For many women, putting makeup on is just a part of their daily routine and nothing more. So few of us stop to consider what exactly is put into our beauty products while we blindly trust manufacturers and the FDA regulations. However, not every makeup brand is completely trustworthy, and if you want to be an educated consumer there are some things you should know about makeup labels—and why you should start reading them.
Be Cautious of Grandiose Claims
The FDA doesn’t have definitions for terms like “hypoallergenic” or “non-comedogenic” so makeup products are free to use them as they see fit. Because of the lack of regulation surrounding said terms, products don’t actually have to back their claims. So if you are concerned with the sensitivity of your skin, don’t rely on hypoallergenic promises. If your skin is easily irritated, look for products with fragrances and known allergens, such as parabens and propylene.
Be wary of “oil-free” and “clinically proven” claims as well—the FDA doesn’t have definitions for these terms either. Products might claim to be “dermatologist-tested” but may have never been looked at by a dermatologist. However, most organic mineral makeup products are trustworthy and tend to back their chemical-free, all-natural claims.
Read the Entire Label
Ingredients are always listed in order by their magnitude of concentration with the exception of the ones that are less than 1%. The ingredients that tend to fall into the latter category are colorants, fragrances, and preservatives—which can be listed in any order the manufacturer prefers. Many of the chemicals that you want to keep an eye out for will fall within the less than 1% list. The first few ingredients listed constitute the bulk of the formula and typically derive from glycerin, a harmless moisturizer.
There will likely be several long, scientific names in the ingredients of the makeup you’re using, but don’t be intimidated. Those complex names are just chemical descriptions of the ingredients and may not give you a reason to worry. If something looks scary, a quick internet search will more than likely put your mind at ease (most of the time).
Good Burn and Bad Burn
Ingredients that smooth and brighten your skin can often be painful, as they typically contain vitamin C and retinol. Even those without sensitive skin can experience irritation from these strong ingredients. If you’re prone to intense agitation, keep your eyes peeled for ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C with similar effects). Look for slow release retinol instead, which will be gentler to use.
Found in eyeshadows, blushes, and fragranced lotions, dibutyl phthalates are an extremely common synthetic chemical in cosmeceuticals. However, the European Union considers this ingredient to be one of the most worrying ingredients.
DPB (dibutyl phthalates) can cause disruptions in basic hormone functions, including the reproductive system. DPB can be especially troublesome for pregnant women given its potential to cause genetic mutation, so keep a watchful eye on this ingredient.
Coal Tar Dyes
Coal tar is formulated through an intricate mix of a petroleum-based chemical contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. It’s mainly used as a colorant in cosmetics and hair products labeled as “P-Phenylenediamine” or “C.I.”
P-Phenylenediamine is harmful and widely known as a cancer-causing agent. There is significant evidence which links it to various types of cancer, but not enough to identify it as the main cause. The chemical contains a significant amount of heavy metals and aluminum, meaning it’s a neurotoxin, so add this to your list of ingredients to avoid.
Be careful of terms like “fragrance-free” and “unscented” because they may still contain many of the harmful ingredients that you wish to avoid. When buying makeup, skincare products, and perfumes, it’s always best to look for the organic label.
Anything you put on your skin can be absorbed, which is why it’s important to read and understand the labels of all your products. Use these helpful tips to seek out the best cosmetics next time you go shopping—your skin may thank you!