How to Tell if Your Makeup is Toxic & Full of Carcinogens

Why voluntarily expose yourself to cancer causing chemicals each and every day?


If you have been keeping abreast of the latest updates about the cosmetics industry, you probably know by now that most of the mainstream makeup that we use daily, are full of extremely harmful chemicals. Yes – many of the products that we apply on our face can actually cause cancer and serious birth defects.

How to Tell if Your Makeup is Toxic & Full of Carcinogens

Before we pooh pooh these ideas (after all, how much can a bit of BB Cream or eyeliner hurt you?), we would do well to remember that skin is the largest organ in our body, and 1 in 5 Americans will get skin cancer this year. Would you voluntarily expose this organ to cancer causing chemicals each and every day? I hope the answer is no… Yet, that is what each of us is doing on a daily basis.

Much has been made of the fact that the EU has banned about 1,400 different chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products, while the U.S. has banned a paltry 11.

Yes, we all know that we should be careful about the ingredients that go into our cosmetics and personal care products, but with so many brands flooding the market, how do we decide which products are good for us? Usually, we go for the reputed brands, assuming that such big names will never make a product that will harm our health. And yet, most of the time, these big names are also the biggest offenders. They’re all about maximizing profit, and they have lobbyists and legal teams to cover up their misdeeds.

How to Tell if Your Makeup is Toxic & Full of Carcinogens

Most of the major drugstore and department store brands fall woefully short on safety and environmental standards, even though they may be very popular. As a typical example of mainstream cosmetics brands, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics checked for the most dangerous chemicals that have already been proven to be highly toxic, and found that all of the drugstore and department store products (like Maybelline, Clinique, L’Oreal and similar brands) either openly contained these toxic ingredients, or contained them in secret (as an unlisted ‘contamination’).

The bottom line is that drugstore and department store brand makeup and cosmetics are simply not safe.

How to Tell if Your Makeup is Toxic & Full of Carcinogens

As consumers, it is both our right and duty to be mindful about the cosmetics that we use and to ensure that we shun any products which can pose a health hazard to us and our children. Once we start avoiding products that are harmful, we will hit the cosmetic giants where it hurts most –their revenues and bottom lines– forcing them to swap out the most dangerous ingredients for (hopefully) safer ones. It is up to each one of us to make that happen.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “Nearly 90% of the 10,500 ingredients the FDA has determined are used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the CIR, the FDA or any other publicly accountable institution.”

Fortunately, there are several nonprofits that have taken it upon themselves to analyze and rate the various personal care products that are available in the market. Tools like GoodGuide and the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database provide critical health information about many consumer items including personal care products. And if you want to check how effective these products are, then sites like Beautypedia and the user reviews on Amazon provide useful information (keep in mind that there are a lot of fake consumer reviews out there!)

Here’s a great video that explains how so many toxins end up in our makeup:

So, the next time you buy any of your favorite makeup, visit a few websites like EWG Skin Deep and GoodGuide and see if they withstand the safety test… or simply purchase products from your health food store that have zero ingredients that sound like chemicals. 

Avatar of Hilary Rowland

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 156 Comments

  1. Avatar of ruth


    Of all cosmetic products that have questionable ingredients, the youtube mentioned just one by name. How come?

  2. Avatar of Desiree


    I will only buy products that conform to the EU standards. There are a few companies that do this at a reasonable or even comparable to drug store brands in price. Blessed I found a solution for me and my hair and skin.

  3. Avatar of Bastian


    PEG, Parabens or SLS stand alone are not so harmful, but combined with each other or other factors are seriously dangerous. PEG comes together with dioxane, SLS helps triclosan transfer into your body, Parabens reacts with skin under the UV radiation. All of this cases are carcinogenic factors. And I’m writing not only about skin cancer, but also other types of tumors and cancerous effects. To know more about this read a book Do I Have Cancer (net-bossorg/do-i-have-caner)

  4. Avatar of Helen Griffith

    Helen Griffith

    Thank you for such an informational article. I always look forward to reading a good article on urbanette.

  5. Avatar of Miriam Love

    Miriam Love

    We all know that these products that we use on our skin are harmful but I cannot think of any other product which I can use as an alternative I think I am addicted to using cosmetic and I cannot do a day without them.

  6. Avatar of Meredith Boyd

    Meredith Boyd

    When I purchase a new eyeshadow or shampoo, I expect those products will be safe and that they won’t cause skin breakouts but after reading this I am confused what am I supposed to do. And which product am I supposed to use?

  7. Avatar of Joanne Reese

    Joanne Reese

    This is heartbreaking, I spend so much on cosmetics every month and we trust all the companies and they cheat us.

  8. Avatar of Cheryl Curry

    Cheryl Curry

    Urbanette comes up with so many interesting and informational posts. Thank you for another such post.

  9. Avatar of Leah Steele

    Leah Steele

    There are many harmful effects of using cosmetics, beauty products work well but they do have harmful effects along with it.

  10. Avatar of Faye Phillips

    Faye Phillips

    Okay!! but what am I supposed to do with all those expensive makeup that I already have??

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