Whether straight from the earth, or out of a factory, cosmetics have always been utilized. Over time, the cosmetic industry has grown, and with that, chemicals and toxic components have been added to most mainstream cosmetics. Nowadays, studies are finding that many things we encounter in our lives can cause cancer but some things can be more easily avoided than others. One place to start is cosmetics and make-up products.

What to avoid: There are many chemicals that should be avoided, but 3 types of chemicals have been studied many times and show a distinct correlation with negative health outcomes. Many chemicals found in cosmetics in the United States have been banned in other countries, like the European Union.

  • Phthalates- Phthalates are used to make products soft and flexible. They are found in products ranging from nail polish to sprays and body lotions. It is important to avoid products containing phthalates as they have been shown to be endocrine disrupting chemicals. This means that they . They have also been linked to cancer. When a pregnant women uses products containing phthalates, it can even effect the fetus. This makes phthalates very alarming and a chemical that should always be avoided when possible.
  • Parabens- There 4 types of parabens in cosmetics: Methyl, Propyl, Butyl, and Ethyl paraben. Parabens are used in cosmetics to prevent bacteria growth and preserve the product. They can be found in almost any non-natural product and cosmetic. Parabens can disrupt hormone production, and are an estrogenic. When a chemical is characterized as an estrogenic, it means that it mimics estrogen production in the body, producing high levels of estrogen than the body needs. High levels of estrogen in the body have been linked to the development on cancer; that’s why soy products in high amounts are discouraged, because it also contain estrogen.
  • Fragrance- When reading the ingredient on almost any cosmetic, one ingredient present is usually “fragrance” or “parfume.” Although this ingredient does give products their scent, fragrance also has many chemicals in it, many that have not even been tested for safety. The word fragrance is very mis-leading as it contains many chemicals, not just one. It is so important to avoid products that have “fragrance” or “perfume” listed in the ingredients. Fragrance can effect the immune system, as well as being a possible neurotoxin.

“Safe Cosmetics”: There are many alternatives available that are free of harmful chemicals, using natural, organic ingredients. Most can be found at local markets, drug stores, and specialty stores. Some companies that value the use of safe, organic ingredients are:

Advocacy: Organizations and networks have been created to advocate for safe cosmetics and pressure the United States to regulate more heavily on cosmetics. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics was started in 2004 with the goal of protecting consumers through reforms and intensive lobby at congress and state capitols. Another organization making headway in the field of cosmetic safety, but also sustainability and healthy living is Teens Turning Green. This organization, run by teens across the country, also advocates for the use of safe cosmetics while educating teens on the importance of choosing products that are natural over those that contain harmful chemicals. It stemmed from the project Teens for Safe Cosmetics and promotes living a healthy, green lifestyle. Next time you’re out searching for a cosmetic product, just remember, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it’s probably not worth putting on your skin!



“Dirty Thirty”- 30 Chemicals to avoid in products

6 Make-Up Chemicals to Avoid 

Latest Development on Cosmetic Laws 

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