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How many of you check the ingredients listed at the back of each product when you go shopping for cosmetics or cosmeceuticals? Not too many, I know – and why not? Answer is simple – because most people don’t know what those substances are anyway. Today let’s remedy this ignorant cosmetic browsing situation and delve into a crash course learning to highlight some of the iffy ingredients commonly found in the cosmetics in order to make your cosmetic cabinet healthy and harmful ingredient free for the future.

Start Sketching Your Watch-out List

A wise consumer should always scrutinize the composition of his/her purchases, especially if they can have a harmful effect on the skin or body. The following ingredients may be found in some makeup or skincare products. These chemicals are usually linked with itching and skin irritation—and sometimes even worse skin reactions — make a mental note to avoid them if you see them in the label.

Talc/Talcum Powder

This mineral is one of the most commonly used substances not just for makeup but also for other hygiene products like underarm deodorants and antiperspirants, baby powder, and soap. Manufacturers use it because it is a very affordable ingredient. However, talc in its natural form contains asbestos, which is considered carcinogenic. Reports show that women who applied products containing talc, near the genital area have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Talc is absorbed through the skin and into the reproductive system where the substance latches onto the lining of the ovary, forming cancerous tumors. The same type of tumors may develop in the lungs if the powder is inhaled.


There are products that use asbestos-free talc though but, unless if you can be sure that what you’re using is truly asbestos-free, avoid talc products whenever possible.


(a.k.a. Coal Tar Dye, D&C Blue #1, Green#3, Yellow#5 & #6, Red#33): This artificial coloring is sometimes used in permanent hair dyes and dark makeup palates. There have been many reports of allergic skin reactions to products laced with this coloring product. There have been reports of symptoms like; fatigue, headaches, and asthma attacks with inhalation of the powder form of phenylenediamine. The more serious side effects can be anaphylaxis and increased risks for developing multiple myeloma and lymphoma.

Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA), and Triethanolamine (TEA)

These are emulsifying/foaming agents and surfactants used commonly in facial washes, soaps, toothpastes and shampoos. They are also known irritants to the eyes and skin—DEA, MEA and TEA can cause dermatitis. They are also easily absorbed by the skin and penetrate the body’s organs. SLS and SLES have also been liked to serious side effects like; depression, diarrhea, and skin irritation.

Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO)

This is a common ingredient found in products used for acne prone oily skin. At the very least, it can cause skin and eye irritation. When accumulated in significant amounts, it may cause DNA damage and cause the body’s cells to mutate unnaturally. BPO has been linked to rumors of carcinogenicity but so far nothing has been proved. Benzoyl peroxide is also toxic by inhalation.

Mercury and Lead

Mercury is a very harmful substance, even in small quantities. It can badly affect brain function and overall health. If you’ve been using a lightening skin cream that’s imported from other countries check the label for mercury. But be aware the ingredient might also be listed as “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” or “mercurio.” If there is no list of ingredients, don’t use the product. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include tremors, memory problems, irritability, and changes in vision or hearing.


Lead in makeup (and any other skin care and beauty products) might lead to poisoning in the long run. Like mercury, lead is also toxic to the brain. FDA investigations have found lead in 100 percent of the lipsticks tested. And the amounts of lead found aren’t small. One FDA test revealed lead


Phalates have been implicated in atopic and contact dermatitis. Pregnant women should avoid any product that contains phthalate-based substances and their derivatives (ex: dibutyl phthalate in nail polish). When absorbed by the body, especially by males, it promotes feminization and can cause sperm damage (which means small sperm count) and other negative effects to the male sex organs. That’s why pregnant women should avoid it, especially if they are expecting a baby boy. On the woman’s part, phthalates may result in infertility.

Nanoparticles & Sunscreen Chemicals:

Nanoparticles are used as sunscreen ingredients and the sad thing is, they aren’t often included in the list of ingredients. Although they protect the skin from harmful UV rays, many sunscreen chemicals can also cause DNA damage and even cancer. Doctors recommend staying indoors and using umbrellas, caps, and the like instead of always lathering sunscreen-enriched products. If the occasion requires it, choose mineral sunscreens because they don’t penetrate the skin as well as chemical sunscreens.

In Nut A Shell

Here’s a body map of some more ingredients to watch out for in your personal care products

All concepts, images, writing, and research, property of expert contributing writer, researcher, dermatologist part of CutiConscious™ advisory panel (Dr.Shazia A Ali, Consultant Dermatologist).

CutiConscious™© Copyrights reserved.
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