Top 6 Toxins That are Probably in Your Makeup Bag


The beauty industry doesn’t want you to know that the chemicals that are found in many cosmetics are toxic. You assume the products you use are safe for your skin. After all, why would they be marketed for use on your skin otherwise? We’re not sure either.

However, research shows that one in eight ingredients used in cosmetics and beauty products are toxic. Your skin is your body’s largest organ. It absorbs a great deal of the chemicals that you slather on, leading to potential health hazards for you.

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1. Parabens

These preservatives help your makeup last longer. Parabens can prevent yeast and bacteria from growing in and on your products. However, parabens can mimic estrogen when they’re absorbed in your body. This can disrupt your body’s hormone levels.

According to, parabens have been linked with cancer, developmental problems, reproductive problems and hormonal issues.

If you’re a label reader, look for ingredients like methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and ethylparaben and avoid them. Parabens are most often found in shampoo, conditioner, lotions, cleansers and scrubs.

2. Phthalates

This group of chemicals represents another major toxin in cosmetics. Phthalates help make plastic more malleable and are found in nail polish, perfumes, lotions and hair spray.

Like parabens, phthalates are endocrine disruptors and have been connected with an increased risk of breast cancer. They are also associated with reproductive problems and birth defects.

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Phthalates are more difficult to identify than parabens when you’re reading a label. Manufacturers are allowed to list the generic term “fragrance” without revealing the exact ingredients used in that fragrance.

3. Fragrance

As mentioned above, fragrance is a particularly sneaky category that may or may not include toxic ingredients.

One of the main concerns with fragrances is that they can cause an allergic reaction. If an individual becomes sensitized to an ingredient, he or she can experience allergic reactions with every exposure. The problem is that it’s difficult to identify the trigger if you don’t know which ingredients were used.

Fragrance blends have been linked with allergies, reproductive issues, dermatitis and respiratory distress. Fragrance can be found in anything from perfumes to lotions, hair products, moisturizers and lip products.

4. Artificial Colors

Synthetic colorings are often referred to as FD&C or D&C followed by a number. These colors come from petroleum or coal tar and are believed to be carcinogenic. The Environmental Working Group reports that coal tar is toxic for the skin and respiratory tract. It has been banned from cosmetics in the European Union.

Although you may not think that these colorings affect your body internally, think about all that lip balm that gets licked off of your lips every winter.

5. Sulfates

You may have noticed that sulfate-free formulas are popping up in more and more shampoos, conditioners and cleansers. Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are surfactants that help these products foam up when you use them.

While rich suds can feel luxurious, they can also irritate your eyes, skin and lungs. Sulfates are corrosive cleaning agents. When combined with other chemicals, sulfates can form carcinogenic byproducts called nitrosamine, according to Natural News. These carcinogens can harm the developmental and nervous systems.

While shampoo and toothpaste commercials often show happy people cleansing with copious amounts of lather, that foaming quality is a cheap way to make a little bit of product go a long way. You don’t need it to get clean.

6. Formaldehyde

If you have any recollection of high school biology class, your nose is probably already wrinkling at the memory of formaldehyde. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies formaldehyde as a carcinogen. So why is it in your beauty products?

Many experts can’t agree on acceptable levels. Some say that there is no acceptable level for formaldehyde in a cosmetics product, especially if that product will be used every day for years.

Formaldehyde may be listed as formalin on the label. It is most often used in nail hardeners and hair straightening treatments, but it can also be found in eyelash glue, soap, hair gel and deodorant.

How to Avoid Toxins in Your Beauty Products

You would think that reading the label would help you stay away from toxins in your cosmetics. However, there is no consistent regulation of chemicals in beauty products, and there are loopholes that prevent manufacturers from listing every ingredient in a product. Even the word “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean what you think when it is used to describe cosmetics.

The safest way to avoid absorbing toxins from your beauty products is to make your own. You don’t have to get fancy to use natural products on your skin and hair. Here are some suggestions.


Coconut oil

Pure shea butter

Aloe vera plant

Shampoo and Conditioner

Baking soda followed by a vinegar rinse (the “No-Poo” method)

Olive oil warmed and applied to the hair as conditioner

Cleansers and Scrubs

Sugar or salt mixed with olive or coconut oil for an exfoliant

Alcohol-free witch hazel as a cleanser

If making your own beauty products sounds too complicated, you can get more information about your cosmetics by searching the Environmental Working Group database. Thousands of commercial products are listed, including their overall hazard and concerns about specific toxins.

Just because it’s available for sale doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. Do your research next time you buy beauty products to help stay healthy from the outside in.

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