How are Cosmetics Harming Us?


Cosmetics may be the cause of our health problems later in life – and we would not even know it. 

Think about this the next time you pick up that bottle of deodorant or air freshener. The innocent-looking cosmetic, while considered harmless by many, may very well have much more side effects than one might imagine. 

In our everyday lives, we frequently give little thought to using products such as body sprays, makeup, deodorant, nail polish, or even shampoo. However, few are conscious of the potential life-threatening risks behind these synthetic products. 

Synthetic Fragrance

The brutal truth is that a lot of the scented products we see on the shelves actually get their fragrance from synthetic chemicals. Manufacturers are legally allowed to obscure the precise ingredients that went into any synthetic scent. This rule was set in place some decades ago to protect the intellectual property of perfume manufacturers. They were allowed to indicate something along the lines of “fragrance” in the ingredients, and it would be considered to be a trade secret within the industry. However, these days, just about every cosmetic manufacturer does this as a convenient way to avoid pointing to as many as some thousand separate components that went into the scent of a cosmetic product, most of which are artificial. 

You may be wondering, what is so bad about synthetic fragrance? Well, many of the compounds utilized in creating fragrance tend to be toxic or perhaps even carcinogenic. These compounds are derived from petrochemicals, including benzene derivatives, aldehydes, phthalates, and other known toxins which are often responsible for causing problems such as cancer, birth defects, allergies, nervous system disorders and endocrine disorders. Pregnant women should be especially careful when using beauty products with synthetic fragrance, as exposing a fetus to these substances is shown to have a hand in causing autism, ADHD, and neurological disorders. 

On top of that, some people may experience uncomfortable symptoms concerning sensitivity to fragrance, including dizziness, headaches, nausea and vomiting, rashes, or allergies. It’s also a well-known incontrovertible fact that people with asthma or respiratory problems can have adverse reactions if exposed to artificially scented products. Even in healthy individuals, one study has shown a decline in exhalation volume by a whopping 58 percent when exposed to synthetic cologne. Thus, regardless of whether you have respiratory concerns or not, synthetic fragrance is definitely a component to be wary of. 

However, that’s not all. Because exposure to fragrance can affect the central nervous system, there can also be more long-term side effects, such as depression, hyperactivity, and other behavioral problems. 

Synthetic fragrance does not just affect the user of the cosmetic product, but also everyone around the area it was used, since the particles of artificial scent are easily carried through the air. That may be something worth keeping in mind the next time you whip out a bottle of spray. 

Artificial Colorants

Makeup can be an everyday affair not just for numerous women, but also men and those who are modeling or acting. Those rainbow shades may look esthetically pleasing, but let us give some thought to the ingredients that lie behind them. What many people do not realize is that by applying these colors onto their faces, they may inadvertently be applying cancer and various other health hazards. 

Known as Food, Drug and Cosmetics (FD&C) color pigments, these synthetic colors can be found in a myriad of products, from common makeup like mascara and lipstick to baby wipes and also food coloring. Although FD&C color pigments are FDA-certified, that is no testament to their safety in the products we use daily. 

Cosmetic colorants are often classified as either “organic” or “inorganic”. While organic colorants may sound safe, it is worth knowing that they are actually derived from petrol and coal tar. Most of those are in fact synthetic. They contain heavy metal salts that deposit toxins onto the skin and may penetrate the skin in some cases, potentially causing skin sensitivity and irritation. On the other hand, inorganic colorants are typically made from insoluble metallic compounds derived from natural sources such as china stone or carbon deposits. They are not believed to pose the health risks that organic colorants do, but organic colorants still end up being more widely used because they are available in a wider range of shades and are inexpensive to supply in bulk. As such, many cosmetic manufacturers prefer to use the more hazardous organic colorants. 

As far as humans are concerned, most these organic colorants are carcinogenic. However, the main shocker is that a number of these colors can cause oxygen depletion within the body, and in the most extreme of cases, it could even end in death if layers of colorants are applied too heavily to crucial parts of the body. 

Many cosmetic labels usually do not list “FD&C color pigments” or anything associated that may suggest you could possibly be using synthetic colorants. However, they do list the color followed by variety, which may look like “Red 40” or “Blue 1 Lake”, which are some ingredients it can be beneficial to steer clear of. These colors are also often found in food coloring and can be present in candies, icing, garnish and even inedible products such as artificial flowers. 


You may have heard this word being tossed around, but what are parabens exactly? 

Parabens are a type of preservative that were first introduced in the 1950s. They are mostly used to help extend the shelf life of cosmetic products by preventing the growth of mold and bacteria. 

This may not sound bad, but parabens were found to be able to penetrate our skin and remain within tissue. While parabens themselves do not directly cause cancer, they are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking estrogen. This can cause the body to think that it has too much estrogen, resulting in an increase in breast cell division and growth of tumors. 

In additional to cancer and reproductive issues, parabens can also harm the marine environment when they are washed down the sewage and disposed of in water bodies. Parabens have been found in marine mammals in oceans, suggesting that they come from cosmetic products that are washed away into the drainage systems. 

Most products will not directly state that they contain parabens, so look out for the names butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben on ingredient labels. These are the three most common parabens used in cosmetic and health products. 

Fortunately, the percentage of parabens used in most cosmetic products is very small. It can be difficult to say for sure if parabens are really bad for us, but there are also other preservatives being developed that have fewer health risks than parabens. 

So What Products Are Safe?

If this article has sounded discouraging so far, it does not have to be. