I spent most of this beautiful Sunday afternoon reorganizing my makeup cabinet, throwing out stuff I have known for a while was loaded with chemicals but couldn’t part with, and also buying new (close to) toxin-free makeup. And boy does it feel good. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while but had been hanging onto my precious makeup even after switching out body washes, sun blocks, shampoos, toothpastes, moisturizers and home-cleaning products for low-toxin alternatives.

Makeup in particular is a major culprit of dangerous, hormone-disrupting chemicals and ingredients, and many of us don’t even know it. I think deciphering makeup and skincare products can be particularly overwhelming because unlike food labels where we can generally find the “bad” ingredients, with makeup it all looks so foreign.

There are certainly a few dangers to chemicals in skincare products, like endocrine disruption and increased risk for cancer, but which should you aim to avoid? No problem, I’ve got you covered. To help you sort through labels, I’ve identified my top 5 ingredients to watch for below.

Top 5 chemicals lurking in your makeup to watch for:

  1. Phthalates: A derivative of plastic, phthalates are found in color cosmetic as well as other types of skincare products (like nail polish!).
    • What to look for: Phthalates may be labeled as phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP, or even as fragrance. Look for “phthalate free.”
    • The danger… is that they may be involved with endocrine disruption (aka- hormonal disruption), fertility toxicity and increasing cancer risk.
  2. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE or Teflon): PTFE or Teflon is found in your non-stick pan and also in possibly many of your makeup products like powders- both loose and pressed, blush, eye shadow and more.
    • What to look for: PTFE may be listed as PTFE or Polytetrafluoroethylene, or Polyperfluoromethylisopropyl Ether, DEA-C8-18 Perfluoroalkylethyl Phosphate, or even as Teflon.
    • The danger is that PTFE (or any of the others listed is that) is endocrine disruption (hormone imbalance), cancers (mammary cancer), reproductive toxicity, and may be difficult to break down in the environment. Also, it’s a fluoride compound which may negatively affect thyroid health and function.
  3. Phonexyethanol: Phenoxyethanol may be found in many different types of products from body washes to waxing products, to hand sanitizers, mascara and more.
    • What to look for: Phonexyethanol may appear on the label as such, it may also appear as 2-Phonexyethanol, or Phe.
    • The danger… is that Phonexyethanol may cause allergies and sensitivities including eczema and more.
  4. Butylated compounds: Butylated compounds may be found in all types of different compounds like lip products, hair products, makeups and sunscreens.
    • What to look for: Butylated compounds, BHT, BHA.
    • The danger… is the butylated compounds may affect endocrine function, may be related to organ toxicity, irritations and allergies, and may increase cancer risk too.
  5. Lead and heavy metals: Lead and heavy metals appear in many different products like lipsticks, nail color, foundations, blush, concealer and more.
    • What to look for: Lead acetate, chromium, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, sodium hexametaphosphate- sometimes these metals may not even be listen on the label.
    • The danger… is that many of these ingredients may not be listed on the ingredient list and may contribute to organ toxicity, cancer risk and more. It may also affect thyroid function as well.

It’s really important to read your labels now with your makeup as well as your food labels- so start reading!


Some of my favorite cleaner products include:

Bite cosmetics (lipsticks)


Josie Maran 

Bare Minerals

If you want more information on where to look, here’s a few of my favorite places about skincare:

EWG Skin Deep

Safe Cosmetics