5 Toxic Ingredients You Need to Get Out of Your Makeup Bag ASAP

From food to fashion, consumers are demanding full transparency on the products they purchase and the beauty industry is no exception. The beauty products we use are made up of hundreds of different chemicals and while the majority of these chemical ingredients are safe for human use, there are a few which can pose serious threats to our health.

The popular jewelry and beauty retailer, Claire’s, was recently exposed for selling adulterated cosmetics in their retail stores. The FDA issued an alert, calling to light the neglect of public safety after tests revealed the presence of asbestos in Claire's Eye Shadows, Compact Powder and Contour Palette. While you won’t find ‘asbestos’ on the ingredient listing of your eyeshadow, there are some less obvious scary ingredients to watch out for. To help you make safer cosmetic choices, I’ve put together a list of 5 big offenders to watch out for when shopping for beauty products.


What It Is: Preservative

Where It’s Found: Facial cleanser, body wash

You won’t see the word ‘formaldehyde’ written on the back of the box but here are some other ingredients to watch out for: Quaternium-15, Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea. As these chemicals are broken down, formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, is released as a byproduct.


What It Is: Chemical Sunscreen Filter

Where It’s Found: Sunscreen products

This popular ingredient is found in most household name sunscreen products. Some studies show that the chemical is known to be an endocrine disruptor, toxic to women’s reproductive health while others claim it to be fully safe. Though scientists disagree on the reprotoxic potential of oxybenzone, one thing they can agree on is its harmful impact on our coral reefs. Recent legislation has gone so far as to ban its sale in Hawaii and Florida so if you’re headed out for a beach getaway, chances are you won’t find your trusty sunscreen brand when you arrive.  


What It Is: Skin Brightening Agent

Where It’s Found: Facial serums, Dark-Spot creams

Popularly marketed to women of color in the 80s and 90s in skin lightening and bleaching creams, you might be surprised to find that hydroquinone is still used in many high-end skincare products today. When used properly, it is effective at correcting hyperpigmentation and reducing the appearance of dark spots. However, apart from being a highly controversial ingredient, hydroquinone has been observed to be carcinogenic with long-term use.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)

What It Is: Slip Increasing Agent

Where It’s Found: Eyeshadows, Blush, Face Powders, Moisturizers

This ingredient is more commonly recognized as Teflon. The same Teflon you might find on the non-stick coating of your frying pan or in the waterproof layer of your raincoat. While PTFE improves the smooth application of certain products, it has historically contained an impurity, Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), which is linked to serious health complications including hormone imbalance, carcinogenicity and liver toxicity.


What It Is: Plasticizer

Where It’s Found: Nail polish, Hair Spray

Phthalates including dibutyl phthalate (DBP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), and diethyl phthalate (DEP) are plasticizing ingredients used to improve the flexibility of rigid products. Typically added to nail polishes to reduce cracking and hair sprays to prevent stiffness, phthalates are readily used in the beauty industry. Absorption into the body can eventually lead to hormonal issues and reproductive system damage. Be mindful of the products technicians may use when getting your regular mani-pedi.