Choosing Safe Cosmetics: Dangerous Chemicals in Makeup and Nail Polish

Madeline: Posted 05/05/2015

Every woman wants to look beautiful, but it isn’t worth damaging your health by using toxic beauty products. As you browse through the shelves in the makeup and beauty section at the store, the truth is that many of these products contain dangerous, toxic chemicals that are harmful to your health. But, with a little bit of research and by using the right products, you can minimize your toxic exposure.

More than Just Skin Deep

Many people assume that the ingredients in beauty products aren’t too important, because these products are only applied to the skin. Even though most of these products are applied topically, the skin absorbs those toxic ingredients which can start a chain reaction within your body.

The beauty and cosmetics industries use thousands of synthetic, toxic chemicals to produce their products. You need to watch for these harmful ingredients in everything that you buy: makeup, shampoo, shaving cream, nail polish, lotion, lipstick, and more.

To help you understand just how dangerous these chemicals are, some of the ingredients that are used in beauty products are also used for other purposes in manufacturing. For example, these ingredients can be used to grease machine gears, stabilize pesticides, and clean industrial equipment. Do you really want ingredients applied to your skin that can be used for these purposes as well?

Why are Dangerous Beauty Products on the Market?

Once you understand the many harmful ingredients that are added to beauty products, the next question is probably about the legality of these ingredients. Research shows that many of these ingredients have been linked with cancer, birth defects, infertility, and other health problems. So, why are so many synthetic chemicals allowed in the cosmetic industry?

There are some big loopholes in the federal law regarding these ingredients. In fact, the government in the United States doesn’t have a system in place to assess the safety of beauty products. So, it is possible for manufacturers to sell beauty products that contain dangerous ingredients, and the government won’t do anything to step in and test the safety of the ingredients that are being used.

Chemicals to Avoid

Next time you are shopping for makeup, nail polish, facial cleanser, or any other type of beauty product, make sure that you read the ingredient label to avoid some of the commonly used chemicals. There are literally thousands of toxic chemicals that can be used in beauty products, and these are a few of the most common things that you should watch for:

Lead: When you are painting your fingernails or applying lipstick, how would you feel if you knew that lead was a contaminant that was being applied to your body? Even if it isn’t added as an ingredient, many types of makeup, nail polish and other beauty products are contaminated with this proven neurotoxin. Large amounts of lead and other heavy metals found in traditional eyeliner pose a serious health hazard linked with lead poisoning. Specialty markets sometimes make use of these products without warning the consumers. Lead also appears in high levels in some hair dyes in the form of lead acetate and lead to dangers of lead poisoning.

Phthalates: They are derived from the organic chemical phthalic acid and are used mainly as plasticizers rubber, plastic, or resin and are also used in construction, automotive, household, apparel, toys and packaging industries. These chemicals have known endocrine-disrupting properties, which is linked to early puberty in girls and an increased risk of breast cancer later in life. They are also associated with causing serious health problems like infertility, testicular dysgenesis, obesity, asthma, allergies and  leiomyomas. Phthalates are often added to nail polish and any products that have synthetic fragrance, including perfumes or scented personal care products.

Parabens: Often added to deodorant, antiperspirants, ointments, creams, mascara, foundations shampoos, and body lotions, parabens are a dangerous preservative and antifungal agent. Researchers biopsied breast tumors and found that the tumors often contained these parabens that were absorbed through the skin. They are also found in other body tissues. Parabens have a weak ability to mimic estrogen, a primary female sex hormone. It could be responsible for declining sperm counts and increasing incidents of male breast cancer and testicular cancer, potentially disrupting our endocrine systems. Studies indicate that methylparaben when applied on the skin reacts with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage.

Triclosan: Used to limit mold and bacteria growth in personal care products, this ingredient is often added to toothpaste, deodorant, and antibacterial soap. This chemical is actually classified as a pesticide. It passes through the skin and causes problems with the natural hormone systems within the body. It’s also thought that the use of Triclosan is contributing to the development of bacterial resistance and “superbugs.” The European Union and Environment Canada classify triclosan as irritating to the skin and eyes, very toxic to aquatic organisms, with possible long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.  It is also bio accumulative, and persistent which means that it doesn’t easily degrade and can stay in the environment for long and can be responsible for toxic and cancer inducing dioxins even after it goes down the shower drain. Regular use of triclosan in cosmetics and other consumer products may help create antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Canadian Medical Association has banned antibacterial consumer products containing triclosan.

Ethylene Oxide: This sterilizing agent is often used in the surgical rooms, but eventually manufacturers started adding it to beauty products. Body washes, fragrances and shampoos often have Ethylene Oxide, and the ingredient is added to reduce the harsh effects of the ingredients that make the product bubble up when lathered. Ethylene oxide is classified as a carcinogen. Its regular use may lead to cancer, reproductive defects, mutagenic changes, neurotoxicity, and sensitization. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified ethylene oxide as a proven carcinogen. In order to make cheap chemicals used less irritating to the skin, ethylene oxide is added to initiate a chemical reaction called ethoxylation.

Even though these beauty products aren’t causing immediate health symptoms, the toxic exposure can cause serious health problems over time. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that they are safe to use!

Because there are thousands of toxic chemicals in beauty products, it is impossible to list every single ingredient that you need to avoid. A better option is to find a trusted company that produces natural makeup and beauty products, so that you can have the peace of mind to know that safe ingredients are being used. Always do your research before buying your beauty products and other household items, to protect your health and reduce the risk of toxic exposure. A little bit of research can save you a lot of health problems in the future.


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