How your cleansing and cosmetic products can kill you or your family

I know, that’s a clickbait headline but it’s a very real issue. Especially if you are a heavy make-up user or work in the business. Cosmetics in the US are not governed by many regulations so it’s up to you to find out what you’re putting on and in your body, and what the risks might be.

According to the FDA, “There are no regulations or requirements under current United States law that require cosmetic manufacturers to print expiration dates on the labels of cosmetic products.”

Which means you could be putting stuff on your skin that contains bacteria. Natural products have very short shelf-life unless they contain certain essential oils, but it’s safe to assume that most opened make-up, moisturizing cream, sunscreen and cleansers are carrying some type of bacteria. That’s why I am a big fan of soap! Pump-action devices are less prone to bacteria as the contents aren’t exposed to as much oxygen and airborne bacteria. Steer clear of samples in stores – especially eyeliner. You don’t want an eye infection!

Some cosmetic manufacturers give you a clue. They have an image of a makeup container with a a number inside it. This number refers to the number of months considered safe before you throw away an opened container. You see it on tubes and tubs containing make-up and personal hygiene products.

Also of concern is the chemicals found regularly in cosmetics. Here are a few of concern highlighted at The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics coalition, a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (formerly the Breast Cancer Fund), works to protect the health of consumers, workers and the environment through public education and engagement, corporate accountability and sustainability campaigns and legislative advocacy designed to eliminate dangerous chemicals linked to adverse health impacts from cosmetics and personal care products.

Click on the links below to find out which chemicals are found in which cosmetics and moisturizer.


Not listed on ingredient labels, 1,4-dioxane is a contaminant linked to cancer found in products that create suds, such as shampoo and liquid soap.


Acrylates (ethyl acrylate, ethyl methacrylate, and methyl methacrylate) are ingredients found in artificial nail products. We are mainly…


Concerns about organ-system toxicity and endocrine disruption led the European Union to prohibit the preservative butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) from cosmetics.


Carbon black is a dark black powder used as a pigment in cosmetics such as eyeliner, mascara and lipstick that has been linked to increased incidence of cancer.


The laws governing cosmetics and personal care products are so limited that known cancer-causing chemicals are legally allowed in personal care products.


Coal tar is a known carcinogen found in shampoos, soaps, hair dyes, and lotions.


Ethoxylation is the process of reacting ethylene oxide with other chemicals to make them less harsh. Ethoxylation can create small amounts…


Many products list “fragrance” on the label, but very few name the specific ingredients that make up a “fragrance.” This lack of disclosure prevents consumers from knowing the full list of ingredients in their products. While most fragrance chemicals are not disclosed, we do know that some are linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.



Homosalate is a widely used chemical in sunscreens and skin care products with SPF. Homosalate is a potential endocrine disruptor and studies in cells suggest it may impact hormones. In addition to direct health concerns following homosalate exposure, the chemical may also enhance the absorption of pesticides in the body.


One of the most toxic ingredients used in personal care products, hydroquinone is primarily associated with use in skin lighteners marketed to women of color.


Heavy metals like lead, arsenic, mercury, are contaminants found in a wide variety of personal care products including lipstick, whitening toothpaste, eyeliner and nail color.


Mica is a naturally occurring mineral dust often used in makeup foundations, as filler in cement and asphalt, and as insulation material in electric cables. Workers in cosmetic manufacturing factories are at high risk of mica exposure through inhalation.


A serious concern for nail salon workers and pregnant women, nail polish removers are linked to reproductive harm and organ toxicity.


Insoluble nanoparticles in cosmetic products are essentially used as UV-filters or preservatives. Nanoparticles alter properties of cosmetic products including color, transparency, solubility and chemical reactivity. It is unclear to what extent insoluble nanoparticles are used in cosmetic products.


Nitrosamines are impurities linked to cancer that can show up in a wide array of cosmetics ingredients—including diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA)—and products.


An endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen, octinoxate is found in hair color products and shampoos, sunscreen, lipstick, nail polish, skin creams.


Parabens are preservatives used in a wide variety of personal care products. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals can be absorbed through skin, blood and the digestive system.


PABA and PABA derivatives are commonly used in sunscreens as ultraviolet B (UVB) filters. PABA use has declined over the years, but its derivatives are still around today. PABA may alter thyroid activity[1,2,3] and PABA derivatives may have additional endocrine disrupting properties.


Petrolatum, or petroleum jelly, derived from petroleum, is often used in personal care products as a moisturizing agent. When properly refined, petrolatum has no known health concerns. However, petrolatum is often not fully refined in the US, which means it can be contaminated with toxic chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).


Phenoxyethanol is used as a preservative in cosmetic products and also as a stabilizer in perfumes and soaps. Exposure to phenoxyethanol has been linked to reactions ranging from eczema to severe, life-threatening allergic reactions. Infant oral exposure to phenoxyethanol can acutely affect nervous system function.


Found in facial moisturizers, anti-aging products and more, polyacrylamide can break down into known carcinogen acrylamide.


Consumers and salon workers may be exposed to p-phenylenediamine through many forms of permanent hair dyes called oxidative dyes.


Preservatives may be used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. Parabens and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are commonly used preservatives in cosmetic and personal care products.


Banned from cosmetics in the European Union, phthalates are widely used in color cosmetics, fragranced lotions, body washes and other products sold in the United States.


Quaternium-15, a known skin toxicant and allergen, may be especially dangerous for hairdressers and janitors, who are sometimes exposed to this formaldehyde-releasing chemical at regular doses for long periods of time.


Styrene acrylates copolymer is a chain of polymers consisting of styrene and acrylate which is added to cosmetics for color. There is the potential for styrena acrylates copolymer to be contaminated with styrene, a possible carcinogen.


You shouldn’t need a PhD in chemistry to choose safe cosmetics and personal care products. Check out our list of chemicals to avoid in shampoos, lotions, and more.


Resorcinol is commonly used in hair dyes and acne medication.


Retinol is the chemical name of the essential micronutrient vitamin A which can be harmful to your health when it’s added to cosmetic products in certain forms. Two derivatives – retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate – should be avoided in cosmetics and personal care products while retinol itself should not be used at high doses.


Synthetic musks are chemicals added as scents to personal care products, including perfumes, lotions, and many cosmetics.


Some talc may contain the known carcinogen asbestos, therefore it should be avoided in powders and other personal care products, unless it is known to be asbestos-free. Even asbestos-free talc should be avoided in the pelvic areas.


In its inhalable form, as it is in loose powders, titanium dioxide is considered a possible carcinogen.


Found in nail polish and hair dyes, toluene is restricted for use in the European Union, but not in the United States.


Triclosan, which has been linked to hormone disruption and antibiotic resistance, can be found in soaps, detergents, toothpastes, deodorants, and more.