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Top 10 Toxic Makeup Ingredients To Avoid

Mar 16, 2022

Woohoo, so excited to be joining a wonderful group of ladies THIS Saturday for my DIY Toxin-Free Makeup Workshop. If you’ve been sitting on the fence about coming, I still have a few spaces left. You can grab your ticket here.


Could Your Makeup Be Poisoning You?

It may sound extreme, but using natural makeup (just as eating real, natural food) is literally preventative medicine, and can just save your life. Take lipstick for example, how much lipstick do you eat a day? Lip makeup is often ingested over the course of the day, so the impact of any toxin is heightened above and beyond skin absorption levels. 

According to research, Berkeley scientists have estimated that women who apply lip makeup twice a day ingest around 24mg of product, while those who apply more frequently ingest around 87mg per day. This research also discovered that some lipstick products contained high levels of heavy metals that far exceeded daily intake levels. Not to mention all the other nasty toxic ingredients added to lipstick and other makeup products that are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and allergens.


‘Natural’ Doesn’t Always Mean Safe

Just because a makeup line advertises itself as ‘natural’ or as ‘mineral’ doesn’t mean it’s 100% natural or safe. It may only contain 1% of ingredients derived from minerals, and 99% artificially derived ingredients. Legally, it can still be marketed as mineral makeup. To avoid getting duped, you need to learn to read the labels - or make it yourself! By making it yourself, you can also save tons of money.


The Nasty Makeup Stuff To Avoid

Let's go over some of the nasty guys...the guys you definitely don't want to rub shoulders with. This is not an exhaustive list of all the toxic ingredients found in makeup products. There are thousands of dangerous chemicals you need to be aware of. It would be pretty much impossible to remember them all. 

Fortunately, there are some great resources that can help you navigate through the cesspool of chemicals. A goodun is The Chemical Maze: Bookshelf Companion by Bill Statham & Lindy Schneider. You can also get a smaller ‘handbag’ size version that you can keep with you at all times to use when you’re shopping. They also do a Chemical Maze app. There's also a really good app - thinkdirtyapp - and a website - - that you can use to check out how ‘clean’ your current cosmetic range is. Both are free to use. I was very surprised to find that some of the ‘green’ makeup I was using (which was incredibly expensive because it was labeled ‘green’), actually had some pretty dangerous chemicals in them!

  1. Methylparaben

Preservatives are used in many beauty products. Use of this chemical is restricted in the European Union (but not in Australia!) because of links to cancer and endocrine disruption.

  1. Propylparaben

Frequently used in cosmetics. Can irritate skin and eyes and cause allergic reactions. Some studies have also raised concerns about endocrine disruption, cancer, and other toxic effects.

  1. Retinyl Palmitate

A synthetic form of vitamin A used in makeup that may be toxic to pregnant women. Exposure linked to cancer and reproductive effects. Shown to speed up skin tumours in the presence of sunlight.

  1. Synthetic Colourants

May be listed as D&C or FD&C, and can be derived from aluminum, coal tar, and petroleum. Many people are allergic to these colourants. Exposure is linked to nervous system damage, nausea, and headache.

  1. Propylene/Butylene Glycol (PG)

The Environmental Protection Agency lists PG as an ingredient in fertiliser, and it is also used in automotive coolant or antifreeze. In makeup, it prevents your products from melting or freezing at extreme temperatures. It also acts as a humectant to prevent moisture from evaporating from the skin. Petroleum-based PG is linked to problems with fertility and issues in development. It can irritate the eyes and skin.

  1. Lead

A Heavy metal ingredient is used to make lipstick last longer. It is usually not listed as an ingredient, however, as it’s usually a contaminant in other ingredients. This heavy metal has been found in harmful amounts in red lipsticks. Lead is very dangerous to pregnant women and children under the age of six. Health problems associated with lead ingestion are brain damage, behaviour abnormalities, infertility, and anaemia.

  1. Mineral Oil

A petroleum-based ingredient, mineral oil acts as a second nonporous skin, blocking the real skin's pores, and can interfere with skin cell development and proper functioning. There is a possibility that mineral-oil-based products may contain Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons or PAHs which are carcinogens.

  1. Coal Tar

Found in some lipsticks and other makeup products, coal tar is considered a carcinogen that is linked to fertility issues, as well as to allergies and skin irritations. Banned in the EU and Southeast Asia. Coal tar is also known as FD&C Red No.6.

  1. Fragrance

Many cosmetic companies are using fragrance oils in their formulas. Fragrance oils can have up to 4000 different ingredients — as many as 600 different chemicals in them and can cause allergies. Some of these ingredients produce formaldehyde gases which are known carcinogens. Also linked to dizziness, headache, and asthma.

  1. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)

Preservative and fragrance ingredients. This chemical is used as an antioxidant, masking ingredient, and is known as a recognised carcinogen. It wreaks havoc on the environment and wildlife and has been known to cause chronic urticaria. It is also suspected to have respiratory, liver, endocrine, immune, and neurotoxic effects. It has been banned in Europe as a fragrance ingredient.


Safe Makeup Alternatives

If you’ve had a look in your makeup bag, you’ve probably discovered some of these ingredients hidden in your products. Does this mean you have to go make-up free for the rest of your life?

No ma’am!

There are a bunch of safer alternatives to regular makeup product ingredients. You can purchase good-quality, natural makeup from some healthfood stores and online. If this is your preference - go for it!

I decided to make most of my makeup, 1. Because it’s fun! But more importantly, 2. Because I could have complete control of what was going into it.

Some natural makeup ingredients you’ll already have lying around, while others you may need to source out from healthfood stores or online (I also have some stock at our clinic, available for purchase). Some of the ingredients are super cheap, while others are a little pricier. BUT even if you do use the pricier ingredients, the finished product works out to be much, much cheaper than store-bought products - and the best part is you know exactly what’s in them!

So, if you’d like to get your hands dirty (in a pretty way!) and learn how to make your own natural, mineral-based makeup, sign up to my DIY Toxin-Free Makeup Workshop THIS Saturday. You’ll learn how to make (and take home) six professional products, including lipstick, lipgloss, foundation, blush, eyeshadow and mascara. You can purchase your ticket here.


Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.

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