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What's In Your Makeup?

Behind that perfect pout or bashful blush, there are products that become our secret beauty weapons. But if you asked, could you name every ingredient in your favorite lipstick or mascara? Would you want to know what

Women of all ages and and walks of life apply makeup on a daily basis to accentuate, cover and refine their features. But few could probably explain what ingredients go into creating these miracle workers that help them achieve a flawless face.

A study conducted at the University of California at Berkley found many of the most popular lipsticks on the market contain metals like lead, cadmium and aluminum, as reported by the New York Times this week. A previous report, released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011, found lead in 400 different tubes of lipstick. The concern is the ability for metals like these to build up within the body and what health problems this could cause over time.

More research will be needed to determine if these trace amounts pose an immediate or long-term health risk, but it raises an important question: Do you know EVERYTHING that's in your makeup?

Typical Ingredients in Cosmetics

It's no secret cosmetics have contained some odd, disgusting and down right dangerous ingredients over the years. From crushed beetles to pure lead, desire often beat out research in the race to perfection. A variety of ingredients are still used to this day to create lipstick, eyeliner, blush, bronzer, mascara and more that can withstand everything from wedding vows to spin class.

The following ingredients can be found in certain cosmetics, and it's important to understand what they are and what they're purpose is. After all you ingest these products and allow them to enter your bloodstream through your largest organ. Probably worth the reading, eh? This list also explains any health concerns that have risen about them. Flip over that package and check for these:

  • Talc -- This mineral is made up of silicon, oxygen, magnesium and hydrogen. It can be used to improve texture, the coverage of a product and to absorb moisture, like oil. Concern has been raised over the safety talc since it can occur in nature close to asbestos. Responsible mining should prevent contaminated talc from making its way into products.
  • Iron Oxide -- If you were wondering how that peacock blue eye shadow or cherry lipstick you love got its hue, iron oxide is the answer. Used to create the different shades of a product, the FDA permits the use of iron oxide pigments that are created in laborites, since the naturally occurring mineral could be contaminated. If you use mineral makeup, iron oxide is probably in there.
  • Wax -- How does that lipstick hold its shape or glide on so smoothly? Wax is added to provide moisture and also prevent outside moisture from getting in, ruining your final look. These waxes can come from plants (carnauba, candelilla, etc.), animals (beeswax, lanolin, etc.) or from minerals (paraffin, petrolatum/petroleum, etc.). Synthetic waxes, like polyethylene and carbowax may also be used.
  • Oils -- Oils can be used as the base for a product and also to provide moisture and shine and emollients. Popular oils included in cosmetics include lanolin, mineral oil and petroleum. Those with acne-prone skin often avoid traditional oils like these, but new ones, like argan and jojoba, are proving to be favorites among all skin types.
  • Parabens -- Just like food, makeup expires. The typical shelf life of a cosmetic product is three years, if stored properly. And by that, we mean out of the one place you probably do your makeup: the bathroom. All the moisture in the air and changes in temperature create the perfect environment for bacteria to grow, which is why parabens are added as a preservative. These ingredients have sparked controversy, with some suggesting a possible cancer connection, but no conclusive research currently exists. Methylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben are common parabens.
  • Phthalates -- This group of chemicals, which includes diethylphthalate (DEP), dibutylphthalate (DBP) and dimethylphthalate (DMP), is used to prevent products from drying up, like nail polish or hair spray. They can also be used as solvents. This one is tricky because the exact effect they have on health -- good or bad -- isn't currently known.
  • PEG -- PEG, or polyethylene glycols, is a group of polymers that are often added to product as a way to add moisture and help your skin absorb the product's ingredients more effectively. While considered safe, the main concerned raised is whether or not they promote the absorption of harmful substances as well.
  • Fragrances -- You wouldn't want to put something on your face that didn't smell good, would you? That's why fragrances are added to make products smell fresh and clean. These fragrances can be natural (essential oils, herbal extracts, etc.) or artificial (chemically produced). The most common issue with fragrances is allergic reaction or skin irritation.

All of these ingredients continue to be studied by the FDA to determine if they're safe for use in cosmetics and at what percentage. None have been officially declared dangerous and are still permitted in products.

Natural Options

As more women become interested in finding more natural products, the industry is keeping up. Preservatives are being left our entirely, or subsisted with more natural options, like vitamin E. When it comes to oils, you can now find products that feature nourishing and nutrient-rich oils like jojoba, argan and olive oils that nourish the skin and help prevent and even reverse damage. Plant extracts are being used for fragrances and color, providing a large range of options. Many of these products tend to be higher in cost, so it's important to consider them in the same way you do all of your personal health and nutrition items.

Choosing the Right Products

When considering a new brand or product, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Research -- Just because a product is on sale or featured in a gorgeous ad doesn't mean it's necessary the best for you. Research the brand and the type of ingredients they use. The more information they make available, the better.
  2. Testing -- Whenever you buy a topical product, it's important to test fro an allergic reaction. Most suggest applying the product to a part of the body like the arm and allow it to remain there up to 12 hours. If no rash or other irritation develops, you know you can use it on a larger area.
  3. Comprehension -- Do you understand what everything is on the box? Do the claims the company makes line up with your research? Just like with food or medicine you ingest, you need to understand what you allow your skin to absorb. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

The makeup we apply to our faces daily can be absorbed into the skin and even consumed. Think about it: Where does that lipstick go when you eat lunch?

Check out our entire selection of natural cosmetics at eVitamins and let us know your favorites!


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