By now, we’ve all seen our fair share of headlines warning us about “dangerous chemicals” in our cosmetics. We have mineral oil and sulfates to avoid, plus the ever-changing list of ingredients the media is constantly reminding us to avoid.
Is Any Cosmetic Ingredient 100% Safe?
When sifting through information regarding supposedly dangerous ingredients, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Before you fall down a confusing and frightening Google click hole, remember: chemical does not mean bad, and natural does not mean good. Water is made of chemicals, and arsenic is natural.
While there is no lack of research on which cosmetic ingredients are harmful and which are safe, it’s hard to come up with a cut and dry tip like “use this, and avoid that.” The results of studies are often inconclusive. The bottom line is, nothing we can use is 100% safe, even all-natural ingredients. And something that is safe for you to use might cause your friend to have an allergic reaction.
The Truth About 4 Controversial Cosmetic Ingredients
- Formaldehyde: There is only one type of formaldehyde and chances are, you’re breathing it in right now. The air around us has small amounts, and so does our blood–in fact, your body produces it! Our bodies contain about 2.5 micrograms of formaldehyde per milliliter of blood, and we use it to synthesize amino acids and metabolize medications. Formaldehyde is added to some cosmetics in order to preserve them. While it is a known carcinogen, it would be impossible to get as much formaldehyde from your nail polish as you would from breathing the air. Car exhaust and trees both give off formaldehyde, but most people are exposed to safe amounts. Those at risk breath it in large quantities over long periods of time, like morticians and people who work in chemical factories.
- Aluminum: Many people believe aluminum, which is found in antiperspirants, deodorants, lipstick, and eye makeup, can lead to cancer. An early study did find that it could be linked to breast cancer, but further research did not find enough evidence to link the two things. One study did find that the aluminum in lipstick could pose a neurological risk, but only if users used the lipstick every day and ate the lipstick they applied. That same year, the CRI found that only 0.1-0.6% of aluminum in products is orally absorbed, and none is absorbed through skin.
- Fragrance: This one is ambiguous. The law does not require manufacturers to get specific about ingredients used in fragrance. This is because these formulations are usually proprietary and it would hurt companies if they were forced to reveal their scent secrets. If you have very sensitive skin, it may be best to avoid fragrance altogether, since you can’t tell what specific chemical is causing your irritation. However, don’t trust “unscented” products, check the ingredients instead. Unscented products often still have a scent, most often to mask the smell of the product.
- Mineral Oil and Petroleum: While these are known to be carcinogenic when unrefined, the heavily treated, cosmetic-grade mineral oil used in beauty products is safe. Physicians even recommend them for treating babies’ diaper rash.
To learn more about 5 other controversial cosmetic ingredients, check out the full article here.