The Ugly Truth Behind the Cosmetics Industry

Women, on average uses between 9 - 20 different cosmetics products per day. Men between 5 to 10. Did I hit your numbers right?

  • But what if I tell you that your daily toothpaste, deodorant or makeup might be killing you? 
  • What if your baby powder and baby bath lotions are actually doing more harm than good to your kids?

And what if I tell you that:

This might be true!

An ugly truth behind the cosmetics industry is that only 20% of the ingredients used are tested for safety by the FDA and other health organizations. 

That means that 80% of the ingredients are potential health hazards and carcinogens that might cause irreversible damage to a person's health such as cancer!

But are there proofs that cosmetics can cause cancer and other health problems?

Cosmetics-Related Lawsuits

One of the most controversial lawsuits filed by a consumer against a cosmetic brand is that of a woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

The victim blamed Johnson & Johnson's and claims that asbestos in its talc-based powder products had caused her cancer.

Johnson & Johnson's ended up paying more than $29 million to the woman and her family.

Another case filed against a cosmetic brand is against Chaz Dean and Guthy-Renker of WEN hair products in 2016.

The company settled a class-action lawsuit for $26 million after consumers said it caused rashes and hair loss.

In short, Yes!

There are real cases where consumers were harmed by the cosmetics and personal products that they used.

So today, I will discuss the ugly truth behind the cosmetics industry that giant companies don't want you to know.

I will reveal the harmful substances that are common ingredients of your favorite cosmetics. Some of which might cause you to stop wearing makeup ever again!

Be advised, this article is a tad long. However, your's and your family's health deserves no less.

Let's get started.

#1 Hair

These are the harmful substances that are commonly found in shampoo, conditioners and other hair products.

When shopping for your daily shampoo and various hair cosmetics, keep an eye on this ingredients.


Parabens are synthetic chemicals that are used as preservatives and antibacterial agent to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus on cosmetics products.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)..

"Parabens are derived from a chemical known as para-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA) that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, like blueberries and carrots." (source)

Other than shampoos and conditioners, Parabens are also a common ingredient in moisturizers, makeup, and lotions.

To spot if Parabens are present in your cosmetics, look for Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, and any other ingredients that have "-paraben" on it. Or, you can buy a Paraben-free product.

The European Union bans parabens as it has demonstrated to be carcinogenic and mainly linked to breast cancer.


There are also those who argue that Parabens are not a serious health hazard. Citing that Parabens are not included in this list of carcinogens by NTP (National Toxicology Program) and OEHHA (Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment).

Are Parabens really harmful to health? Should you switch to Paraben-free cosmetics?

Because Parabens are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products, this means that Paraben-free products must have something else put in to replace it.

There is a chance that those chemicals that were put to replace Paraben on Paraben-free products could potentially be more harmful. I am not saying this is the case but it is a possibility.

Would you instead choose to use products that you know contains Paraben or the Paraben-free ones?

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are widely used as surfactants in cleaning products, cosmetics, and personal care products.

Both acts as foaming agents in shampoo and toothpastes.

However, the infamy of SLS being a potential health hazard started when rumors circulated that it can cause cancer.

But according to a 2015 study, SLS is safe for use in household cleaning products. Nonetheless, while SLS and SLES are less likely to cause cancer...

These chemical are said to cause or contribute to skin irritation, canker sores, disruptions of skin's natural oil balance, and eye damage. 

It is also widely believed to be a major contributor to acne growth especially around the mouth and chin areas.

Fragrance or Parfum

Fragrance (aka "scent" or "parfum") is a blend of aromatic extracts from both natural and synthetic ingredients.

It is used in more than 50% of cosmetics, including shampoos, deodorants, sunscreens, and body care products.

It may smell good but do not be fooled. 

Cosmetics fragrance contains TONS of unknown toxic chemicals that can be harmful to you. Fragrance mixes have been associated with different health issues such as allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress, and potential effects on the reproductive system.

Unscented products contain artificial fragrance too.


Triclosan is a synthetic antibacterial ingredient commonly used in shampoos, soaps and disinfectant gels.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency registers it as a pesticide, a highly toxic chemical to any living organism.

It is also classified as a chlorophenol. This makes Triclosan a cancer-causing chemical that disrupts hormones, affects sexual function and fertility and may cause congenital disabilities.

The FDA has banned soaps and other antiseptic products from using the ingredient.

