’ve put together a list of the most common chemicals and a little info about them so you can make the best decision for your body and health. Keep in mind, there definitely may be others, as the list of cosmetic ingredients is very long, but these are the most common to keep an eye out for!
You may recognize this ingredient, as it’s gained massive fame as “nearly 12,000 women have sued Johnson & Johnson” over talc, “with most claiming the talc in its well-known product Johnson’s Baby Powder caused their ovarian cancer.”
So, what’s the deal with talc? Turns out that this mineral is found in clay, which is “mined from underground deposits” where you can also find asbestos. In fact, “veins of [asbestos] can often be found in talc deposits, leading to a risk of cross-contamination.”
While much of the media surrounding talc speaks to the long-term risk of cancer, talc poisoning (generally happens by inhaling the powder) manifests in zero urine output, irritation of the ears, eyes, nose, and throat, low blood pressure, chest pain, wheezing, drowsiness, twitching, diarrhea, vomiting, and even skin blisters, to name just a few.
There’s a reason that people try to avoid preservatives in their cosmetics. This is one such reason.
Triclosan is an “antibacterial and antifungal agent [made from] polychloro phenoxy phenol,” and it’s a preservative. It’s not just cosmetics in which need to watch out for triclosan, this preservative is used in “personal care products such as soaps, skin creams, toothpaste, and deodorants, as well as household items such as plastic chopping boards, sports equipment, and shoes.”
Basically, it’s everywhere!
Recent research found that triclosan may be linked to serious health issues including altering hormone regulation in animals, contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs, and harming the immune system. While research is still ongoing, it’s believed that triclosan may also be connected to skin cancer.
When looking for the ingredient lead, you actually won’t necessarily see the term lead, but instead, you’ll find one of the following: kohl, kajal, al-Kahal, surma, tiro, tozali, or kwali. All of these ingredients “may contain high levels of lead, which is a harmful heavy metal for the body.” These are incredibly popular ingredients in many cosmetic eye and lip makeup, most regularly found in eyeliners and lipsticks.
If lead enters the bloodstream, let’s say through absorption on the skin, it is then “distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones,” and is also “stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time.” When it comes to lead, “there is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects.”
Lead is particularly dangerous for children, as it can “affect children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as reduced attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment.” Adults are not excluded! Adult lead exposure can also cause “anaemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs.”
Luckily, these ingredients are “illegal in the U.S., as they come under the FDA’s list of illegal color additives.” With that said, if you’re ordering cosmetic brands online, make sure to take a second look at those ingredients!
Another of the heavy metal family, mercury is oftentimes found in skin lighteners.
Mercury is a “naturally occurring metal that is in many everyday products, albeit in tiny amounts.” Oftentimes, mercury is a “by-product of industrial processes, such as burning coal for power,” but it has also been used in a variety of cosmetic products over the years. Even though small amounts of mercury are deemed safe, turns out these small amounts can actually be stored and build up in the body to cause poisoning.
Mercury is very dangerous for the human body and “may affect the nervous system, cause kidney damage, and harm a developing fetus.”
Plus, there’s a long list of symptoms that go along with mercury poisoning including behavioral changes — such as nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depression, or mood changes — physical symptoms — such as physical tremors, muscle weakness, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, impaired motor skills, and changes in vision, hearing, or speech — neurological issues — such as memory problems, lack of motor skills, coordination issues, difficulty walking or standing, and even problems thinking and problem-solving.
Alright, if you’re a health nut then you’ve definitely heard about this one! In fact, many people shop for their self-care items — including cosmetics — based on whether they contain or don’t contain phthalates.
Phthalates are a “group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break” and, for reference, they are “often called plasticizers.” They are widely used “in hundreds of products, such as vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils, automotive plastics, plastic clothes (raincoats), and personal-care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, and nail polishes).”
So, what’s so bad about phthalates?
Turns out these plasticizers can “unbalance hormones, particularly those that work alongside estrogen, such as testosterone,” and they may be linked to breast cancer. Phthalates have also been associated with “changes in sex hormone levels, altered development of genitals, and low sperm count and quality,” as well as “obesity, reduced female fertility, preterm birth, and low birth weight, a worsening of allergy and asthma symptoms, and altered toddler behavior.”
Along with phthalates, parabens are another consumer-decision maker. Most people search for cosmetics based specifically on whether it has parabens or not.
First off, parabens are a preservative present in “makeup, moisturizers, hair products, and shaving creams.” They also go by many different names including “methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, and butylparaben.”
The big problem with parabens, other than they are a non-natural chemical, is that they can “enter the body through the skin and mimic estrogen.” This, in turn, disrupts “the normal function of hormone systems affecting male and female reproductive system functioning, reproductive development, fertility and birth outcomes.” On top of that, parabens have also been found to “interfere with the production of hormones,” as well as are linked to “an imbalance of estrogen [that] can sometimes trigger a certain type of breast cancer called hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.”
Yep, we’re talking about the same thing they use to preserve dead bodies for funerals and burial. That same ingredient is also used as a preservative in some cosmetics.
Formaldehyde is found in “cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, shower gels, nail polishes, and hair straightening products.” While formaldehyde has been linked to “allergic reactions, as well as irritation to the eyes and respiratory system,” further research must be conducted to link this preservative to cancer. Currently, only a few animal studies have found a link.
