6 Toxins Found in Your Cosmetics

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Makeup and other cosmetics can make you feel fresh and put together, but you may not know that some chemicals found in these products can be potentially harmful to your health. Here are the biggest culprits.


Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent found in antibacterial soaps, detergents, deodorants, toothpastes and cosmetics. Its purpose is to kill bacteria and fungus, but  the FDA found that soap products containing this agent were no better at protecting people from bacteria than regular soap. And some studies have found that triclosan may be contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and could disrupt hormones in the body.


Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are used in many hair care products, nail products and soaps. It is added to prevent bacteria growth in water-based products, but can then be absorbed into the skin. Hair-smoothing products have come under fire for containing formaldehyde in recent years. This chemical can cause skin sensitivity and rashes, and might have links to cancer.


Hydroquinone is known for being used in skin lightening products, but it may also be present in other cosmetics. Women of color are affected most by this ingredient, as they are more likely to be exposed to it in skin products. It works by decreasing the production of pigment in the skin, which simultaneously increases exposure to UVA and UVB rays.


Phthalates are ubiquitous in common consumer products, such as vinyl plastics in toys, fragrances, detergents, cleaning products, nail polish and makeup. In cosmetics, their purpose is to hold color and scents. Most products that contain this chemical do not list them on their label. Phthalates have been shown to disrupt hormones which can be harmful to the development of children.


Parebens are also used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of microbes. Parabens are easily absorbed through the skin, blood and digestive system, and have been found in biopsies from breast tumors. Research has also linked parabens to a disruption in hormone function and reproductive toxicity, among other things.


Nitrosamines are a potential impurity created when nitrates and amino acids combine, particularly, when proteins, such as diethanolamine (DEA) or triethanolamine (TEA), are used as preservatives in the same product.They are commonly found in mascara, concealer, conditioner, baby shampoo and sunless tanning lotion. They have been linked to cancer and endocrine disruption.