How Your Daily Makeup Routine Ages Your Skin and Poisons Your Body


The daily use of cosmetics is a staple routine for most any woman.  While makeup enhances physical appearance temporarily, it also introduces a host of chemicals that poison the body and promote reproductive disorders, premature aging of the skin, and conditions as severe as breast cancer.

It’s often assumed that makeup can be wiped off each night, but a good portion of makeup is actually absorbed through the skin throughout the day, through the dermal layers and into the blood, in the same way nicotine skin patches deliver nicotine into the blood.  Applying makeup every day causes the absorbed chemicals to accumulate in epidermal (skin) tissue, fatty tissue, and throughout the body as the blood carries and deposits them in various cells and organs, accelerating the aging process and encouraging the onset of disease as these chemicals produce their toxic effects.

A recent study done by researchers with the Environmental Working Group (EWP) and Rachel’s Network took a sample of women and tested each for just several hundred possibly toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, and found that every single woman’s blood tested positive for between 25 to as many as 45 of them.  There are more than 12,500 different chemicals used in women’s cosmetics products today, and 89% of them have not been tested for health risks.

According to Bionsen, a deodorant company, the typical woman’s daily personal care and makeup routine subjects her to 515 different man-made chemicals each day, all of which can be and are absorbed through the skin.

Many of these directly cause premature aging of the skin, while others do so indirectly by damaging the body internally.  Regarding the former, some of these skin-aging substances are prevalent in more than two-thirds of all personal care and cosmetics products, like parabens.  A subgroup, methylparabens, has been shown to chemically react with UVB rays when applied to the skin, intensifying the effects of UVB skin damage, resulting in premature skin aging.  Others, like (inappropriately named) mineral oil, comprise almost all the ingredients of the products they’re used in, like baby oil.  Mineral oil, a petroleum oil by-product, “coats the skin like plastic, clogging the pores.  [It] interferes with [the] skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders.  [It] slows down skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging.”[1]

Other chemicals have far worse effects than accelerated skin aging.  One of the more common ones, phthalates, actually rarely shows up on product labels because the FDA does not require its labeling.  Phthalates are estrogenic, endocrine-disrupting chemicals most often found in cosmetics like nail polish and artificial fragrances, fragrances in anything from skin lotions to perfumes.  According to the EWP, they’re most frequently found in women of child-bearing age, and based on a study by UC San Francisco, phthalates can, even in small amounts, cause birth defects, developmental disorders, infertility in both men and women, weight gain, and breast cancer.

The official FDA response to phthalates?  “It’s not clear what effect, if any, phthalates have on health.”

That’s because the FDA takes a hands-off approach to the cosmetics and personal care industries.  There is in fact almost no regulation, so little in fact that only 8 chemicals in these industries have been banned since 1938.  That’s 8 out of the more than 12,500 in use today.  The lack of regulation has gotten so severe that there are often more chemicals not listed in products than are listed, due to lobbying efforts on the part of manufacturers.  Because the FDA does not have testing or approval processes for personal care and cosmetics products, it’s also not able to force recalls, meaning manufacturers are free to use all but the most toxic chemicals to make their products, most of which have never undergone long-term safety testing.

Given the state of conventional women’s care items, it’s important to at least consider more natural alternatives.  There’s now a growing industry of non-chemical and organic skincare and cosmetics lines that have drawn the attention of even mainstream models and celebrities looking for makeup that nourishes skin rather than prematurely ages it, and attracted the attention of anyone concerned about the hormonal, immunological and carcinogenic effects of conventional care products.  So long as you’re at least aware of the dangers, you can choose to make the changes, or not, as you see fit on your own schedule.

As a final reference, below is a list of common women’s care and makeup products, along with the average number of chemicals contained in each, and the side effects of the most toxic ones.  It’s reproduced from a study done by Bionsen.[2]

  1. Shampoo: Avg. # of Chemicals: 15.  Most Worrying: Sodium Lauryl Sulphate; Tetrasodium and Propylene Glycol.  Possible Side Effects: Irritation; possible eye damage.
  2. Hairspray: Avg. # of Chemicals: 11.  Most Worrying: Octinoxate, Isophthalates.  Possible Side-Effects: Allergies; irritation to eyes, nose and throat; hormone disruption, linked to changes in cell structure.
  3. Blusher: Avg. # of Chemicals: 16.  Most Worrying: Ethylparabens, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.  Possible Side Effects: Rashes; irritation; hormonal disruption.
  4. Foundation: Avg. # of Chemicals: 24.  Most Worrying: Polymethyl Methacrylate.  Possible Side Effects: Allergies; disrupts immune system; links to cancer.
  5. Eye Shadow: Avg. # of Chemicals: 26.  Most Worrying: Polythylene Terephthalate.  Possible Side-Effects: Linked to cancer; infertility; hormonal disruptions and damage to the body’s organs.
  6. Lipstick: Avg. # of Chemicals: 33.  Most Worrying: Polymenthyl Methacrylate.  Possible Side Effects: Allergies; disrupts immune system; links to cancer.
  7. Nail Varnish: Avg. # of Chemicals: 31.  Most Worrying: Phthalates.  Possible Side Effects: Linked to fertility issues and problems in developing babies.
  8. Body Lotion: Avg. # of Chemicals: 32.  Most Worrying: Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Polyethylene Glycol, which is also found in oven cleaners.  Possible Side Effects: Rashes; irritation; hormonal disruption.
  9. Deodorant: Avg. # of Chemicals: 15.  Most Worrying: Isopropyl Myristate, ‘Parfum’.  Possible Side Effects: Irritation of skin, eyes and lungs; headaches; dizziness; respiratory problems.
  10. Perfume: Avg. # of Chemicals: 250.  Most Worrying: Benzaldehyde.  Possible Side Effects: Irritation to mouth, throat and eyes; nausea; linked to kidney damage.
  11. Fake Tan: Avg. # of Chemicals: 22.  Most Worrying: Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.  Possible Side Effects: Rashes; irritation; hormonal disruption.
Jonathan Cho