7 Toxic Beauty Products to Avoid

gas mask

Your perfume is sprayed, your nails are painted, your skin is moisturized and your eyes are lined. You may look like a beauty queen but if you have toxic chemicals leaching into your bloodstream that "healthy glow" won't last for long. Most women assume that what they buy in the store has been tested for safety before appearing on the shelf. Not so. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the $71 billion dollar personal care industry is one of the least regulated in the United States. Improve your health inside and out by steering clear of the following seven toxic chemicals hiding in your beauty products.

Forget Phthalates

Banned in the European Union, phthalates can be found in fragranced lotions, body washes, hair care products, nail polish and color cosmetics. The chemical has been scientifically proven to interfere with reproductive function by reducing the levels of sex hormones. Studies show that exposure to the chemical can result in infertility for couples and developmental issues in utero. The National Toxicology Program and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that DEHP is anticipated to cause cancer in humans based on evidence of carcinogenicity in animal studies.

What to look for on the label: Phthalate, fragrance, DEP, DBP and DEHP.

Don't Even Think About DEA

shampooing hair

Lurking in your soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners and dyes, lotions, shaving creams, eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, blush, foundations, and fragrances is a horrifying chemical called diethanolamine (DEA). In certain cosmetic formulas, DEA reacts with other ingredients to form a carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA) which is absorbed through the skin. Experimental studies show that NDEA causes liver cancer and kidney tumors in rats and cancer of the nasal cavity in hamsters. Your liver may not be as lovely as your lids but if you want to keep it in good condition, skip the DEA eye shadows.

What to look for on the label: Triethanolamine, diethanolamine, DEA, TEA, cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, lauramide DEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA, stearamide MEA, and TEA-lauryl sulfate.

Hide From Hydroquinone

One of the most toxic chemical ingredients for humans, hydroquinone is most commonly found in skin lighteners marketed to women of color. Hydroquinone lightens by decreasing melanin pigments in the skin. As a result, the skin is exposed to unsafe UVA and UVB rays, increasing skin cancer risk on top of the already outrageous carcinogenic effects of the chemical itself.

What to look for on the label: Hydroquinone, tocopheral acetate, tocopheral, tocopheral linoleate, and other ingredients with the root "toco."

Put Away the Parabens


Although the Cosmetic Ingredient Review recommends concentrations of paraben preservatives be limited to 0.8% in a single product, it does not account for women using several paraben products at once. For example, you may wash your hair with a paraben-laden shampoo, dry off and then moisturize with a paraben-heavy body lotion. You will sparkle on the outside, but inside you may be putting yourself at risk for breast cancer, hormone issues, and developmental and reproductive toxicity.

What to look for on the label: Ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, and other ingredients ending in -paraben.

Bye Bye Butylated Compounds

Found in your lip products, hair products, makeup, sunscreen, antiperspirant/deodorant, fragrance, and creams, butylated compounds (BHA, BHT) are used to preserve the fats and oils used in your products. Damaging to organs, cancer causing and endocrine disrupting, skip the BHA lipstick, get a little smelly sans antiperspirant and keep your health in good order.

What to look for on the label: BHA and BHT.

Cut Out Carbon Black

carbon black

Produced by incomplete combustion of carbon-based products such as coal tar (yuck), carbon black is a dark black powder used to pigment eyeliner, mascara, nail polish, eye shadow, brush-on-brows, lipstick, blush and foundation. In a few frightening studies on female rats, researchers found increased incidence of lung tumors in rats that inhaled carbon black.

What to look for on the label: Carbon black, D & C Black No. 2, acetylene black, channel black, furnace black, lamp black, and thermal black.

Move Over Mica

Looking for a powder foundation that could double as a filler in cement? Mica is a mineral dust used to create the "shimmer" in some foundations. Long-term inhalation of mica dust may cause lung scarring leading to coughing, shortness of breath and weakness. Not only is it harmful to the women who use it in their cosmetics, it's harmful to the factory workers who handle mica day in and day out as well.

What to look for on the label: Mica and muscovite.

Don't Take the Risk

The expression, "beauty is pain" can take on a whole new meaning when it comes to your health. No make-up style or scent is worth putting yourself at risk for cancer or other health concerns. Check the labels, stay beautiful (naturally), and spread the word!

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7 Toxic Beauty Products to Avoid