The Not-so-Pretty Effects of Makeup

Makeup or no makeup, we’re all more than just a pretty face. So much so that even makeup itself is more than just, well, a pretty face. Behind the vibrant colors, swooping wands and smooth powders potentially lie what is actually a hotbed for dangerous chemicals that can have severe effects on our well-being as well as the environment’s.

Up to 60 percent of what you put on your skin reaches your bloodstream, and almost 100 percent when areas like scalp, underarm and groin are exposed. With this in mind, before you make that feeble attempt to look presentable for your 8 A.M. class tomorrow morning, consider the following cosmetic red flags.

Let’s start with lipstick. Like a little black dress for your lips (always flattering, always fashionable), lipstick can actually contain as many as eight metals such as cadmium and aluminum. Endocrine disrupters such as propylparaben can be found as well as titanium dioxide, usually a nanoparticle which can damage the brain as well as other organs. So the next time you get a lipstick mark on your Chik-Fil-A sandwich no matter how carefully you tried to avoid it, it may be best to make that sacrifice and tear that piece of fried chicken off.

Then, there’s mascara — an effortless and bold  makeup device that also casually happens to have it out for your organs. Toxic ingredients like triethanolamine (which reacts with other ingredients in products to become carcinogenic nitrosodiethanolamine), butylparaben, quaternium 15 and quaternium 22 (both of which release cancerous formaldehyde as they break down), and synthetic colorants damage organ tissues which ultimately impedes with organ function.

Many a time we’ve counted on our old, trusted friend foundation to provide a clean base or to fade the appearance of blemishes. While it’s been nice to us at times, foundation is a phony and it doesn’t have our back. With harmful chemicals like propylene glycol and methylparaben, foundation poses a huge threat to our endocrine system. Chemicals like these are important to avoid because the endocrine system regulates all biological processes in the body, including development of the brain and nervous system, growth and function of the reproductive system and metabolism and blood sugar regulation, as well as the functions of the ovaries, testes, pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands. It’s time to cut off loose powders and brush-on foundations as well, for not only do they contain several endocrine disruptors, but they also have other ingredients of concern, too. Some of the best sellers in fact contain neurotoxic chemicals and hazardous inhalants.

To be honest, no one’s safe. Not you, your shampoo and moisturizer (both contain DEA-related ingredients that can react to form nitrosamines, which may cause cancer), your perfume (some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma) or even your pet fish (chemicals like siloxanes and triclosan found in toothpastes, cleansers, antiperspirants, antibacterials and smoothening products are harmful to fish and other wildlife).

At this point, you may already be walking to the end of your hall, your trash bag full of makeup in one hand and despair in the other. But before you complete the journey to the trash room, hope is still alive. Companies like Lush strive to include fresh and natural ingredients. There are also several organic makeup companies you can turn to such as Sephora’s line of Natural and Organic Makeup and Dr. Hauschka Skin Care that will still give you the looks you love from your regular makeup products while also enhancing the inner you too.

Editor’s Note: While all of the facts posed in this article are true, they are not true of all cosmetic products. Also, the dangerous side effects of the toxins are just a possible outcome, not a guarantee. So, just be sure to read the ingredients and try to avoid the products that may cause harm.

Featured image by Ryan Quan.

Kaylee Warren is staff writer. Email her at

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