Health, Life

Guest Post: Dangerous Items to Look Out for in Makeup – Featuring Bridget Sandorford

Dangerous Items to Look Out for in Makeup

Many of us can recite the qualities of our makeup that make it so great for our look. “Voluminizing” mascara and “pore refining” foundation. Yet few of us take the time to consider what’s in that mascara that is supposed to contribute to greater volume in your lashes or what’s in that foundation that’s supposed to reduce the look of pores on your skin.

The answer is usually not something good. There are dozens of harmful — some would even say toxic — chemicals in makeup and other beauty products that can contribute to an array of health problems (even disease) over time. Here are a few of the most common dangerous items you should be looking out for in makeup:

Phthalates and Parabens

picture courtesy of
picture courtesy of

These are some of the most common chemicals found in makeup, and they are used as preservatives and to keep bacteria out. They are most often found in nail polish, moisturizers, shampoo and perfume. Phthalates and parabens have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive problems. They were banned by the European Union in 2003, but they remain legal in the U.S.


Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and has also been linked to developmental and reproductive issues.  You won’t likely find “formaldehyde” on the label of your makeup or personal care products. Look instead for ingredients like diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, quarternium-15 and methenamine — some of which break down into formaldehyde in your body. You are most likely to find these ingredients in hair products such as dyes and straighteners, moisturizers, and nail polish.

FD&C Color Pigments

These color pigments are made from coal tar, which is carcinogenic and has been linked to a number of cancers. The FD&C Red #4 pigment has been banned for use in foods because of the problems it has caused in the adrenal glands and bladder. The pigments have also been shown to irritate the skin and decrease oxygen in the blood.

BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)

Used to prolong the shelf life of cosmetics, BHA and BHT have been linked to a number of problems, including endocrine disruption, liver and kidney problems, and cancer. BHA and BHT have both been listed as chemicals of concern to fish and aquatic wildlife, yet they continue to be used as food preservatives and in cosmetics such as lip stick.

Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is found in antifreeze — and in your mascara. Propylene glycol is used to prevent melting and freezing and to extend the shelf life of products. It has been linked to cancer, developmental problems, and reproductive issues. It is also found in nail polish, toothpaste and many other personal care items.

There are many other harmful items found in common cosmetics. It’s worth taking the time to research those long, obscure ingredients listed on the back of your mascara, your foundation, and all your other cosmetics. Learning the ingredients to look out for can help you start to make better choices that will protect your whole health. You can also choose all-natural products or even make your own!

How do you avoid buying makeup that has potentially toxic ingredients such as these? Share your tips in the comments!

About the Author:

Bridget Sandorford is a freelance food and culinary writer, where recently she’s been researching the Pennsylvania culinary institute. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, painting and working on her first cookbook.


Want to guest post?  – email me at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s