Thursday, September 2, 2010

Death by Cosmetics!!

Deciphering product labels can be a challenge because of all the long chemical names that would take a chemist to figure out. Don't make the mistake of assuming that everything on the ingredients list must be safe, otherwise it would be illegal. It can be tough to compromise product performance for safer, more natural options, but I urge you to start paying closer attention to what you're putting on your skin. Here is a short video for you to watch called The Story of Cosmetics, and I put together a list of ingredients you might want to watch out for the next time you're out shopping.

I am not a chemist, doctor, or any sort of expert on this subject. I am simply a young woman who's done a lot of research. The long-term effects of some chemicals are not fully understood, but some believe that those chemicals could be harmful to our health. I figure that the best way to present my list to you is to mark the ingredients with symbols to indicate the certainty of the harmfulness of the ingredient.

 = Strong evidence supports the belief that this chemical causes harm in long-term topical use on humans. 
 = Some evidence supports the belief that this chemical causes harm in long-term topical use on humans. 
= The only evidence I could find behind this ingredient's harmfulness is hearsay. Very sensitive skin types or those who are acne-prone might still want to be weary. 

 Isopropyl Alcohol, in high concentrations 
Image from
✖ Sodium Lauryl Sulfate / Sodium Laureth Sulfate
 Synthetic Fragrances
✖ Phthalates
✖ Imidazolidinyl Urea / DMDM Hydantoin
 Propylene Glycol
✖ Mineral Oil
✖ Benzene/Benzoic Acid/Benzyl Benzoate

✖ Coal Tar

✖ Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl Paraben

✖ Dibutyl Phthalate

✖ Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA)

✖ Formaldehyde

✖ Lead Acetate

✖ Mercury

✖ Methylisothiazoline, or MIT

✖ Petrolatum

 Petroleum Distillates

✖ Stearalkonium Chloride

✖ Talc

While the US government only prohibits the use of 10 cosmetic ingredients, the European Union prohibits the use of about 1200 (a .pdf list of them can be obtained {here}). To me, that is reason enough to take responsibility for my own health and to not blindly trust everything I see on store shelves. I hope you found this useful.


  1. i LOVE this post of yours. the more research i've done on cosmetics, the more i've gotten into holistic healing. it's so important to know what you're putting onto your body because it will get absorbed. consumers need to start demanding safe products.

  2. hmm i've never paid this much attention to make-up products. thanks for sharing!

  3. wow didn't know all these things, thank u for sharing
    Great post .

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  4. That is a very very interesting post ! Thanks god, I'm not using as many products as they say (a normal hard soap, shampoo and brush) so it's not that difficult for me to avoid these products.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this video !
    (I'm having a giveaway on my blog, so if you're interested, please, go ahead ! Have a look ;))

  5. Love this post because you actually did research :) So many people just regurgitate what is written on their make up of shampoo bottles: "No ____ in this?! GREAT! Must be better for me"

    However with the US banning fewer ingredients than the EU there is a silver lining! As long as you're careful about the products you use there is no real danger whereas the products are so much cheaper! If the number of banned ingredients were to increase so would the price of cosmetics. And as long as the amount of testing is more limited (no animals, etc) it costs companies less to make and distribute the products. My mom works for a pharmaceutical company and for years I've seen the hoops they have to jump through for FDA approval and while I completely understand that those hoops are necessary they end up raising the cost of the medicine because the company producing the drug wants its 10+ years of research and effort to at least earn some profit and considering they will have spent hundreds of millions on FDA approval, the prescription drug can't be cheap. Same for make up I think.

  6. Isopropyl Alcohol, Petrolatum and Mineral Oil are really crappy for the skin, so I personally avoid them. Especially as plant-based oils are much nicer.

    Ginger, it´s a myth that products with less harmful ingredients have to be more expensive. Nor much new research has to be done to find substitutes, it´s all been done. In Germany several cosmetic chains tores have released CHEAP lines of natural cosmetics, and even one line of makeup. The ingredients are fab, most are plant-based or "good" chemicals. And the prices ? All around 2-3€.
    Any BTW the US tests on animals way more than EU.

  7. great post, I recently started to (tedious, expensive) swap of all my chemical-laden products for natural ones. So worth it!

  8. I stongly believe the TEA lauryl sulfate should be marked with a red x. It is a very strong skin irritant.