Can Your Makeup Make You Sick?

by Dea Biancarelli on February 20, 2014

I love makeup! In my dorm, I have a three-drawer organizer filled to the brim with various makeup and beauty products eye shadow palettes, colorful eyeliners, and lipsticks. You name it, I probably have three of it in different shades. But what exactly are these products made out of? And do they contain things that could possibly be harmful to my health If you asked me what these products were made of however, I wouldn’t be able to say. Think about how often you use these products—most likely daily. What if I were to tell you they could be potentially harmful to your health?
To be honest, these are questions I never considered before coming across the article Chemicals that Should Disappear From Cosmetics by the Environmental Working group. To my surprise, these chemicals are harsh toxins such as parabens, formaldehyde and phlates and are definitely not safe for our bodies. They can disrupt your hormones, give you allergies and increase cancer risks. Because makeup is typically used on a daily basis and can be ingested or penetrated into the skin, these risks should be taken seriously. I decided to look deeper into the article and came across the website ‘Skin Deep’ by Environmental Working Group, who also wrote the original article I read. Environmental Working Group is an environmental health research organization with a goal of informing others of their research so that we can all live healthier lives in a clean environment.
The website Skin Deep has numerous articles, research and frequently asked questions. It also has a feature that allows you to search a product and then provides an easy to read fact sheet that rates its overall hazard effect, cancer causing agents, allergen and reproductive toxicity and ingredients of concern. To be fair, it also includes how much research is available about the particular product so that the reader can make his or her own informed decisions.
An avid user of makeup, I have listed below some products I use on a daily basis and how they were rated on the Skin Deep’s overall Hazard Effect scale.

L’Oreal Voluminous Million Lashes Waterproof Mascara, Blackest Black
Overall Hazard: low-moderate
Cancer: none
Developmental Toxicity: none
Allergens: low-moderate
Concerns: Endocrine disruption, Multiple, additive exposure sources, Contamination concerns, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Occupational hazards; MODERATE concerns: Biochemical or cellular level changes, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive

Almay Liquid Eyeliner Black
Overall Hazard: low-moderate
Cancer: none
Developmental Toxicity: low-moderate
Allergens: low-moderate
Other HIGH concerns: Endocrine disruption, Multiple, additive exposure sources, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Persistence and bioaccumulation; Other MODERATE concerns: Biochemical or cellular level changes, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive); Other LOW concerns: Enhanced skin absorption, Data gaps, Ecotoxicology, Contamination concerns, Occupational hazards

Neutrogena Makeup Removing Wipes
Overall Hazard: low-moderate
Cancer: low
Developmental Toxicity: none
Allergens: moderate-high
Other HIGH concerns: Contamination concerns, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Miscellaneous, Occupational hazards, Persistence and bioaccumulation; Other MODERATE concerns: Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive); Other LOW concerns: Cancer, Data gaps, Ecotoxicology, Endocrine disruption, Neurotoxicity

While none of the products I listed had ratings of high hazardous effects, I still find these warnings concerning when I use these products on a daily basis. However, what I found more shocking was how little information was actually known about the chemicals in my products. Many of the products I searched weren’t listed, and the ones I found did not have high data information. This is most likely because the FDA does not approve of any cosmetics or ingredients before they go onto market. The FDA also allows cosmetic companies to not include some chemicals on the labels of their products. In contrast to the US, the EU has banned many ingredients from cosmetic products that are being sold. Regulating the cosmetics industry through the FDA may have negative effects for consumers, such as taking longer for new products to hit the shelves. However, if the US chooses not to regulate cosmetics, then consumers should at least be able to have access to information about what harmful chemicals may be in their products.
Switching to healthy products can be difficult however. Skin Deep’s cosmetic myths states that even products labeled organic and natural may still contain harmful chemicals because the term is used so loosely and the FDA does not regulate. Personally, I don’t want to give up my favorite products—I just want the companies to make them less harmful!
Do you think the FDA should regulate the cosmetic industry? Does knowing that your products may contain dangerous chemicals make you uneasy? Would you consider switching to healthier products? Why or why not?

Written by Dea Biancarelli
Dea is a sophomore at Boston University. She is a Health Science major on the premedical track. She is passionate about public health and wants to travel the world someday. On campus, Dea is a member of Peer Health Exchange, a club that teaches health education in high schools,is involved in Global Public Health Brigades and is a member of Sigma Kappa. Dea also loves cooking, documentaries, makeup, reading, and shopping.

Sources:
“Myths on Cosmetics Safety | Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database | Environmental Working Group.” Skin Deep Myths on Cosmetics Safety Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2014.
“Chemicals That Should Disappear from Cosmetics.” Environmental Working Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2014.
“FAQ | Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database | Environmental Working Group.” Skin Deep FAQ Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2014.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex Lindroth February 20, 2014 at 10:26 pm

If you’ve ever been on reddit.com, you should check out the subreddits r/skincareaddiction, r/makeupaddiction, and r/naturalbeauty! Subscribers discuss these issues all the time and help guide others in buying quality products and even provide DIY recipes!

Reply

Dea Biancarelli February 20, 2014 at 10:36 pm

I haven’t used Reddit in the past, but that sounds awesome! Thanks for letting me know.

Reply

Cristian Solorio February 21, 2014 at 4:08 am

Whoa, very neat and in-depth.

Reply

black peplum dress April 25, 2014 at 1:37 pm

This is a topic that’s near to my heart… Thank you! Where are your contact details though?

Reply

Dea Biancarelli April 25, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I didn’t think to put any! You can email me at: dealb@bu.edu

Reply

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