The Hidden Dangers in Make-up and Skin Care

I have to admit, writing this made me feel physically ill. Some cosmetic companies are literally making us sick, sick and sick.

(Don’t you just hate corporate greed?)

Ingredient Uses Dangers
Parabens (Methyl and Propyl and Butyl and Ethyl Paraben) Very commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics. Found in shampoos, moisturizers, shaving gels, cleansing gels, lubricants, creams and toothpaste. Parabens mimic estrogen and could disrupt your body’s endocrine system.

Widely used even though they are known to be toxic.

Mineral Oil, Paraffin, and Petrolatum Used in lip balms, moisturizer, eye drops, pain/wound treatments, diaper cream, itch/rash creams, sunscreens, tanning oil Suspected cause of cancer. Disrupts hormonal activity.

Cosmetic companies love these because it is so cheap.

Sodium laurel or lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) Found in over 90% of personal care products. Used in shampoos for its detergent and foam-building abilities. Breaks down our skin’s moisture barrier, potentially leading to premature aging. As they easily penetrate our skin, they allow other chemicals to enter our bodies too.

Ironically, SLS and SLES are used in laboratories as skin irritants to test soothing products. However, their low cost means they’re in most of our shampoos and foaming products.

May cause urinary infections, kidney and bladder infections, fertility problems, eye, skin and scalp irritation and hair loss.

Acrylamide Used to make glue, paper and cosmetics. Found in many creams and soaps as thickeners. Also found in hair care products, and pre-shave lotions. Linked to breast tumors. Strong evidence of human neurotoxicity. May cause heritable genetic damage.

There is evidence of reproductive toxicity in both men and women.

Propylene glycol Common cosmetic moisturizer (keeps products moist) and carrier for fragrance oils. Also found in automatic brakes and industrial defrosters.

Found in liquid foundation makeup, spray deodorants, baby lotions, moisturizers, lipsticks and suntan lotions.

May cause dermatitis and skin irritation. May inhibit skin cell growth. It could cause dermatitis, ototoxicity, kidney damage and liver problems.

Easily penetrates skin, and can weaken protein and cellular structure. But cosmetic makers like it because it is cheaper than glycerin.


Phenol (carbolic acid) Found in many lotions and skin creams. Can cause circulatory collapse, paralysis, convulsions, coma, and even death from respiratory failure.
Dioxane (1,4-dioxane) Found in products that foam up, like shampoo, liquid soap, body wash and bubble bath.

The FDA does not require dioxane to be listed so this is a true hidden danger.

Usually found with PEG, polysorbates, laureth, ethoxylated alcohols.

1,4-dioxane readily penetrates the skin. May cause cancer or birth defects. Is a suspected kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant.
Toluene (phenylmethane, methylbenzene, or toluol) Found in nail polish, nail hardeners, and nail polish removers. Also in most synthetic fragrances.

And guess what? It’s also used as an octane booster in gasoline fuels used in internal combustion engines.

A nervous-system toxin. Causes eye irritation, headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

Toluene can also lead to birth defects, developmental abnormalities, liver and kidney damage. Associated with spontaneous abortions.

Aluminum (aluminium) Found in used in antiperspirants and antiseptics. May cause breast cancer. In antiperspirants, aluminium blocks the pores of the skin, preventing toxins from being excreted. These toxins then go to the closest fat reserve: the breasts. Linked to Alzheimer’s.


Do you know of any more silent killers in cosmetics? Drop it in below and I’ll add it to this list.

In the meantime, if you have 8 minutes, this is a great video about how screwed up the cosmetics and personal care products industry is.

The Story of Cosmetics (8-minute video)

25 Replies to “The Hidden Dangers in Make-up and Skin Care”

  1. it is sad to see that manufacturers are using toxic substance to produce their products and simply ignore the health and well-being of the public. Probably the best way to keep ourselves away from those sickening products is to create our own skin-care products by using natural fruits and vegetables.

  2. Most of us who use cosmetics heavily do not know about its dangers which can create very harmful effects not only on our skin but also our health can also be affected as you mentioned in your post.

  3. Great article. Our products, L.A. Minerals, don’t contain any of those ingredients. Might want to add Phthalates, nano particles, and bismuth oxychloride to the list. We don’t use those either;)

  4. This is trully scarry, but very useful list! Perhaps a reason enough to print this page and check regulary in my make-up arsenal for these things.

  5. Hey, I just checked all the shampoos I use and they all contain Sodium laurel or lauryl sulfate (SLS).. Thats scary!! Is there a different option that I can use for washing my hair?..

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Claudia, yes SLS is really, really popular. When I was looking for chemical-free shampoos in one store, the only one I could find that didn’t have SLS was a specialty baby shampoo. It was a tiny bottle and way too pricey!

      There are a few alternatives. I’ve had good results from baking soda + vinegar. If you do a search, there are also hard ‘shampoo bars’ that are made from natural ingredients only. They lather very well. Hope that helps!

  6. OMG this is one scary list! I’m not a heavy make up user but the list outlines that they use dangerous stuff in practically everything … shampoos, tooth paste – even baby stuff!

  7. Oh, great post. Many ladies depend on these more and more. They may only depend on the advertisement without any knowledge about it. It is dangerous.

  8. Thanks so much for this information! I’ve been using cosmetics for years and often wonder what the long term affects will be. I’ve got sensitive skin as it is, so I’ll be even more careful from now on.

  9. I had no idea. Thank you for this. Years ago my mom had a book of how to make your own cosmetics, but it was for a different reason–the depression. When they could afford “store bought” nobody thought to worry about what was in them. Wish I knew what happened to that book. Would be interesting.

  10. Too much is bad just like putting too much make-up on our face. We know that our face is so sensitive that can cause irritation if bad chemicals mix in cosmetics. The post has a great information to all ladies. Just make sure that we know all ingredients mix for our cosmetics. Keep posting for all information!

  11. Is there a way to avoid cosmetics? I work at a corporate world where I have to attend meetings and interact with many people.
    With out makeup my face just feels naked. i cant avoid doing that 🙁

    1. Hi Ramya, I know how you feel.

      There are some natural cosmetics out there, some that use no toxic chemicals at all. But these would be smaller brands, mostly selling online (for now, anyway). This can be a bit tough, especially when you need to test the colors on your skin. The good news is some of them also sell “sample starter packs” so you can try many different shades before buying a full-sized product.

      Mineral make-up should also be better than the usual type and be easier to find in stores (more big name brands carry mineral make-up these days), but I’ve seen many mineral products that still have a long list of chemical ingredients at the back… I’ve learnt it’s better to check the labels than to take their advertising at face value.

      Hope that helps.

  12. Thanks Samantha. I should probably start using minerals from now on!
    I use MAC products and my skin started breaking out so badly since a couple months which makes me feel so conscious. I am trying to follow the turmeric treatment that’s mentioned in the site. I hope that helps 🙂 But once again thanks for your response!!

  13. Good post. I may print it out and check at it when I am shopping. but it is really hard for us to find out one without any toxic chemical.Better less make up 🙂

  14. You could add Talc to the list. It’s used in all types of makeup, and body powders; including
    baby powder! It’s closely related to asbestos. ( You know, that stuff in the attics of old houses that they have to wear has-mat suits to remove.) And can cause lung and ovarian tumors, and ovarian cancer!

  15. This is a helpful post for all the girls. Everyone deserves to look beautiful, but everyone also deserve to stay healthy. We should take care of ourselves and protect from the potential dangers of makeup.

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