The Top 7 Ingredients to Avoid in Beauty Products

1. Lead: It seems crazy, but according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC), more than 60% of popular lipsticks contain lead. Brands with the highest lead levels were L’Oreal, Maybelline, Cover Girl and Revlon. And an FDA study found lead in hundreds of lipsticks (five of the 10 most lead-contaminated were made by L’Oreal). Lead is a proven neurotoxin, and its particularly dangerous for pregnant women and children.

2. Triclosan: Triclosan is a suspected endocrine disrupter, meaning it f**ks with your hormones and could lead to fertility problems (in men and women), breast cancer and thyroid issues (they’re particularly dangerous for fetuses and tween/teen girls). Because triclosan is antimicrobial, it’s found in deodorants, toothpaste and soap (including Bath & Body Works soaps). But studies have shown no evidence that it’s better than soap and water at killing germs.

3. Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is present in more beauty products than you’d think, even though it’s been classified as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Though there’s been outcry about formaldehyde in chemical hair straighteners, it can also be found in nail polish, face wash and makeup. DMDM-Hydantoin, a preservative that releases formaldehyde, is also common in shampoos.

4. Toluene: Found in nail polish, perfume and hair dye, toluene can cause dizziness, headaches and skin irritation. It also poses special danger to developing fetuses, upping risk of both miscarriage in moms and birth defects in babies. The European Union banned its use in cosmetics in 2004. It might also appear on labels as phenylmethane, methylbenzene, or toluol.

5. Hydroquinone: Hydroquinone is one of the most toxic chemicals still used in cosmetics today. A carcinogen in and of itself, it can also increase exposure to UV rays (thereby upping risk for skin cancer, too). It’s most commonly found in skin-lightening products, but it’s also found in hair relaxers, hair dye, hair-extension glue, hair removers and sunless tanning products. The FDA moved to ban its use in these products back in 2006, but never has.

6. Phthalates: Used to preserve color and scents in makeup, phthalates are endocrine disruptors that have been linked to cancer, sperm damage and reproductive problems. Phthalates are often added to synthetic fragrances, which are uber-common in soaps, lotions, cleansers and hair care products. Because products are allowed to list ‘fragrance’ as an ingredient without specifying what that means, many products contain phthalates even though their ingredient lists don’t. [For more on synthetic versus natural fragrance, see here.]

7. Parabens: Used as a preservative in cosmetics, shampoos and lotions, parabens are also endocrine disruptors that have been linked to breast cancer and male reproductive problems. Look out for ingredients methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben and prophylparaben."
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