An essential item in every mom’s tote, purse or baby bag is makeup; after a long day you want to look your best going out or at the office. But not all cosmetics are created equal. In fact, there are products that you may be putting on your skin, lips and eyes that are downright dangerous. There can be some pretty darn toxic chemicals in your makeup.
So how can a fashionable mama select the products that are the safest?
Looking for Toxic Chemicals in Your Makeup
There are a number of toxins and chemicals in some makeup products which should be avoided, as they can be linked to cancer and other deadly or chronic disorders or are just downright dangerous. Here is a list to avoid:
This is a known carcinogen. Found in nail products, eyelash glue and color cosmetics.
Found in nail products, this toxin can cause confusion, memory loss, exhaustion, and impede clarity.
- Petroleum based (-methyl, -propy, -caprylic, such as propylene glycol)/Mineral oil:
Petroleum jelly comes from residue that builds up on the outside of oil rigs. It is collected, distilled and refined and used in many cosmetics such as lip-gloss. While many call these products safe, the toxicity depends on the refinement process, which is currently unregulated, and lower quality refined oil may be linked to breast cancer. You want to avoid liquid products with “shine” or make sure they are petroleum-free. You can find these ingredients in mascara, perfume, foundation and lipstick /gloss /balm.
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs):
These chemicals increase risk for breast cancer, according to the Breast Cancer Fund. Derived from coal, some find their way into cosmetics. Found in moisturizer, lip balm, anti-aging products, cleansers and more.
- Retinol (Vitamin A):
According to the Environmental Working Group’s SkinDeep database, overexposure to this naturally occurring substance can have reproductive and development effects, and has been linked to skin tumors and lesions. Because it is found in foundation, lipstick, moisturizers, cleansers and anti-aging products, as well as foods rich in this vitamin, your exposure can be high without your realizing it.
- Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide:
These are key ingredients in many sunscreens, which are then added to mineral makeup, foundations and other cosmetics.
The dust left from mica has sharp edges, which can be inhaled and possibly be a respiratory irritant – or worse. The problem is there is no reliable data on this irritant. Mica has “shine”, so it is often used in loose powder products that glimmer. Beautycalypse has a comprehensive article on the science (or lack of) in mineral makeup products.
The toxicity of this product is controversial, but it has been linked to respiratory issues. Found in loose powder makeup, blush, and eyeshadow. However, in the time since I initially did this research, Johnson & Johnson was sued and ordered to pay $72 million to a family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer. For this ruling, the jury found that J&J had failed to warn users of the risk of using talc. Bottom line: while there is mixed evidence on this products as far as studies are concerned, this judgment should leave anyone who uses talc concerned. Read more in depth at the American Cancer Society, who recommends: “Until more information is available, people concerned about using talcum powder may want to avoid or limit their use of consumer products that contain it.”
- Bismuth oxychloride:
According to LiveStrong, this is a powder created from bismuth, which is a bi-product of heavy metals, such as lead and copper. Some people can be allergic to this, but you may also want to avoid this metal derivative on your skin. Found in many mineral foundations.
Breast Cancer Fund reveals that this carcinogen lurks in many items, including foundation. Studies have linked it to mammary tumors in mice.
These are linked to breast cancer and are endocrine disrupters. These can be found in nail polish and synthetic fragrances, including those that are added to other cosmetics. Nail polish can contain a type of called dibutyl phthalate, a reproductive and developmental toxin. A study has linked it to poor development of the reproductive organs in male fetuses.
These are linked to breast cancer and are endocrine disrupters. They are found in creams and lotions, and some makeup.
This a known neurotoxin is linked to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, miscarriage, infertility, and can disrupt puberty in girls. This is found in nail polish, lipstick and foundation.
Balance Your Usage
Keep in mind that some of the toxins above have a cumulative effect, so that the more you are exposed, the more at risk you are. Many of the substances above also exist in non-cosmetic products, like soap, hair products, sunscreen, deodorant and more. Limiting exposure on a daily basis is a wise idea. If you’re absolutely certain that you must use all these products daily, you should switch out to makeup brands that no or very little toxic chemicals. While we recommend doing this anyway, your favorite brands may contain some of the less toxic offenders in this list. In that case, limit your use of the less toxic ones, like mica, and remove the most toxic, such as lead.
Choose Safe Ingredients
While trying to avoid these ingredients may seem like an overwhelming task, there are steps you can take to choose safe ingredients. Look for cosmetics that are:
- Food based and food grade: Essentially, this means they are safe to eat and therefore, should be safe for your skin.
- Organic and Non-GMO Verified: Naturally, this will eliminate any pesticide from getting into your products.
- “Free” brands: You can seek out better brands by looking at options that list what they don’t contain. Common listing on products state that they are free of parabens, phthalates, chemicals, lead, petroleum. In addition, try nail polishes that are “5 free”, meaning they are free from the 5 top toxins found in polish.
A note on “natural ingredients”: In addition to the fact that there is no legal definition for “natural”, some of the substances above are naturally derived or exist in nature, such as Retinol. “Natural” is a hit or miss category, and you are better off seeking organic and food-grade products.
If You’re Still Not Sure
There are two great ways to research your favorite brands or a new brand to discover if there are any lurking toxic chemicals in your makeup:
- EWG’s Skin Deep Database will allow you to check by either product or ingredient. Rating on a scale of 1-8, this system is color-coded: green light is good, yellow is in the middle, red means toxic – and the higher the number, the worse it is. Clicking the item reveals the potential danger.
- The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a ton of resources on the substances above which it considers unsafe. We recommend following them and signing up for their newsletter.
Brands Recommended by Mamavation
- Nail polish: Safer Cosmetics recommends Anise Nail Care, Honeybee Gardens and NAIL-AID Treatments.
- RawSkinCeuticals: 100% raw vegan skin care products and cosmetics.
- Dr. Bronner’s Magic “All-One” carries Non-GMO Verified, USDA Organic products that include lip and body balms, shaving gels, lotions, and sensitive skin care.
- Logona features organic cosmetics and carries gluten free and vegan options. They have an extensive line so check the ingredients of each, but I did not find the above ingredients in the Rogue Duo or Eyeshadow. The lipstick listed no ingredients.
Reading cosmetic ingredient labels and reducing your exposure can go a long way to protecting yourself from toxic chemicals in your makeup. Share with us what brands you trust to be safe and why.
Dr. Bronner’s, RawSkinCeuticals and Logona have been clients of Mamavation.