Even though the U.S. government and the World Health Organization “have classified formaldehyde as a carcinogenic when its fumes are inhaled,” this also means that the small amount of the preservative — generally undergone treatment to become a slow-release “preservative system” — in your cosmetics is technically not carcinogenic by these standards.
With that said, if you’d rather play it safe than sorry, you’ll need to not only look out for formaldehyde but also the chemicals that go into the “preservative system” including DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, bronopol (2–bromo–2–nitropropane–1,3-diol ), 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane, and hydroxymethylglycinate.
8. Carbon Black
Carbon black “is a dark black powder used as a pigment in cosmetics” including pretty much all the big products such as “eyeliner, mascara, nail polish, eye shadow, brush-on-brow, lipstick, blushers, rouge, makeup, and foundation.” This pigment powder is “produced by incomplete combustion of carbon-based products such as coal and tar,” meaning those cosmetics you love with carbon black most likely have either coal or tar in their design.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) — that same company that produces that wonderful clean fifteen and dirty dozen produce lists — have linked “this chemical with cancer, and research has reported that carbon black is ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans.’” There have also been links between carbon black and “negative effects on organs,” although more research needs to be done.
It’s important to note the “possibility” factor of carbon blacks danger, yet do we really want the possibility of cancer in our cosmetics that we wear on a daily basis? That’s totally up to you!
9. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances
Also called PFAS for short, per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances are “man-made chemicals that include PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals” that are “present in foundations, concealers, and eyeliners, as well as other cosmetic products.” This one is a little different as it’s not simply one chemical, but, per the Environmental Working Group, “there are more than 4,000 chemicals classed as PFAS that may pose” health risks including harming a developing fetus, increasing a person’s risk of cancer, affecting the immune system, and affecting hormone balance.”
While some research is still pending on PFAS, they have concluded that both PFOA and PFOS are “very persistent in the environment and in the human body — meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time.” On top of that, research has found that “exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects” including increased cholesterol levels, “low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer (for PFOA), and thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS).”
10. Benzophenone-type ultraviolet filters
This is one of the least researched and newest to the “human harm” list.
What’s so bad about these chemicals?
Turns out that benzophenone has been linked to endometriosis, as well as disrupt in our hormone balance and systems. Along with being harmful to humans, benzophenone’s have also been found to negatively affect the environment as they migrate from human skin to the surfaces of the environment — such as from sunscreen to the ocean, lakes, and rivers — meaning these chemicals are continuously released into the environment. BP’s have been known to “react rapidly with aqueous chlorine, forming halogenated by-products,” but, unfortunately, “knowledge on the occurrence, fate and toxicity of these halogenated by-products is scarce and thus further investigation is needed.”
Alright, now we know what to avoid and how to identify it on our favorite makeup brands. What if we don’t want to scavenge the shelf, reading every little ingredient? Who can we turn to?
Turns out there are a host of wonderful, all-natural, organic, and toxic chemical-free companies popping up across the country. In this new wave of wellness that has hit the health community over the last decade, small businesses have seized on the need and desire to more conscious of what we’re putting not only in, but also on our bodies.
Here are a few companies that not only refuse to use toxic and harsh chemicals, but also follow environmentally-friendly practices, are cruelty-free, and use only vegan-friendly ingredients!
Poppy Austin is one of those companies that you can’t help but love. They are not only vegan registered, but are also 100 percent cruelty-free, eco-friendly, natural, organic, and practice ph balance with all of their products.
If that wasn’t enough to turn your head and heart, Poppy Austin also prides themselves on providing products that are “handmade in small batches by women who are paid a fair wage while honoring time-old traditions.” They use 100 percent organic cold-pressed oils and absolutely never use “unrecognizable fillers or extravagant marketing jargon.”
Poppy Austin provides a range of products from skincare to hair care that is purchasable via their website, as well as online at Amazon.com, such as this Poppy Austin Vegan Vitamin C Serum for $26.49 or this Pure Rosehip Oil for $19.49.
Their goal is to “create the world’s purest organic and all-natural line of cosmetics, beauty products, and skincare.” It may be a lofty goal, but it’s one they are pretty close to nailing down! While not all of their cosmetics are vegan, 100% PURE focuses on as many vegan cosmetics that are “formulated with high-performing antioxidants, naturally occurring vitamins, and essential oils to give your skin maximum benefits.”
100% PURE also keeps to that goal when it comes to individual ingredients adhering to “strict purity standards,” never using harsh or toxic ingredients (such as colorants and heavy metals), sourcing pigments naturally (fruit, vegetables, and cocoa), and painstakingly verifying that “each ingredient sourced is never animal-sourced.”
Plus, 100% PURE can be purchased directly from their site or on Amazon, such as this 100% PURE Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream for $29.00 or this 100% PURE 2nd Skin Concealer for $29.00.
Juice Beauty was “founded from a desire to create meaningful, healthy change in the beauty industry.” Juice Beauty refers to themselves as “pioneers who believe in transformation without compromise.” What do they do that’s different? Well, to begin with, they focus on “providing clinically validated, authentically organic formulas and a proprietary base of nutrient-rich organic botanical juices,” that bridge a wide spectrum of ingredients from high-performance skincare to vibrant makeup.
All of their products are sourced from USDA organic farming, are sustainability-friendly, are vegan, and cruelty-free!
You can find Juice Beauty via their website as well as on Amazon such as this Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Last Looks Cream Blush for $24.00 or this Juice Beauty Lip Trio for $10.00.
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