As the holiday season is among us and sales will be in full swing for things like makeup and skincare, I wanted to highlight the toxins that may be lurking in your makeup bag or bathroom. 

Your Largest Organ: Your Skin!

Most of us probably don’t consider our skin to be an organ, but it is actually the body’s largest and is known as our first line of defense for our immune system. It does a great job as a physical barrier to keep things out of our skin, but unfortunately many things can pass through our skin and enter the bloodstream. And especially when it comes to makeup and personal care, our skin is usually what we put these items on, through serums and lotions and foundations and lipstick and body wash and deodorant, etc. 

Several things impact a chemicals ability to pass through the skin- namely the molecule’s size (molecular mass) and the way that the body has to break it down or metabolize it. When we eat/drink toxins, those first have to pass through the liver for an initial “break down” before being released into the bloodstream. However when it comes to chemicals coming through the skin, they go directly INTO the bloodstream and don’t have that first chance to be broken down, thus they can be more toxic to our bodies than if we had eaten them.

The Financial Cost of Cosmetics

Let’s face it- how many of us don’t want to look better, younger, fresher, etc.? Especially in a world of Instagram, TikTok and Facebook where image is front and center, it is hard not to be tempted by products that promise better-looking skin and bodies?

We aren’t the only ones- in 2018, the cosmetic industry made over $507 BILLION dollars and by 2025 it is projected to reach over $758 billion. What does this look like on a personal level? It’s been said that women spend on average $3,756 per year on just cosmetics/appearance alone!

This is also an honest ask of yourself for how much you pay to look good on the outside compared to what you pay for INTERNAL health? So many seek out acne treatments, botox, and facials to try and fix something on the outside that is actually happening due to internal imbalances.

Yes, creams, fillers and serums may make it artificially look better on the outside but I’d personally recommend spending more money on the inside which ends up showing on the outside once balance is restored!

The Toxic Cost of Cosmetics

Over 10,500 ingredients are used in the creation of personal care products and 89% of those have not been evaluated for safety or toxicity by any major institution or organization.

What’s worse? The FDA allows cosmetic manufacturers to use ANY raw material as an ingredient without their approval. This means any marketing you read about a product being “natural” isn’t being held to any standard. This is sort of like a dating profile claim “loves long walks in the park” but no one can certify that this is true about that person.

Any testing that is done is usually overseen by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel which is funded BY the Cosmetic Industry (not a conflict of interest, right?) and is never looking at what long-term, low-dose or combined exposure with other chemicals can do to a human body. 

Why does this matter? On average women use up to 12 personal care products per day, which is exposure to over 168 chemicals each DAY. We are essentially exposing ourselves to a toxic soup of ingredients that we have no idea in conjunction what they are doing to our bodies. 

Top Toxic Ingredients to Avoid

Despite there being over 10,500 ingredients, there are a few to watch out for that are the heavy hitters. Plus, it would be utterly impossible to know all of those ingredients by name on a label. Instead, to make it simple for you I have listed out below the top items to avoid when shopping for makeup + personal care that easily pass through the skin and cause health issues:

  • Phthalates: make fragrances last longer, often in scented products
    • Diethyl phthalate (DEP)
    • Dimethyl phthalate (DMP)
    • Di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP)
    • Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)

  • Parabens: a class of chemicals used as preservatives. These can easily pass through the skin.
    • Methylparaben
    • Ethylparaben
    • Propylparaben
    • Butylparaben
    • Isobutylparaben

  • Phenoxyethanol: what companies are now using as a swap for parabens.

  • Ethanolamines: used to make things foam like shampoo, body wash, bubble bath, and in many makeup products
    • DEA (Diethanolamine)
    • MEA (Monoethanolamine)
    • TEA (Triethanolamine)
    • Cocamide DEA

  • Sulfates: used to make things foam in items like shampoos and facial cleansers.
    • Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS)
    • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

  • Retinyl Palmitate: mostly used in anti-aging products, sunscreens with SPF

  • Hydroquinone: skin lightener used in anti-aging and anti-spot creams or acne scar creams

  • Coal Tar Dyes: petroleum-based chemical in dandruff shampoos and hair dyes
    • FD&C colors (like FD&C Blue 1)

  • Oxybenzone / Octinoxate / Octisalate: common in SPF-based moisturizers

Health Impacts of These Chemicals

Here are some of the known health effects associated with use of products with the above chemicals in them:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Reproductive Issues
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Birth Defects 
  • Puberty Issues 
  • Thyroid issues
  • Allergies
  • Behavioral Disorders (ADD/ADHD)
  • Toxicity within our cells and our genes (DNA)
  • Rashes + Dermatitis of the skin

Finding Safer Alternatives

The great news is many of us have been onto this for a while and have been seeking out cleaner alternatives. I feel like DAILY new brands are coming out and it is a bit hard to keep up.

In general I know the following brands in general to be cleaner/safer options, but always check each individual product for any of the above chemicals/toxins as not all brands are safe across the board.

Body Washes + Soaps


Hair Shampoos + Conditioners

VioriUnder LunaInnersense
Beauty CounterPure HavenAcure
Carina OrganicsAttitudeEarthley Bars
ProseHIBarCA Baby

Skincare, Makeup + Facial Products

Beauty Counter100% PureILIA
AnnmarieVapour BeautyAlima Pure
Juice BeautyCrunchiWell People
Pure HavenClearStem SkincareHugh & Grace
A’delDIME BeautyNaked Poppy