How to Choose Safe Cosmetics

Originally written 2016.  Updated  Nov. 2018. 

It is a well-known fact that the manufacturing and sales of cosmetics is a multi-billion dollar industry. And while the cosmetics industry has significantly improved over the past few years with far fewer toxic compounds being utilized; there are still countless beauty products of which contain an overabundance of hazardous chemicals.  And unfortunately, the FDA (The Food and Drug Administration)  doesn’t completely regulate the safety of U.S. or foreign-made cosmetic products, which is precisely why we must take it upon ourselves to monitor our own cosmetic products in order to be on the lookout for those harmful chemicals that can cause a ton of health-related issues.


One of the top contaminants that is used in beauty products is lead, which is a super toxic metal of which has been linked to both neurological and organ toxicity, as well as the development of cancer. While the FDA does have certain requirements set in motion in terms of lead in certain dyes, it fails to have any stringent regulations on the lead that is found in so many cosmetics, such as lipstick, that we use on a daily basis, particularly in the form of imported cosmetics.


Formaldehyde is a well-known carcinogen of which occurs naturally at low levels and is most commonly used as an embalming fluid to preserve bodies following death. High levels of formaldehyde can irritate the skin and even spark up your asthma. Formaldehyde has been found in countless cosmetics, most notably nail-hardeners.


Mercury is yet another contaminant that is in the cosmetics that we use regularly. The FDA does regulate the amounts of mercury compounds that can be utilized as a preservative in eye shadow and other eye makeup. However, it is still an incredibly toxic element that your skin absorbs and can cause brain damage. Recently, there has been some pretty controversial scientific evidence of which has directly linked mercury exposure to autism in children.


Triclosan is a compound that has been found in a number of antibacterial products like soap, lotions, and even toothpastes. It has been presumed that the overuse of this compound in today’s society may actually be a main cause of the increased rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria. While research of Triclosan has been shown to be safe for use in humans, the FDA is currently analyzing animal research that may support harmful effects of triclosan. Of which include the altering of hormone levels in your body, affecting reproduction and child development, and certain forms of cancer.


A byproduct of chemical manufacturing, known as 1,4-dioxane has also found in many cosmetics. This compound has been shown to induce cancer in rats, and significantly high levels of 1,4-dioxane can even cause organ damage in human beings. While the FDA has stated that the level of 1,4-dioxane in cosmetics poses no risk to humans, the actual effects of it are not yet fully understood. Be sure to be on the look-out for it and avoid beauty products with ingredients such as: PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, polyethoxyethylene, and polyoxynolethylene. 

Last month, while formulating an upcoming foundation line, I was just about to purchase kaoline clay, which is found in many skin care and face lotions, I checked the laboratory analytics out found hexavalent chromium listed.  This chemical causes nausea, diarrhea, cramps and liver damage needless to say I skipped purchasing this clay. 

Next, we have coal tar which is a human carcinogen that is used in anti-dandruff shampoos, hair dyes, and treatments for psoriasis. Exposure to coal tar has been linked to causing DNA damage which can significantly increase the likelihood of the development of cancer. Coal tar has also been shown to increase the sensitivity of skin to sunlight, which of course can increase one’s susceptibility to sunburns, in turn potentially increasing your overall risk for developing skin cancer.


Perhaps you have heard the term phthalates of which include a class of chemicals such as: Dibutylphthalate (DBP), dimethylphthalate (DMP), and diethylphthalate (DEP). These are all common cosmetic additives that can be found in hairsprays, nail polishes, soap, shampoos, and perfumes.  The FDA has noted that exposure to phthalates via cosmetics is safe for humans, however many researchers feel that overexposure can cause health risks, including the risk of harm to an unborn baby.


It can be super hard to avoid all cosmetics with unsafe compounds due to the fact that cosmetic companies are not required to ensure whether the product is safe or not. Interestingly, that vast majority of scientific research studies are based on the worst-case scenario and many of these harmful compounds may not significantly affect your overall health if they are used as directed. Be sure to simply do your research and only buy your beauty products from a trusted company.

 At Aloha Body Care and Omg Omg Organics our products do not contain any unsafe ingredients, no chemicals, synthetic free, and cruelty free.   Also, we use many food grade ingredients and  organically produced.  We are a USDA Certified Skin Care company,  unless our label says differently, the product is certified organic by CCOF, the nations largest certifier of USDA Organic Foods.