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Watch out for these ingredients in cosmetics: They can cause serious health concerns

Watch out for these ingredients in cosmetics: They can cause serious health concerns
Eye makeup products may contain high levels of lead, which is a harmful heavy metal.

Below is a list of makeup ingredients that may have toxic effects. Avoid products that contain these chemicals.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : September 14, 2020 8:48 AM IST

It is better to avoid makeup as far as possible to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals. Most cosmetics can contain color additives and toxic ingredients that can enter the bloodstream after being absorbed by the skin. You might also inhale or ingest some of these harmful chemicals from lip products and powders.

Certain chemicals present in makeup and other cosmetic products may lead to serious health concerns like cancer, endocrine disorders (which affect the production of hormones in the body), developmental delays and neurological problems. Here in this article, we have listed some makeup ingredients that you should watch out for while buying cosmetics.


Various makeup products, including blushes, eye shadows, and bronzers contain talc. While talc itself is safe, there is a high possibility of it being contaminated with asbestos, a known cancer-forming chemical. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to increased risk of developing lung cancer, asbestosis (a scarring of the lung tissue) and mesothelioma (rare cancer, caused by asbestos).

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Talc and asbestos are natural minerals that often occur close together. In 2019, the FDA warned consumers against the use of certain cosmetic items containing talc after they tested positive for asbestos.


Cosmetic manufacturers sometimes add triclosan in certain products like toothpastes, antibacterial soaps, and body washes to reduce the risk of contamination with bacteria. But high levels of triclosan may affect thyroid hormones and contribute to antibiotic resistance. Researchers are also studying the effects of triclosan on the development of skin cancer.


Eye makeup products that contain color additives (such as kohl, kajal, al-Kahal, surma, tiro, tozali, kwalli) may contain high levels of lead, which is a harmful metal. These ingredients come under the FDA's list of illegal color additives and any product containing them is considered illegal in the U.S.

Research has linked exposure to high levels of lead to anemia, weakness, and kidney and brain damage. It can even cause death. As lead can cross the placental barrier, it may also affect the unborn child.


Avoid skin lighteners that contain mercury. This heavy metal may affect the nervous system, damage the kidney, and harm a developing fetus. Thimerosal is a preservative often used in cosmetics and it contains mercury. Watch out for this preservative in makeup products.


Used as preservatives in many cosmetics, parabens can enter the body through the skin and mimic estrogen. An imbalance of estrogen may trigger hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. Parabens may appear on cosmetic labels as methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben. They may be present in moisturizers, hair products, and shaving creams.

Carbon black

This chemical is used in mascaras, eyeliners, and lipsticks, as a coloring agent. But research has shown that carbon black is "possibly carcinogenic to humans." Most studies on the health effects of carbon black are done on industrial-level exposure in factories or laboratory animals. This means research on the safety of small amounts of carbon black in cosmetics is still limited.


Formaldehyde which is present in cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, shower gels, nail polishes, and hair straightening products can cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory system. Some animal studies have also linked exposure to formaldehyde with cancer.

The American Cancer Society has cautioned that hair smoothing treatments that use keratin can raise the indoor concentration of formaldehyde to potentially hazardous levels.

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