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Useful Information about Cosmetics

Harmful chemicals to consider:

  1. Paraffin (crystalline petroleum wax, high melting point paraffin, low melting point paraffin, paraffin wax, petroleum wax, crystalline waxes)  – solid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum
  2. Talc – a form of magnesium silicate that also can be toxic and carcinogenic
  3. Triclosan – antibacterial agent and preservative that may be associated with endocrine (hormonal) toxicity
  4. Methylparaben, Butylparaben – Parabens are preservatives that are used to prevent the growth of bacteria in makeup products, but they are absorbed through the skin and easily transmitted into the bloodstream.  They are also endocrine disruptors and are linked to reproductive toxicity, early puberty and breast cancer.  Parabens can also make dry eye worse since they prohibit the oil glands that line the eyelids from secreting enough oil.
  5. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) – reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals
  6. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) – typically found in sunscreen. Usually safe. When in powder form, it could be a carcinogen.
  7. Emulsifying wax, Synthetic wax and Synthetic beeswax (manufactured waxes)wax can block the meibomian glands in the eyelid. It can also trap dirt, debris and bacteria on the eyelid.  This exacerbates dry eyes and can increase risk for lid infections like “styes” or hordeola.
  8. Carbon black (D&C black No. 2, Acetylene black, Channel black, Furnace
    black, Lamp black and Thermal black) –  powder found in eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow and eyebrow shadow.  It has been linked to cancer and organ system toxicity.
  9.  Ethanolamine compounds (DEA, TEA, MEA) – “The problem with ethanol amines is that they can be contaminated with cancer causing chemicals called nitrosamines,” said Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy at the Breast Cancer Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
  10.  BAK (Benzalkonium chloride)a preservative found in eyeliner, mascara and makeup remover.  BAK is toxic to the epithelial cells of the eyes.  These cells keep dust, water and bacteria out of the eye. Epithelial cells also provide a smooth surface on the cornea to absorb and distribute oxygen and cell nutrients from tears to the rest of the cornea.
  11.  Prime yellow carnauba wax wax – used in mascara and eyeliners to stiffen the product and make them waterproof.  It clogs the oil glands along the eyelid margin and can lead to dry eye disease.
  12.  Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin and Urea) – strongly linked to allergic reactions and cancer  
  13.  Aluminum Powder (Aluminum, LB pigment 5 or pigment metal) – used to give eye makeup its hue.  It is a neurotoxin and has been linked to organ system toxicity. 
  14.  Retinyl acetate or Retinyl palmitate – two forms of vitamin A which have been linked to cancer and reproductive toxicity
  15.  Heavy metals (may not be listed on the label) – Nickel and chrome are found in all types of makeup, especially in green or metallic shadows, as well as makeup brushes.  Heavy metals are neurotoxins that have been linked to brain damage.  Nickel has been linked to lung cancer and respiratory concerns.  Up to 17 percent of women have a nickel allergy, which can cause dry, itchy eyelids, a red skin rash and watery blisters.
  16.  Sulfates – Sulfates are an additive to cleaning products that cause the foaming action commonly associated with soaps. The most common sulfate is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), found in most shampoos and conditioners. Used primarily as a foaming agent, a sulfate combines with water to emulsify grease, dispersing it into the water so that it can be washed away. Sulfates also act as a surfactant, a substance that reduces the surface tension of water, helping your shampoo loosen the grease and sebum from your hair and scalp. A shampoo that contains sulfates typically has a concentration of around 15 percent.  SLS is a "low hazard," according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® cosmetics database, and has been linked to organ toxicity, skin irritation and ecotoxicology (harm to the environment or a specific ecosystem).
  17.  Phthalates – Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. They are often called plasticizers. Some phthalates are used as solvents (dissolving agents) for other materials. They are used in hundreds of products, such as vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils, automotive plastics, plastic clothes (raincoats), and personal care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, and nail polishes). Human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are unknown. Some types of phthalates have affected the reproductive system of laboratory animals. More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to phthalates.

Concerns about current makeup techniques:

  1. Color Correcting – Sometimes non-traditional products are used under the eye for color correcting.  For example, lipsticks are often used around the eyes.  Lead is found in many lipsticks.  Elevated lead levels in adults can lead to a host of health problems from miscarriages to seizures. The colorants used in lip products are not necessarily approved for use around the eyes.  Contamination should also be considered.  Listed below are lipsticks in order of highest to lowest concentration of lead in parts per million:
    1. Maybelline Color Sensational
    2. L’Oreal Colour Riche
    3. NARS Semi-Matte
    4. L’Oreal Intensely Moisturizing Lipcolor
    5. Cover Girl Continuous Color
    6. Stargazer Lipstick
    7. Revlon Matte
    8. Sonia Kashuk Luxury Lip Color
    9. Avon Beyond Color
    10. L’Oreal Endless
    11. Revlon ColorStay
    12. Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer
    13. Revlon Super Lustrous Pearl

  1. Cut crease with concealer – Using concealer on the delicate eyelid skin can be an irritant.  Some concealers contain more parabens and other chemicals that should especially be avoided around the eyes.
  2. Baking – applying a setting powder underneath the lower lids, leaving on for 15 minutes and dusting away. Powders can migrate into tear film causing irritation (tearing and burning).
  3. Tightlining – applying eyeliner onto the waterline. Applying makeup here covers the meibomian glands.  Waxes can block meibum secretion and exacerbate or cause dry eyes.
  4. Inner corner highlight – Powders can migrate into tear film and cause irritation.  Highlighters are typically meant for cheek bones.
  5. Glitter eyeliner may contain GLASS!!!!
  6. False eyelashes – can be irritating, especially when taking off. Interfere with lid mechanics and may cause incomplete blink and tear evaporation. Glue may contain formaldehyde which can cause allergic reactions.


  • Use coconut oil the melt off oil-based makeup.  Then use lid scrubs to remove the oil and makeup.
  • Never use cheap mascara.  It chips off, gets into your eyes and irritates them.
  • Avoid waterproof mascara. It contains more waxes that block the meibomian glands and trap dirt, debris and bacteria.
  • Never share makeup.
  • Throw out old makeup – especially mascara (replace every 2-3 months), since it can harbor bacteria.
  • Avoid using foundation powders around the eyes as this can cause excessive burning and tearing.
  • Concealers for the face are not always meant for under the eyes.
  • Using an eyeshadow primer helps keep shadows from migrating into the tear film. We recommend SkinCeuticals Physical Eye UV defense SPF 50.
  • If you are currently being treated for dry eyes and you use lubricating eye drops, do not use under eye powders.
  • Beautycounter.com – formulated without the use of over 1500 harmful or questionable ingredients
  • Tarte cosmetics – formulated without parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, petrochemicals/mineral oil, phthalates, GMO’s, gluten and triclosan
  • Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® cosmetics database is a great resource for additional information including safety ratings of more than 60,000 products.

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