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GR8NESS expert Expert Reviewed
Young woman applying her favorite makeup product to her eyes
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Are There Horror Ingredients in Your Favorite Makeup Products?

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As if taken out of a horror movie, many ingredients found in our favorite makeup products can be extremely harmful to our bodies. With a link to everything from hormonal disruptions to cancer, there are some hidden ingredients in makeup products that can go directly into our bloodstream when applied and can have devastating effects. That’s not to scare you, there are lots of studies with different perspectives on this topic. But no doubt using more natural products is the safest bet for your health and the environment.

Streaks of makeup against a wall differing in color shades
Image by Unsplash
1 of

BHA/BHT

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) are two chemical compounds that mimic antioxidants. They may trigger specific allergies on the skin, and it can be quite toxic. Some governments even demand products list warning signs if they contain BHA/BHT due to its potential link to cancer. High exposure to BHT might have effects on the reproductive health of both men and women.

Found in:

  • Lipsticks
  • Perfume
  • Exfoliants
A young woman applies makeup with potentially toxic ingredients
Image by Annie Spratt / Unsplash
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Coal Tar Dyes

A dark powder used as a pigment in most cosmetics, coal tar dyes have been linked to increased incidence of cancer as well as promoting adverse effects on organs. The International Agency for research on cancer has classified this ingredient as a human carcinogen. And some human studies have linked to increased risk of lung disease, and the increased incidence of cardiovascular disease.

Found in:

  • Eyeliners
  • Mascaras
  • Eyeshadows
  • Brush-on-brow
  • Lipsticks
  • Blushes
  • Foundations
Image by Shutterstock
3 of

Siloxanes

A silicone-based ingredient often used to smoothe and moisturize. While primarily found in skincare products, it’s also widely used in makeup. Two types of siloxanes, known as Cyclotetrasiloxane and Cyclopentasiloxane — or D4 and D5 — are toxic. The first one D4 has also been named an endocrine disruptor, messing with human hormone functions and impairing reproductive health. High doses of D5 have been found to cause uterine tumors.

Found in:

  • Foundations
  • Face primers
A woman with heavy makeup poses, unaware of the toxic ingredients
Image by Úrsula Madariaga / Pexels
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Heavy Metals

Heavy metals, including lead, mercury, zinc, and arsenic are found in a wide variety of makeup products. While some metals are intentionally added as ingredients, others are contaminants that have been linked to health concerns, including immune system toxicity and reproductive health issues. Lead, for example, has been linked to language and behavioral problems. Mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes and is recognized as an environmental health concern by numerous government bodies.

Found in:

  • Lipsticks
  • Eyeliner
  • Nail polish
  • Foundations
  • Eyeshadows
  • Blushes
  • Concealer
A variety of makeup products that may contain harmful ingredients
Image by Jazmin Quaynor / Unsplash
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Parabens

Perhaps the most-known toxic ingredient found in makeup and skincare products. It’s estimated that between 75 – 90 percent of all cosmetics contain parabens, a common preservative. One of the dangers of parabens is their potential to disrupt women’s hormone functions. The FDA links parabens, which mimic estrogen, to breast cancer and decreased sperm count in several studies, yet it doesn’t rule them as harmful.

Found in:

  • Most makeup products
  • Lotions
  • Facial cleansers
A woman applies lip gloss, unaware of the harmful ingredients inside
Image by Shutterstock
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Petroleum Distillates

Petrolatum is commonly found in balms, lipsticks, and lipgloss. Petroleum distillates may cause contact dermatitis and are also known for being contaminated with other cancer-causing impurities. The risk of cancer and skin allergies increases with prolonged exposure to petrolatum products, which is common as it’s used for lipsticks.

Found in:

  • Lipstick
  • Lipgloss
  • Mascara
A woman applies glue to false lashes
Image by Milos Batinic / Shutterstock
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Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde (FRPs) are chemicals used to help prevent microbes from growing in most water-based products. There are various health concerns attributed to FRPs, which are known as a human carcinogen by many governments, including the United States. They’re also linked to causing chemical burns at high concentrations, as well as allergic skin reactions and rashes.

Found in:

  • Eyelashes glue
  • Nail polishes
  • Eyeshadows
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Geraldine
GR8NESS Writer
Geraldine is a GR8NESS Contributing Editor who writes about self care, clean makeup and beauty, mental health, and relationships – as well as natural remedies and fitness. She’s a coffee enthusiast with Venezuelan roots, a former ballerina, and the sunscreen patrol. Most of the time, you can find her working on her skincare routine or trying a new dance workout.
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