What The Chemicals In Your Makeup Are Doing To Your Body

chemicals in makeup

Unsplash/Malvestida Magazine

As we become increasingly conscious of the way we treat our skin, it’s important to take a closer look at the ingredient labels on our favorite cosmetic products to make sure that they aren’t causing more harm than good — and we’re not just talking about clogged pores. There are a handful of chemicals hidden within foundations, concealers, lipsticks and more that definitely don’t do your body any favors. Here’s what you should be on the lookout for and how they impact your body.


Parabens are well known for mimicking the estrogen in your body and therefore, wreaking havoc on your hormones. And yet, the majority of cosmetic products contain them. Parabens have been linked to the risk of both skin cancer and breast cancer, and they are very easily absorbed by your body. Because they’re so ubiquitous in cosmetics, you’re best off looking for labels that outright say “paraben-free” on them.


You might have read before that you want to avoid sulfates in your hair shampoo, but sodium lauryl sulfate is also a common ingredient in foundation products. It’s commonly associated with skin irritation, canker sores and eye damage, and it can disrupt your skin’s natural oil balance. And because of this last concern, your foundation can be the reason you experience more acne around your mouth and chin.

chemicals in makeup


Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives 

Formaldehyde is a potent skin allergen and carcinogen, yet a lot of cosmetics contain preservatives that release formaldehyde as they decompose. (Sounds yummy.) Look out for things like DMDM hydantoin, butylated hydroxytoluene, bronopol, diazolidinyl urea, midazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, methenamine and sodium on your makeup labels. We can’t decide what’s scarier — the chemical names or the problems they can cause.


Phthalates are a common problem with plastic containers, fast food wrappers and — you guessed it — makeup. These chemicals are usually found in colored cosmetics and are known endocrine disruptors, increasing risks of developmental problems, fertility issues and cancer. Fun fact: Phthalates are banned entirely in the European Union, but they’re still commonly used in products in the United States. They can appear on ingredient labels as phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP and fragrance.


You read that right — the basis of what fuels cars can also be found in your mascara products. It’s usually combined with other cancer-causing chemicals, so it’s probably best to not put that stuff near your eyes, right? Right. Again, read those freaking labels, friends.

chemicals in makeup

Unsplash/Raphael Lovaski


The word “fragrance” sounds benign, but it’s not the same as the perfume mist you enjoy wading through before a night on the town. Cosmetic companies use this word as a vague category, which often includes other undisclosed chemicals that can irritate your skin or even inspire an allergic reaction. So, to be on the safe side, pick cosmetics that clearly say “fragrance-free” on the labels.


You’d think that we would have nixed lead from all consumer products by now since it’s toxic in virtually any dose, but it’s still found in the majority of lipstick products. Eeek. We suggest avoiding this neurotoxin at all costs to prevent learning disabilities, behavioral problems and fertility issues.

If this list has you thinking that there’s no possible way to wear makeup without compromising your health, don’t panic. Just make a point to invest a little more in certified organic options that exclude these ingredients. And if you want to go one step further, try some vegan brands as well.

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