Polyethylene Glycols (PEG)

PEGs or Polyethylene Glycols are petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers.

Cosmetic companies love to use PEGs on their products because they're cheap, odorless, and never go bad.

Tons of cosmetics products such as shampoos, facial creams and lotions contain petroleum and mineral oil-derived ingredients. Unfortunately, PEGs are often contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane, both are known carcinogens.

To avoid PEGs when buying cosmetics, keep an eye on these ingredients:

Propylene Glycol, Paraffin, Mineral Oil, Butylene Glycol, Isopropyl Alcohol, and Petrolatum.

Behentrimonium Chloride

Behentrimonium chloride (docosyltrimethylammonium chloride) is a waxlike organic compound commonly found in cosmetics such as conditioners, hair dye, and mousse.

It works as a conditioning agent and is popular in hair products because it keeps your hair frizz-free, manageable, and soft.

Behentrimonium chloride is considered toxic in concentrations of 0.1% and higher and is suspected of causing skin and eye irritations.


Quaternium-15, a known skin toxicant and allergen present in various hair products.

It is also known to be a formaldehyde-releasing chemical. 

Below is short overview of what Quaternium-15 can do to your health.

These are the harmful substances and chemicals that are present in the most facial wash, mascara, foundation, sunscreen, and eyeliners that you use daily.

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#2 Face

It's no secret, women uses tons of cosmetics for their face. But will you continue to do so after you learn the truth behind the cosmetics that you are using?

In addition to SLS and SLESPEGsParabensTriclosan, and Fragrances, below are the other harmful substances in your facial wash, beauty soaps, mascara and other facial cosmetics.


Just like Parabens, Phthalates are also banned in Europe because they are known to be toxins, endocrine disruptors and a breast-cancer risk.

Phthalates (Phthalate Esters) are esters of Phthalic Acid added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity.

They are used as softeners for flexible plastics, like children's toys. You might be wondering, what are these "plasticizers" doing in your facial creams, toners, and sunscreens. 

Two Phthalate studies that attracted a lot of attention were conducted by Shanna Swan, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Both studies focus on how Phthalates exposure in pregnant women could potentially affect their unborn sons.

To see if your product contains Phthalates, look for Benzyl Butyl Phthalate (BBP), Di-N-Butyl Phthalate (DBP), and Di-2-Ethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP).

Meanwhile, do you think that Phthalates in cosmetics can really influence the gender orientation and alter masculine brain development of your child?

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


Thimerosal (aka Thiomersal) is a mercury-based preservative used in some vaccines and cosmetics.

Mercury compounds present in cosmetics such as facial creams and mascara can be readily absorbed through the skin and tend to accumulate in the body.

They may cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, or neurotoxic manifestations. Thimerosal in vaccines is also associated with autism.

Mercury is considered particularly toxic to the developing brain during pregnancy, infancy, and childhood. Authorities has banned the use of mercury compounds in all cosmetics except those used around the eyes.

Go grab your facial product real quick and see if it contains Thimerosal.

Keep an eye for Ethyl (2-Mercapto Benzoato-S) Mercury, Sodium Salt, Sodium Ethyl Mercuri Thiosalicylate or Ethylmercury Sodium Salt.

How many years have you been using your mascara not knowing it contains this harmful substance?

Color Dyes

There are commonly two types of dyes used in cosmetics, the Coal Tar Dyes, and Synthetic Dyes.

These dyes are used as a colorant in mascara, makeup, and dark-colored lipsticks.

Coal tar is a mixture of many chemicals, derived from petroleum and is recognized as a human carcinogen.

Risks associated with coal tar dyes include severe allergic reactions, asthma attacks, headaches, nausea, fatigue, lack of concentration, and nervousness.

To avoid coal tar dyes, keep an eye for FD & C Blue no. 1 on the product ingredients. You may also find them listed as a five-digit number that is preceded by a Cl.

Moreover, coal tar dyes may also be labeled as Aminphenol, Diaminodenzene, or Phenylenediamine.


Synthetic dyes are labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number (e.g., FD&C Red No. 6, D&C Green No. 6).

The FDA issued a Fact Sheet regarding the proper usage of color dyes in cosmetics.


Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas used in making building materials and many household products. However, you must be more familiar with the substance as an embalming fluid.

Formaldehyde is commonly used in nail polish but they are also present in other cosmetics. Imagine the same substance that is used to preserve dead bodies is in your face creams, moisturizers, body lotion, and soap. Yikes!

