The Chemicals and Animal Products Hiding in Your Cosmetics



As I get older, I have become acutely aware of the power of choice. I have realized that my decisions have long-lasting, powerful effects. I have already experienced this through my choices in career, relationships, and health. But what about my beauty and skincare rituals? How can I invest in my health and skin care in the most effective, realistic, and sustainable way? I have struggled throughout my life to find the right skin care solution. I tried it all: over-the-counter skincare, natural remedies, changes in diet, prescriptions.  I have been searching for an effective way to reduce the early signs of aging. Realizing that the decisions of today decide the future of tomorrow, I became committed to finding a solution that would help my skin mature beautifully.

In the end, I have learned two things: There is no real miracle product and to have wonderful skin, you must have wonderful habits.  I am still on the journey to finding the best all-natural, organic, vegan skin care regimen that works for me.  I have a few favorite products that I will save for another post and I will keep you updated with new products as I discover them.  As this search continues, I want to be a responsible and educated consumer.  This means that I need to know not only what to look for in my products, but also what to avoid.  


Silicones: Silicones give our skincare products their smooth, silky texture. They provide a long-lasting wear and essentially coat the surface of skin. While silicones provide easy and smooth application of make-up, lotions, and cleansers, they have negative impacts on our heath and environment. Think of wrapping your face the entire day in plastic wrap. The natural production of oils and the excretion of toxins are blocked by a synthetic, plastic coating. The pore-blocking ingredient promotes a buildup of sweat. This leads to a buildup in the liver and lymph nodes promoting tumors. Think of silicones as a barrier in your body’s natural filtration system.

Parabens: Parabens are a group of the alkyl esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid. Some common parabens include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, and benzylparaben. These low-cost preservatives are commonly used in cosmetics, food, and toiletries. Parabens function solely for preserving products and preventing microbial growth such as mold, yeast, and bacteria. Though the United States continues the debate on the whether or not parabens are safe for use, the European Union unilaterally banned parabens. Considered as a potential risk to human health, parabens have been linked to metabolic, developmental, neurological, and hormonal disruption by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The estrogenic-like effects of parabens have been suspected to contribute to various cancers, especially breast cancer.

Mineral Oils: Mineral Oils are commonly known as baby oil, Vaseline, petroleum jelly, or paraffin oil/wax. This oil is a cheap colorless, odorless by-product of the distillation process in gasoline production. There are three major issues associated with mineral oils in personal care: toxic contamination, clogged pores, and ineffectiveness. Cosmetic-grade mineral oil though more safe than technical grade mineral oil, has been found to contain toxic contaminants. Like parabens, mineral oils are considered comedogenic meaning they block pores and cause blackheads. Though, on a superficial level, mineral oil traps moisture and reduces water-loss in skin, it lacks real purpose. Mineral oil actually slows down the skin cell development and skin rejuvenation that occurs every 27 days leading to premature aging. It is actually the very opposite of anti-aging, it is pro-aging. STAY AWAY!

Artificial Colors: These colors are commonly known as FD&C Blue 1, FD&C Green 3, FD&C Red 33, FD&C Yellow 5, and FC&C Yellow 6. “FD&C” stands for “Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics.” There are nine certified color additives approved by the United States Food and Drug administration. “F&C” are the only color additives allowed for drugs and cosmetics used for external application. These harmful additives are made from coal tar and contain heavy metals salts. When applied to skin, they can cause sensitivity and irritation and may cause acne breakouts. Since skincare and cosmetics remain on the skin for an extended time, the risks of artificial colors are increased. Artificial colors have been shown to lead to cancer, allergies, hypersensitivity, and tumors. During the manufacturing process of these colors, there is also risk of other dangerous contaminants detrimental to health. With a variety of healthy and natural color alternatives from plants and herbs, there is no need to take a risk on these color additives.

sheep shorning

Lanolin is acquired through sheep shearing and causes stress for the sheep. It is also a by-product of the meat industry. Photo credit:

Animal Derivatives: Animal Urine, secretions, hair, hooves, bones, ligaments, eyes, and spinal cords: the list goes on. There are so many animal derivatives hiding in your products under unrecognizable aliases. This topic probably could use its very own blog post but lets just give one example of the many horrifying ingredients hiding in your skin care—Lanolin. The waxy oil is used in soaps, moisturizers and other skincare products. Though the product has moisturizing properties, it also presents significant risks. Lanolin is extracted from the oil glands of sheep that live in unnaturally hot environments to induce sweat production. After a miserable existence of lifelong sweating, they are sent away for slaughter. Aside from the questionable ethical process of the lanolin manufacturing, there are dangerous health risks associated with the use of this oil. Lanolin is the sebum produced by the sheep’s sebaceous glands that remains on the fur and extracted after the shorning process. The oil can contain the pollen, dirt, feces, dust, and sweat of the animal. Not to mention, these animals are not farmed organically meaning they are sprayed directly with pesticides and eat inorganic and genetically modified foods. While there is a process to remove contaminants from the oil, Lanolin can legally contain 40 parts per million of pesticides as per the Federal Department of Agriculture in the United States. 

So there you have it, these are the top 5 ingredients to look out for in your skincare, cosmetics, and other personal items.  You are welcome girlfriends and boyfriends!