HomeLifestyle & CultureBeauty & FashionTop 16 Most Harmful Chemicals In Cosmetics (& Makeup) – PART I

Top 16 Most Harmful Chemicals In Cosmetics (& Makeup) – PART I

Top 16 Most Harmful Chemicals In Cosmetics (& Makeup) – PART I

Did you know that the cosmetic products we use sometimes contain chemicals that are harmful to the skin and body? Whether you did or not, it is wise to keep in mind some of the common harmful chemicals that may pose threat(s) to the skin and or body. Although most of these chemicals pose little risk, constant exposure to some of them may cause serious health problems.


Since 2009, over 595 manufacturers have reported using 88 chemicals, in more that 73,000 products, that have been linked to cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. Many of these chemicals should be banned from the market.

Here are the top 16 most harmful chemicals in cosmetics and even beauty products.

  1. Lead


Lead is a bluish-gray heavy metal that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust. It can be found in rocks, sediments, water and soils at levels that are usually below any concentration that would raise health concerns. Lead may occur as an impurity in ingredient used in cosmetic lip products such as lipsticks, lipglosses and liners  , and externally applied cosmetics like eyeshadow, blushes, shampoos, and even body lotions.

Lead however is not used is never used as a primary ingredient or additive to any cosmetic or makeup product. In this vain, lead may not directly cause cancer but still, it is an element that is dangerous to humans.

listed below are some of the side effects of lead:

  • Lead present in lip products when absorbed into the skin is distributed into the blood, soft tissues and bones. Lead building up in excess can cause hypertension and coronary heart diseases.
  • Causes hormonal changes and menstural irregularities.
  • lead consumption can also result in neurotoxicity; an issue linked to learning , language and behavioral problems.
  • Lead consumption also causes reduced fertility in both men and women.





Sulfates are salts that are formed when sulphuric acid (H2SO4) reacts with another chemical. They are also produced from petroleum and plant sources like coconut and palm oil. Sulfates are ingredients that create the foaming effects in shampoos and shower gel.

Used for making laundry detergent, dish detergent, liquid hand soap, shampoo, toothpaste, face cleanser, bath bombs among others, sulfate in consumer products are considered sulfactant-or-detergent-because they bind to oil, fat, grease, and dirt, removing them from the surface. Sulfate derived from petroleum are often controversial due to their origin. The biggest concern is the long-term side effects of sulfate.

Here are some of the negative effects of sulfate:

  • Dermatitis and edema; people with sensitive skin or skin conditions like eczema or rosacea could develop skin inflammation – dermatitis and edema from using consumer products containing SLS or SLES. The higher the concentration, the higher the chance of getting a skin reaction.
  • Dry skin; this is a common health effect of sulfate in consumer products. Whether from laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, sulfate has the potential of washing off the skin’s protective barrier, causing redness, dry and itchy skin.
  • Aside the external effects, sulfate can cause health problems like intestinal pain, diarrhea and lung irritation when it gets ingested into the body system.




3. Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone stands tall as one of the most harmful chemicals in cosmetics. It is a skin-lightening agent and comes as a cream, emulsion, gel or lotion. Creams that contain hydroquinone are available with prescription from a doctor.  People may use hydroquinone as treatment for hyperpigmentation skin condition, wherein some areas of the skin grow darker than surrounding areas.

Some conditions that may cause people to use hydroquinone for include:

  • Freckles – dark spot patches that usually occur in fair skin.
  • Lentigines – also known as age spots, develop on areas of skin with the highest sun exposure.
  • Melasma – brown or gray-brown patches on the skin. They usually appear on the cheeks or nose.
  • Acne scars – excess oil, dead skin, and bacteria can build up in the skin pores and cause acne.

It may also be used as a lightening agent for cosmetic purposes. It is however key to note that the above conditions are harmless to treat with the right prescription, direction or doses taken in.

In as much as hydroquinone can be harmless, it can be harmful to the skin or human body. Some people may experience

  • Skin dryness
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Skin dryness and
  • Issues of mild contact dermatitis or allergic reaction.



Petroleum jelly/petrolatum

4. Petroleum

Petroleum (also known as petroleum jelly or petrolatum) occurs as a colorless or pale yellow semi-solid, and is derived from petroleum. Petroleum is a by-product of petroleum refined. With a melting point close to body temperature, petroleum softens upon application, forming a water-repellent film when rubbed.

Petroleum is odorless and colorless with an inherent shelf life. These qualities make petroleum jelly or petrolatum a popular ingredient in skincare products and cosmetics. Petroleum when refined properly can serve many positive purposes.

  • Used as a moisturizer – prevents skin from drying out.
  • Heal minor skin scrapes and burns – study shows that petroleum jelly is effective in keeping skin moist during post-surgery healing. Make sure to properly clean surface you apply petroleum jelly on to prevent bacteria and other pathogens invasion.
  • Saves split ends – petroleum jelly can reduce the look of split ends and add shine to hair.
  • Removes eye makeup – oil is an effective way to reduce makeup and petroleum jelly is safe to use, especially around the eye area, according to a study on eye ultra sound.
  • Preserves perfume scent – you can use petroleum jelly as a base for your perfume to last longer


Petroleum jelly or petrolatum having real good effects or uses does not necessarily mean it does not have its own negative side effects.

  •  Clogged pores – some people may breakout when using petroleum jelly. Make sure to properly clean the skin before applying petroleum jelly to reduce the risk of breakouts.
  • Infections – not allowing the skin to dry or not properly cleaning the skin before applying petroleum jelly can case fungal or bacteria infection.
  • Allergies – some people are more sensitive and can develop allergic reactions when they use petroleum-derived products. Always stay alert for irritations and adverse reactions when using produvts with petroleum jelly.
  • Other negative side effects may include eye irritation, dizziness, headaches, nausea and in extreme cases, possible death.



Photo Credit: Google

Part II coming right up. Stay tuned.

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