But that is the least of your concerns.

Formaldehyde is known to be a human carcinogen as listed on the Fourteenth Report on Carcinogens by the NTP.

When inhaled, the chemical is also capable of making the immune system go weak, which will make the body prone to diseases. It can also cause respiratory infections, asthma, uneven heartbeat, fatigue, and headaches.

The ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) issued a public safety statement regarding formaldehyde in cosmetics and hair products.

When buying beauty products, keep an eye on these ingredients as they are either formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing substances:

  • Formalin
  • Formic Aldehyde
  • Methanediol
  • Methanal
  • Methyl aldehyde
  • Methylene glycol
  • Methylene oxide
  • Benzyl Hemiformal
  • Quaternium-15
  • 2-Bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol
  • 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • 1,3-dimethylol-5
  • DMDM Hydantoin (5-dimethyl hydantoin)
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
  • Titanium Dioxide

    Typically found in sunscreens because it effectively blocks harmful UV rays, Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) is considered safe.

    However, in its powder form, TiO2 is said to cause health issues and is even listed as a possible carcinogen.

    On the other hand, most cosmetic brands claim that Titanium Dioxide on their products is harmless and is proven safe by different government agencies around the globe.

    Are there TiO2 in your current brand of sunscreen or lotion? What is your opinion about it as a potential health risk?

    Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

    #3 Lips

    On top of the similar harmful substances that you can find in your Hair and Face personal products, below are the ingredients to watch out for in your lips cosmetics.


    Most red lipsticks today are found to contain harmful amounts of lead and lead compounds.

    In 2007, a study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released a report that is called A Poison Kiss.

    The report stated that toys from China weren't the only product that contains high level of leads. Unfortunately, lipsticks manufactured in the US also contains harmful amount of leads.

    The FDA, pressured with these incident, conducted their own studies.

    True enough, the agency found out that lipsticks made by Cover Girl, L’Oreal, and Revlon contains the highest lead levels ranging from 0.09 to 3.06 ppm.

    Lead is a toxin that can cause serious health problems and is very dangerous, especially to pregnant women and children under the age of six years old.

    Other health problems associated with lead ingestion through lipstick are brain damage and behavior abnormalities.

    Butylated Hydroxyanisole

    Butylated Hydroxyanisole or BHA, is a waxy solid that can be found in lipstick, mascara and eye shadows. The FDA considers BHA to be a GRAS additive.

    However, the NTP classifies it as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen," alongside formaldehyde and lead.

    Butylated Hydroxyanisole is also included in The Proposition 65 List that contains a wide range of naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals that are known to cause cancer or congenital disabilities or other reproductive harm.

    The list is issued by OEHHA updated last June 28 of 2019.

    Lipsticks may also contain Parabens, Phthalates, Polyethylene Glycols, and Quaternium-15.

    Well, how are you taking the ugly truth behind the cosmetics ingredients that you have been using? Share your cosmetics related experiences in the comment section below.

    There are a few more harmful substances that I haven't discussed yet. One of which is very harmful for babies.

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    #4 Body and Skin

    We use soap to clean our self - body lotions, hoping to nurture our skin.

    However, you might be appalled to learn that these products might contain harmful substances and chemicals that can cause severe health issues in the future.

    Below are the additional harmful substances that might be in your favorite beauty soap, lotion, and body wash.

    Ethanolamine and Ethanolamine Compounds

    Ethanolamines and Ethanolamine compounds such as DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) and TEA (Triethanolamine) are present in many cosmetics and personal care products.

    They are used as emulsifying agents, fragrances and pH adjusters in soaps, shampoos, sunscreens, and other personal care items.

    However, Diethanolamine (DEA) is banned in the European Union from personal products and cosmetics as it has been linked to causing liver tumors, cancer, hormone disruption, and organ toxicity. 

    DEA is also found in various baby products.

    These chemicals may be listed on the product label as any of the following:

    DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA-oleth-3 phosphate, triethanolamine, diethanolamine, cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA, DEA, TEA, lauramide DEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA, TEA-lauryl sulfate, or stearamide MEA.


    Triethanolamine (TEA) is an Ethanolamine compound as I mentioned in the earlier section.

    It is highly alkaline substance that's used to balance the pH in various mascara, body lotions, and other cosmetics.

    Despite its widespread use, Triethanolamine is considered moderately dangerous and should never be used long-term. The continuous usage of cosmetics containing Triethanolamine puts you at risk of absorbing this chemical, which is toxic to the immune and respiratory systems.

