The Beauty Blacklist: The Top 6 Ingredients to Avoid When Buying Makeup

Women absorb up to 5 pounds of damaging chemicals from their personal-care products every year. It's mind-boggling to think about what goes into the products we use every day. Worse, up to 80% of personal-care products on the market today may contain one or more hazardous ingredients that aren't even listed on the labels. Some substances, such as lead, can be a by-product or contaminant from the manufacturing process. Here are six ingredients that are found in many makeup products that you definitely want to steer clear of when shopping:

1. Animal Parts

Using beauty products with animal-derived ingredients is a big no-no for Veganistas, but even omnivores may feel a bit queasy about slathering fat from a bird or a furry beast on their face. If this sounds like you, steer clear of mink, emu oil, and tallow, which can be found in anything from nail hardeners, facial creams, skin lotions, and conditioning agents. They may not be terribly damaging to your hide, but they certainly are damaging to our furry little friends.

2. Fragrance

Fragranceis one of those words on almost any ingredient list. It can be found in everything, including perfumes, lotions, and shampoos. Companies are not required to list what chemicals make up fragrances because this information is considered a trade secret. So, essentially, fragrances can include well over 200 known nasty chemicals and neurotoxins.

3. Formaldehyde

Yup, this is the same stuff used to preserve those frogs you had to dissect in Science class. It's a common chemical used as a disinfectant, germicide, fungicide, and preservative. Formaldehyde vapors are intensely irritating and can trigger asthma. Skin reactions after exposure to it are very common because the chemical can be both irritating and allergy producing. It is a highly reactive chemical, which means that it can team up with other chemicals to produce mutagenic and carcinogenic effects.

4. Parabens

Methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, and butyl-parabens may sound like your great-aunt's bridge-playing buddies but they are in fact a group of chemicals that is widely used as preservatives in cosmetics. An estimated 75-90% of cosmetics use them. Parabens are believed to be estrogen-mimics, which can cause some women to develop breast cancer.

5. Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

This is the commonly used substance that makes things soapy. Many brands will substitute sodium lauryl sulfate for sodium laureth sulfate because it is purportedly "more gentle." The process of converting lauryl to laureth creates the contaminant 1,4-dioxane, a human and animal carcinogen.

6. Synthetic Colours

The bright, jewel-toned colours of many body washes and shampoos, as well as dyes you find in hair rinses, hair colour, and cosmetics, are most often derived from coal tar, which can cause cancer in humans. You can pinpoint synthetic colours by finding FD&C or D&C, followed by a colour and a number on the ingredient list.

About the Author
Ivy Newport is the resident "green expert" at Every Little Bit Eco Shop, an online store offering everyday products that are conveniently green. Visit for more tips & education on going green, as well as a wide variety of eco-friendly products for greener giving and greener living.