Make up and skincare

There are a lot of ingredients in make up and skincare that you actually don’t want to put on your skin. And don’t think that by buying ´natural´ products you’re in the safe zone. Products that label themselves as natural, organic, or eco don’t actually have to follow any legal or industry rules about their ingredients. So, if you are looking for safe make up you are looking for a product that doesn´t include any ingredients that could negatively impact your body’s normal function and cause issues like allergies, cancer, or reproductive harm. How do you find these products?

First, you will need to know which ingredients you would want to avoid and to know which products contain these. This means that you have to read the label. The 10 most common harmful ingredients are:

  1. Parabens

    Found in: body lotion, shampoo, conditioners, face cleanser, body wash, foundation and other makeup, moisturizer, shaving gel.

    What to look for on the label: thylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, other ingredients ending in –paraben.

    Why avoid: Parabens mimic estrogen, which may disrupt normal hormone functioning and cause developmental and sexual reproductive harm. Research suggests they could be linked to breast cancer and interfere with male reproductive functions. Many personal care products contain parabens, increasing the risk of overexposure.

  2. Butylated compounds

    Found in: exfoliants, perfume, lipsticks, eyeshadow, blush, face powder, moisturizers, diaper creams, deodorant, and hair products.

    What to look for on the label: BHA, BHT.

    Why avoid: BHA or BHT, which are butylated compounds, act as a preservative in cosmetics, but can be hormone-disruptive and cause developmental and reproductive issues. The US National Toxicology Program classifies butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

  3. Oxybenzone and Octinoxate

    Found in: moisturizers, aftershave, lipstick, nail polish, skin creams, foundations, fragrance, hair products but mostly in sunscreen.

    What to look for on the label: oxybenzone, octinoxate.

    Why avoid: Oxybenzone acts like estrogen in the body, alters sperm production in animals and is associated with endometriosis in women. Oxybenzone and its metabolites may disrupt the hormone system and octinoxate can have a harmful effect on a fetus’s reproductive organ development. Opt for sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium oxide or avobenzene instead.

  4. Triclosan and Triclocarban

    Found in: antibacterial liquid soap, deodorant, shaving cream, soap bars, and toothpaste.

    What to look for on the label: Triclosan (TSC) and triclocarban (TCC).

    Why avoid: Triclosan (in liquid products) and triclocarban (in bar soaps) have been linked to hormonal disruptions, bacterial resistance, impaired muscle function, impaired immune function and increased allergies.

  5. Ethoxylated ingredients

    Found in: scrubs, body wash, makeup, toothpaste, shampoo, liquid soap, bubble bath, hair relaxers.

    What to look for on the label: PPG, PEG, polysorbate and ingredients that end in –eth such as laureth, steareth, ceteareth.

    Why avoid: Ethoxylated ingredients on their own are of low concern, however, the process of ethoxylation, may leave behind trace amounts of carcinogens. These synthetic chemicals are frequently contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which the U.S. government considers a probable human carcinogen and which easily penetrates the skin. Ethoxylated ingredients are listed on labels, but without testing them, there is no way to know if a product contains residual ethylene oxide or 1,4 dioxane. Ethylene oxide is listed as a developmental toxicant and a male and female reproductive toxicant. 1,4-dioxane is listed as possibly carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

  6. Phthalates

    Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, eyelash glue, and hairspray.

    What to look for on the label: phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP and fragrance.

    Why avoid: Phthalates are linked to endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity and cancer. Be aware that many products contain the ingredient “fragrance” or “perfume/parfum”. Anything with undisclosed fragrance can mask a combination of hundreds of different ingredients, including phthalates.

  7. Ethanolamines (MEA/DEA/TEA)

    Found in: mascara, hair dyes, blush, make-up bases, foundations, fragrances, sunscreens, shampoo, soap, paraffin and waxes, lotion.

    What to look for on the label: Triethanolamine, diethanolamine, DEA, TEA, cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, lauramide DEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA, stearamide MEA, TEA-lauryl sulfate.

    Why avoid: When ethanolamines are used in the same product as certain preservatives that break down into nitrogen, they can form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are a class of more than a dozen different chemicals, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer lists individually as possible and known carcinogens.

  8. Diazolidinyl Urea (Formaldehyde)

    Found in: nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, hair gel, hair-smoothing products, baby shampoo, body soap, body wash, color cosmetics.

    What to look for on the label: formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal.

    Why avoid: Various preservatives used in cosmetics can release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is considered a known human carcinogen by many expert and government bodies, including the United States National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

  9. Toluene

    Found in: nail polish, nail treatment, hair dyes.

    What to look for on the label: toluene.

    Why avoid: Toluene is linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity and skin irritation.

  10. Petroleum distillates

    Found in: lotions, cosmetics.

    What to look for on the label: Petrolatum, Petroleum Jelly, Paraffin Oil, Mineral Oil and White Petrolatum (refined and safe for use).

    Why avoid: Petrolatum is a byproduct of petroleum refining. When properly refined, petrolatum has no known health concerns. However, with an incomplete refining history, petrolatum could potentially be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. Furthermore, petroleum jelly creates a barrier on the skin and can create the illusion of moisturized, hydrated skin, while suffocating your pores. Finally, petrolatum comes from crude oil, and as such is not a renewable resource.

Another ingredient to look out for are microbeads, which are often made of polyethylene. Polyethylene has been noted as a skin irritant and should never be used on broken skin. Polyethylene beads (microbeads) in scrubs and body washes also are not filtered by our sewage systems, meaning they can collect pollutants and end up in our waterways, where they’re consumed by fish and marine animals.

If you are not sure about an ingredient or a product, you can check EWG´s (Environmental Working Group) online directory, Skin Deep. It is a great resource and shows you which ingredients and products are safe/unsafe and why.


Safe Make Up Project

Hello Glow

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics