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5 Surprising and Scary Ingredients Lurking in Your Makeup Bag

We take it for granted that when we treat ourselves to a new lipstick or eyeshadow palette that what we’re putting on our skin is safe. There are governing bodies that thoroughly check everything out before it reaches the shelves, right?


You may be surprised to learn that if you’re in the EU, there are over 1,300 chemicals that are banned for use in cosmetics, however, in the US, there are only 11. Different countries and regions have different safety standards, and the huge variations in what’s considered safe leads us to believe that safety standards are not necessarily to be trusted.



Let’s take a deep dive into five ingredients you’ve probably got hiding in your makeup bag right now, and why they need putting in the bin sharpish!


1. Parabens.

This is almost certainly a word you’ve heard before. Parabens are the bogeyman of the cosmetics world, but what have they done to deserve such a bad rep? Parabens are a preservative and the trouble with them is they are very easily absorbed into the body, where they do an excellent job of mimicking oestrogen. Parabens have been linked to cancer, especially breast cancer, along with a string of other issues. The great news is that the world is waking up to the problem with parabens, and you shouldn’t find it too hard to find a clearly labelled paraben-free swap for everything in your bathroom.


2. Phthalates.

Tricky to spell, even trickier to spot in your products. It might be listed as something vague, like ‘fragrance’. Phthalates are most commonly used to help a product hold a scent or a colour. Once they make their way into the body, the cause disruption to the endocrine system, which impacts hormone production. This is particularly bad news for mums-to-be, as phthalates have been linked to developmental issues and even premature delivery.


3. Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives.

Formaldehyde is brilliant as an antimicrobial agent, especially in water. So brilliant that it’s most commonly used to preserve medical specimens. Eek! If that’s not enough to put you off, know that formaldehyde can cause awful skin irritations and repeated exposure has even been linked to cancer.


4. Lead and heavy metals.

But wait, I hear you cry, surely lead-based cosmetics went out of fashion with the French revolution? Everyone knows that putting lead on your skin is a seriously bad idea! Well, yes. In most cases, when lead has found its way into your makeup bag, it’s because your product is contaminated. Not in ALL cases though. Shockingly, small amounts of lead are sometimes added as an ingredient in lipsticks, as are other heavy metals like mercury.


5. Asbestos.

If you’re thinking what on earth is asbestos doing in makeup, then you’re right. Asbestos has no place in cosmetics and it’s not supposed to be there. So, why then, in 2018, were 22 women awarded a huge settlement from a cosmetics giant when asbestos in baby powder was shown to have caused their cancer? Talc, which is a natural product, is often found alongside asbestos deposits, so if it’s not collected correctly, not purified correctly and not tested correctly, you may well find asbestos making its way into your eyeshadows, blushes and even baby powders.


The take-home message, natural is not the same as safe. Products labelled ‘95% natural’ or similar are popping up on drugstore shelves left, right and centre. Don’t forget, heavy metals, like lead and mercury, are natural. Natural products run just as much risk of being contaminated than synthetic products. Natural ingredients that haven’t been properly processed and purified may be even riskier than synthetics. Synthetics aren’t necessarily the enemy! There are plenty of synthetic ingredients which are fantastic for the skin, work beautifully well in cosmetics and have been proven safe through rigorous testing.



So what’s a girl to do?


It’s up to you to keep yourself safe. The brilliant news is, you’re here, so you’ve already made a great start. Educate yourself and choose brands who prioritise the safety and purity of their products above anything else. Look for brands who carry out their own, independent testing on all their products and ingredients, who are transparent about their ingredients and process and if you have any questions, ask them!


Been bitten by the makeup safety bug? You might enjoy your blog on all things hygiene, which you can read here.

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