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8+ Ingredients to Avoid in Your Makeup

I’m a mom of two, and to be completely honest, I only wear makeup a few times per week. I work from home, and my girls stay with me most days, so if we don’t have anywhere to go, I usually don’t have the time or energy to put it on.

That being said, I love dressing up and looking more put together when I can, and I think a little bit of makeup can do a whole lot. (I’ll have to share my 5-minute makeup routine one of these days… Remind me!)

Trying to find makeup that isn’t riddled with harsh chemicals can be difficult though… especially when you don’t really know what to look for or what to avoid. After doing some research and sifting through my own makeup drawer, I’ve put together a list of ingredients to avoid when you can.


This one is a hot-button lately. It’s actually fairly easy to find products that are marked “free from parabens” these days, but do you know what they are or why you should avoid them? Honestly, I didn’t.

Many cosmetic products are made with parabens in order to preserve them and keep them free from bacteria and mold. That sounds great! I mean, I don’t want mold in my makeup… but parabens are also a known endocrine disruptor. What does that mean? According to the National Institute of Health, “Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects…”

Parabens, in particular, tend to mimic estrogen in our bodies, which can lead to tumors and an increased risk of breast cancer and lower your reproductive health.

The most common parabens in makeup can be easily seen in the ingredients because their suffix is the word “paraben.” Those ingredients are ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben. However, hydroxybenzoate and hydroxybenzoic acid are also parabens.


Since parabens started becoming a no-no ingredient that many of us have become aware of, many beauty products began replacing parabens with phenoxyethanol. Similar to parabens, it acts as a preservative in our makeup to keep out bacteria. Also similar to parabens, it can have some of the same effects. This ingredient is thought to cause eczema and other skin reactions, but it can have much harsher effects on infants. I’m of the mind that if something is known to hurt my child, I’m not interested in using it either.


Talc is somewhat of a hot topic since Johnson & Johnson was recently ordered to pay more than $4 billion to 22 women and their families after they claimed that the company’s talcum powder caused ovarian cancer. Read that article here.

Talc is used in many powders because it absorbs moisture. It is a naturally occurring mineral, but in its natural form, some talc contains asbestos (FYI, asbestos is a known carcinogen linked to lung disease). Use of asbestos-containing talc in home products has been outlawed since the 70’s, but some are worried that even asbestos-free talc may link to cancer.

I do want to disclose, however, that so far there hasn’t been enough evidence to definitively say that talc is a carcinogen. In fact, reports are kind of all over the place about it. I avoid it anyway because why risk it?


This is another chemical that is thought to be an endocrine disruptor. It allegedly affects our reproductive system and has a negative effect on fertility levels. The EU has actually banned some siloxanes from being used in beauty products.


Yet another endocrine disruptor.

Phthalates are typically used in plastics in order to make them more flexible and difficult to break. They’re also used in hairspray and nail polish. (They make hairspray less stiff, and keep nail polish from cracking.)

There are three common types of Phthalates in our makeup and beauty products: DBP (dibutyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), and DMP (Dimethyl phthalate). DEHP (di-2-ethylhexylphthalate).

DBP is the one that’s most commonly in nail polish, and it’s actually banned in Europe.

DEP is typically in fragrances and perfumes in order to help the scent stay on your body for longer periods of time.

DMP is used in hairspray, and it’s also banned in Europe.

There is another phthalate called DEHP (di-2-ethylhexylphthalate) which can be found in some eyelash glue. The only time I’ve ever worn false eyelashes was on my wedding day, and I don’t know many ladies who wear them on the reg, so I didn’t include it as one of the most common. DEHP is used more commonly in other consumer products, like vinyl.

If you want to learn more, I’ve actually written an entire blog post on phthalates.

Plastic Containers

Yep. If at all possible, I avoid makeup that’s in plastic containers. Before being placed in the plastic, some makeup may very well be free from many harsh chemicals, but the chemicals in plastic (like BPA) are known to leech into whatever they touch.

When it’s available, I always purchase makeup that’s in a glass or paper container. Plus, it’s better for the environment.


Here’s a loophole if I’ve ever seen one: The FDA does not require companies to list the ingredients within their fragrances because they’re considered to be trade secrets.

So ANYTIME I see the word “fragrance” on a list of ingredients that doesn’t otherwise say “free from” parabens/phthalates/etc., I don’t buy that product.

Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde Releasers

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (it’s known to cause cancer). Now, I don’t know of any companies that use pure formaldehyde in their beauty products, but some do use what are known as “formaldehyde releasers.” Formaldehyde releasers include these ingredients:

  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Quaternium-15
  • Bronopol (2bromo2nitropropane1,3-diol )
  • 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane
  • Hydroxymethylglycinate

The purpose of using these chemicals in makeup is to preserve the makeup and keep mold and bacteria from growing in it.

To be completely transparent, it is extremely unlikely that formaldehyde releasers used in our makeup products will be the sole cause of a cancer diagnosis, but in my opinion, it just creates an unnecessary risk. We’re already exposed to formaldehyde in other areas of our life (like from vehicle exhaust fumes), so why add to the risk and put it all over our face as well?

That can actually be said for the majority of the chemicals listed above. They’re unlikely to harm us if we were only exposed to them in the little bit of foundation we put on in the morning, but since they’re in other places throughout our home that can’t be avoided, why should we add them to our makeup routine as well?

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