    People allergic to Triethanolamine might experience short-term side effects such as watery eyes, itchy skin, and brittle hair.

    DMDM Hydantoin

    This substance is a type of formaldehyde-releasing preservative used in most of personal care items, including body lotions and soaps. If DMDM Hydantoin is present in your beauty product, there's a good chance that formaldehyde is present.

    DMDM Hydantoin is an irritant for eyes and skin, and while there's no evidence that itself is a carcinogen, formaldehyde is!

    To avoid this chemical, look out for these ingredients on the label of the product.

    Glydant; 2,4-Imidazolidinedione, 5,5-dimethyl-; 5,5-Dimethyl hydantoin; 5,5-Dimethyl-2,4-imidazolidindion; 5,5-Dimethyl-2,4-imidazolidinedione; 5,5-Dimethylhydantoin; 5,5-dimethylimidazolidine-2,4-dione

    Dioxane (1,4-dioxane)

    Many believe that Dioxane is a chemical that is good for the skin since it is derived from a synthetic coconut. However, this chemical is included in the latest list of carcinogens from OEHHA.

    This substance is said to be a possible carcinogen and might have adverse effects on your kidneys, brain, and liver.

    However, the FDA has not independently conducted a hazard identification and risk assessment concerning exposure to 1,4-dioxane.

    If you see any ingredients that contain the letters "eth," then that is an indicator of the presence of 1,4-dioxane in it.

    On your product ingredients, watch out for Polyethylene, Polyethylene Glycol, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ceteareth, Oleth, Oxynol, -xynol, and PEG.

    Retinyl Palmitate

    You would think that vitamins in your products can only do good for your body. Well, think again.

    Retinyl Palmitate is a vitamin A derivative that you'll see in some lotions, sunscreens, and creams. This substance is commonly advertised to have anti-aging properties.

    However, a study published by the National Toxicology Program found that mice exposed to Retinyl Palmitate developed a frightening number of tumors after exposure to sunlight.

    What's scarier is that this substance is also found in baby lotions!

    To avoid cosmetics that contains this substance, look out for these ingredients on the label:

    Vitamin A, Retinyl Palmitate, Retinol, Retinyl Acetate, Retinyl Linoleate, and Retinoic Acid

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    #5 Hygiene

    Deodorant and toothpaste has become part of our daily necessities.

    But did you know that these products often also contains Parabens, Phthalates, Ethanolamines and Triclosan?

    Another active ingredient in deodorants is Aluminum.


    Aluminum is the primary ingredient found in most antiperspirant deodorants. This is a metal used to "block" the sweat glands to decrease the excretion of a person's sweat.

    The problem with aluminum is that it can pose serious health risks, like Alzheimer's Disease and breast cancers.

    I know you might think, isn't everything can cause cancer these days?

    Well, I have to agree with you. But I also believe that your chances of getting cancer significantly increase when using carcinogenic products daily. 

    No parent wants to bring harm to their family, especially to our little kids.

    • But what would you do if you learn that even the baby bath soap you use daily is not safe?
    • Are you prepared to unmask the ugly truth behind the cosmetics and baby products we use for our kids?

    Read the next section to find out.

    #6 Baby Products

    The Environmental Working Group found that 57% of baby soaps today are contaminated with 1,4-dioxane.

    Baby shampoo and other baby products also contain Fragrance, Phthalates, Parabens, Retinyl Palmitate, and DMDM Hydantoin.

    Also, ingredients in baby products labeled as "antibacterial" contain Triclosan.

    But do you know the most common contaminant babies are exposed to? Talc.


    Talc (Talcum) is a powdered mineral present in most baby powders and many other cosmetic powders.

    However, Talc is a known lung irritant if inhaled in excessive amounts. It is also listed as a potential carcinogen.

    Talc being a health risk, is not a new thing. In fact, when this news first came out in the late 90's...

    Some cosmetic companies have switched to talc-free baby powders and talc-free personal products.

    But perhaps the most controversial case that brought talc issue to resurface is when a woman linked Talc on her power to her developing ovarian cancer. But more on this below.

    If you have anything to contribute about anything in this article, feel free to do so in the comment section.

    And in case you missed something in this article about the ugly truth behind the cosmetics industry, you can review the harmful substances found in different personal products using the links below.

