Lethal Beauty: 5 Toxic Ingredients You Don’t Want on Your Skin

When was the last time you checked the label on your favorite lipstick?Lethal Beauty: 5 Toxic Ingredients You Don't Want on Your Skin

If you’re anything like me, you probably gave it a quick glance and went on with your usual business. (Who has time to read the tiny print on the lipstick box, anyway? And, are the ingredients even there?)

But did you know that you could be putting yourself in harm’s way by not paying attention to what goes in your makeup and skin care products?

Lead in Lipstick, Plus So Much More

It’s no secret that lead, a mineral neurotoxin that can cause learning impairment and behavioral disorders, had snuck its way into our favorite brands of lipstick. In the 2007 study made by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics on lipsticks, 61% of the 33 popular brands turned out to have high levels of lead.

Although not all lipsticks contain lead, it’s best to proceed with caution. Same thing goes for other cosmetic and skin care products.

Want to know what’s in your cosmetic and skincare products? Here’s a rundown of the 5 harmful ingredients that we put on our skin:

1. Parabens

Parabens are widely used in nearly all cosmetics and skincare products to inhibit mold growth and spread of bacteria. If parabens do a good job of preserving the quality of our makeup, why are they harmful? According to the Breast Cancer Fund, parabens have been linked to the increased risk of breast cancer because of its estrogen-like properties (also known as agonists). Although the US FDA disclaimed that parabens are not harmful in small amounts, it’s best to exercise caution.

Names to watch out for: Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, and Isobutylparaben

2. Fragrance

Sounds innocuous, but fragrance is actually a catchall term that is used to conceal a variety of chemicals used in beauty products. Fragrance contains phthalates, a type of chemical used in making plastics flexible. Phthalates can trigger skin and eye irritations, as well as breast cancer and reproductive disorders in males and females. Don’t see phthalates in the list of ingredients in your makeup? That’s because phthalates are part of the “secret concoction” otherwise known as fragrance. (Note: Even products marketed as “unscented” or “fragrance free” contain ingredients that mask the odor of chemicals.)

Names to watch out for: Fragrance, Parfum, Phthalates

3. Formaldehyde

Remember Biology class where you had to dissect frogs? That liquid substance used in preserving the poor creatures is the same one found in makeup—but in smaller traces. So exactly how much is too much? Anything above 0.2 percent should raise a red flag. According to the World Health Organization, formaldehyde is an ingredient that could cause irritations and cancer. But you wouldn’t find formaldehyde listed in your makeup ingredients list. That’s because formaldehyde is not an ingredient that cosmetics companies directly throw in that tube of primer you’re using. Instead, several chemicals (also known formaldehyde releasers) slowly but gradually form formaldehyde molecules when mixed with water.

Names to watch out for: Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, Hydroxymethylglycinate, Quaternium-15, 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane, and Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol )

4. Propylene Glycol

Lethal BeautyWhat do antifreeze and your favorite moisturizer have in common? It’s Propylene Glycol or PG. It turns out that PG is a very good chemical for maintaining moisture in cosmetics. Although cosmetic-grade propylene glycol is less lethal than the industrial-grade one used in antifreeze, it is still not 100% safe to use. By itself, PG shouldn’t be a reason for worry. But this penetration enhancer allows personal care products to be easily absorbed by the skin—along with the toxic ingredients that come with it.

Names to watch out for: 1,2-propylene glycol, 1,2-dihydroxypropane, 1,2-propanediol, 2-hydroxypropanol, propane-1,2-diol, 1,2-dihydroxypropane, methylethyl glycol, alpha-propyleneglycol, methylethylene glycol, dowfrost

5. Synthetic Colors

Colors make everything better. Or do they? If you check your makeup label, you’ll see items labeled as FD&C or D&C. The letters are usually followed by a number (as in FD&C Blue No. 1). Synthetic colors are usually derived from coal tar dye, a petroleum-derived chemical. Coal tar dye is known to be a human carcinogen, and yet it is one of the ingredients found in lipstick, which we ingest.

Names to watch out for: FD&C Blue No. 1, FD&C Green No. 3, FD&C Black No.2 and No.3, FD&C Brown No.1, FD&C Red (4, 6, 7, 17, 21, 22, 27, 28, 30, 31, 33, 34, 36), FD&C Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine, E102), FD&C Yellow No. 6 (Sunset Yellow FCF, E110), F&G Yellow No: 7, 8, 10, 11, FD&C Orange No. 4, 5, 10 and 11, FD&C Red No. 40 (Allura Red AC, E129), FD&C Violet No.2, and many others

Are these ingredients even regulated at all?

Not much, really. In fact, the FDA does not regulate the use of chemicals in cosmetics, save for color additives. This means that cosmetics companies can use any ingredient in their products, as long as those are not prohibited by the FDA.

What does this mean to you as a consumer?

Toxic concoctions hide behind hard-to-pronounce names. As a consumer, you need to exercise caution when buying makeup and skincare products. As the largest organ in the body, the skin absorbs whatever we slap on to our skin and transmits it to the bloodstream and onto the other organs.

Read what’s on the label and stay informed. Let us know in the comments what you’re doing to stay ingredient free.