Parabens, phthalates and synthetic fragrance: three things you do not want near your body and yet, they are common ingredients in many makeup and personal care products. Learn the basics to detoxifying your makeup bag and ensure you're making healthy choices for yourself and your family.

Do you really know what makes that lipstick last 12 hours on your lips (and 10 years in your makeup bag) or what "natural" ingredients cause your shampoo to smell like a fruit smoothie? If you did, you'd probably start to question all the unpronounceable chemicals that go into American beauty products. Reading labels is a daunting task, but a smart exercise when you consider that skin is our largest organ and it's absorbing all sorts of questionable compounds every time you powder your nose. Here's a beginners guide to detoxing your makeup bag and learning to read labels like a pro.

There are hundreds of chemicals that go into makeup and personal care products. Some contribute to a product's fragrance or color, serve as a preservative to extend the life of the product or enable an unnecessary frothing sensation. Today we'll look at just a few of the top offenders. Keep in mind that this is in no way a comprehensive list of the potentially harmful ingredients commonly used, but these are easy to spot, and therefore, easier to avoid.

Ingredients to avoid

  1. Fragrance (or perfume)

    This should always be a red flag when reading ingredients. In the U.S., fragrances are considered protected trademarks and manufacturers are not required to report what goes into making your favorite scent. It is likely to be a synthetic fragrance and full of allergy triggers. Look for fragrance-free products or products that have been scented with pure essential or flowers oils.

  2. Parabens (or methylparaben, propylparaben or butylparaben)

    The beauty industry is catching on to a recent public outcry against the use of parabens, but an industry-wide adoption will be slow. Avoid this common ingredient that is used as a preservative and is thought to be a hormone disruptor and suspected carcinogen.

  3. Lead and mercury (often not listed)

    These two bad boys are used in cosmetics as a preservative. Recent findings have exposed the unregulated amounts found in lipstick, in particular. Why not avoid your exposure and try out a color from one of the many companies committed to manufacturing without dangerous preservatives, like Vapour Beauty or Red Apple Lipstick?

  4. Phthalates (or DEHP, DMP, DEP, variations of dibutyl and diethyl ester, 1,2-benenedicarboxylate and not listed when used in “fragrance”)

    This is another ingredient that major manufacturers are beginning to phase out. It can often be found in cosmetics of all kinds. It's a hormone disruptor and a suspected carcinogen.

  5. Talc (also talcum powder)

    You'll find this in baby powder, eyeshadow, face powder and sunscreen. It's a suspected carcinogen and is best avoided since it is easily inhaled.

  6. Triclosan

    This widely-used ingredient is currently under investigation by the FDA. It's commonly used as an antimicrobial agent for its powerful germ killing abilities in soap, toothpaste, acne treatments, antiperspirants and lipstick. It's thought to be a hormone disruptor.


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Another valuable consumer resource is the Skin Deep database, made available by the Environmental Working Group. They continue to research mainstream American products so consumers can easily and quickly research what they are using and find safer, cleaner options.

Nontoxic products I love

Here are a few everyday nontoxic products I've been incorporating into my routine with great results. Full disclosure: I may talk like a hippie, but I do not smell like one. I wear a little makeup every day and I wash my hair regularly, but I always read a label before I buy. I recommend picking a product you use every day and experimenting with a cleaner version. Small and sustainable changes in your beauty routine can lead to a healthier body — inside and out.

makeup detox product recommendations


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