What's in your make up?

When you're putting something on your face every day, you want to be careful. Here are the top ingredients to avoid when it comes to your makeup: 


When a company lists "fragrance" as one of the ingredients, they aren't required to disclose the actual chemicals that make up that fragrance. This means that any number of irritating chemicals can make their way in and you'd never know it. Some of these chemicals are linked to asthma, allergies (fragrance is one of the top 5 allergens in the world!) and hormone disruption. 

Keep it simple and avoid fragrance altogether. Why does your foundation need to smell good anyway? That's what perfume is for (provided you choose one without all those nasty irritants!).


If we had to pick one ingredient to stay away from, parabens would be it! These are super harmful and yet found in 70-90% of cosmetics.

Parabens are preservative chemicals that mimic estrogen, so they wreak havoc on your hormones. Their use is linked to breast and skin cancer as well as decreased sperm count. They're also easily absorbed so all of those harmful properties are soaking right in.

Parabens are difficult to avoid, but it's possible if you know what you're looking for. Scan the label and put it back if you see any paraben listed, including methylparaben. If it's paraben-free, it should be labeled as such. Or make it easy on yourself and go with a cosmetics company that doesn't use parabens at all.


Commonly found in antibacterial soaps, triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical that is also found in some cosmetics. It's linked to thyroid issues and has also contributed to the rise in antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Triclosan is pretty easy to spot - just look for it by name listed as an active ingredient. It's likely to be found in products touting their cleanliness or labeled as "antimicrobial." 

Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives

You may not see formaldehyde listed as an ingredient, but it could still be in there. This one is tricky because companies don't just dump a bunch of formaldehyde into their products. Instead, they add other chemicals that work together as they decompose to release formaldehyde. Tricky, right? And so not nice. Formaldehyde is a known skin sensitizer, allergen and carcinogen.

To avoid this sly guy, look out for these ingredients: 

  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Methenamine
  • Quaternium-15
  • Sodium hyroxymethylglycinate
  • Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol)
  • 5-Bromo-5nitro-1,3-dioxane

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

This is a common ingredient in many cream-based cosmetics, such as foundation and concealer, as it helps skin and hair absorb products. While helpful in that aspect, unfortunately it's also commonly contaminated with cancer causers like 1, 4-dioxane and ethylene oxide. It can also cause skin irritation, canker sores, eye damage and acne. 

To avoid this one, look out for listed sulfates and polyethylene glycol. 

Retinyl palmitate, Retinyl acetate, Retinoic acid and Retinol

Retinol products are super popular because of their anti-aging properties. What most people don't know is that in the sunlight, they become carcinogenic. If they're only meant for nighttime use, what are they doing in daytime cosmetics?

Save anti-aging products for before bed and steer clear of them in your cosmetics. One popular culprit is anti-aging foundation - double-check for anything in the retinol family.

Petroleum distillates

Commonly found in mascara, this pesky ingredient is often combined with cancer-causing chemicals. They are produced in the same oil refineries as auto fuel and heating oil. Not exactly something you want on or around your eyes!

This ingredient may also cause contact dermatitis, an itchy, irritated rash. That probably isn't the look you're going for - stick to brands without it!


Phthalates are chemicals found in color cosmetics that are linked to a host of health issues. Endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity and cancer are all linked to this chemical - hence its prohibition in cosmetics in the European Union. 

Despite its ban in the E.U., phthalates are still commonly used in the United States. To be on the lookout, check labels for these ingredients: phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP and fragrance. 


We've all heard of kids getting sick from eating lead-laced paint chips, right? Despite this danger, 61% of lipsticks contain lead, including some of the major store brands.

There is no safe level of lead exposure - even a little bit can be dangerous. It's a neurotoxin which is linked to learning, language and behavioral problems. It also causes reproductive and hormonal issues in both men and women. If you're applying this every day, imagine the amount of lead exposure you're getting. Scary! 

We know, this is a long and overwhelming list. How can you possibly avoid all of these chemicals? It's definitely not easy, but you can make it a little simpler by doing your research, reading labels and choosing a reputable brand for your cosmetics.