    Truth Behind Cosmetics Regulations

    Now, don't feel bad for bringing all these toxic products into your home. It is not entirely your fault.

    Because if you think about it, why are these products containing harmful substances are still made available for public consumption? Isn't there a regulatory body tasked to monitor these products strictly?

    Unfortunately, there isn't!

    There exists little to no regulation when it comes to the safety of the cosmetics industry. The same way that there is none in the essential oils industry.

    As you are reading this, there are no laws (yet) that prohibits cosmetic companies to continue using these harmful chemicals on their products. The FDA does not even assess the safety of personal care and hygiene products. Nor its ingredients.

    Here's the FDA's authority over cosmetic safety:

    How to make sure that your cosmetics are safe?

    You can't!

    You can check the ingredients before buying cosmetics and personal products to avoid the harmful substances I discussed above. However, even that is not guaranteed to work every time. Why?

    Because according to the "Trade Secret Ingredients" section of the "Cosmetics Labeling Guide" by the FDA...

    Cosmetic companies are not obliged to list all their ingredients on the product label.

    Who knows what other toxic chemicals that can do irreversible health damage are on your daily products. Such is the ugly truth behind the cosmetics industry.

    Should you stop using cosmetics?

    Cosmetics and other personal products are already an integral part of our lives. It would be near impossible to get rid of all of them.

    Unless you are determined to do so.

    But imagine taking a bath without soap or shampoo. Brushing your teeth without toothpaste, or going to a party without wearing your fave shades.

    I guess the best thing we could hope for is for governments all over the world to step in and take this matter seriously.

    And on that regard, there are whispers that governments already know the ugly truth behind the cosmetics industry. They simply choose to turn a blind eye because cosmetics is one of the sectors that turns a massive revenue.

    The global cosmetic products market was valued at around $532 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach approximately $863 billion in 2024.

    Do you think there is a foul play here? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

    Are "Natural" and "Organic" Cosmetics Safe?

    More and more people are now drawn into natural cosmetics hoping that they're safer than the synthetic ones.

    But I hate to break it to you, "natural" and "organic" does not necessarily mean safe in cosmetics.

    For example, many natural ingredients in cosmetics are known to cause skin reactions and allergies. This includes lavender, tea tree oil, lanolin, cinnamon (and derivatives), citrus oils, various essential oils...the list goes on!

    What about organic cosmetics then?

    Now, there is no FDA regulation on which cosmetics products can be marketed as "organic."

    Yes some ingredients included in your product may be certified organic, but there might be other synthetic ingredients mixed in creating the formula.

    Recognized Cosmetics Regulating Bodies

    While there is no law yet for the proper regulation of the ingredients in cosmetics...

    Below are some of the recognized international agencies that have a say in cosmetics formulation.

    #1 The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) regulates the cosmetics sold in Australia.

    #2 The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) is a US-based panel that reviews and assesses cosmetic ingredients. It then publishes the findings in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

    #3 The Proposition 65 is a State of California law. It requires cosmetics companies to list down known carcinogens and other dangerous substances in their products, along with a warning label.

    #4 Cosmetics in Europe must comply with Regulation 1223/2009, which is overseen by a panel of independent experts.

    #5 Health Canada releases a list of ingredients that are banned or restricted in cosmetics.

    #6 In Japan, the Ministry of Health and Welfare set the Standards for Cosmetics and also lists banned and restricted ingredients.

    My Two Cents

    Cosmetic companies may say that doses of toxins in their products are too small to be harmful to humans. Technically that's true.

    But only if you shampoo your hair or brush your teeth once a year. A little toxin every day is still a lot of toxins to accumulate in your body with continued use.

    Furthermore, I guess it's safe to say that these companies did not take into consideration that their products will be used together with other products that also contain "small" amount of toxins daily.

    A little toxin in your hair, your lips, your teeth, and on your skin. Oh, wait, that already a lot of toxins that you willingly put in your body!

    Final Words

    I did not write this article to discourage you into continues usage of your personal hygiene and beauty products.

    This article is merely a source of awareness regarding the truth behind the cosmetics industry.

    In the end, it is still on you to decide to use products that include these chemicals or not.

    But until the day comes when there will be better regulation in the cosmetics industry...

    You can choose to minimize your exposure to toxins by checking the product labels for the harmful ingredients. You can also choose to buy from brands that have positive reviews from users.

    I hope this lengthy article has been useful for you. Until here and keep safe.

    Your pal,


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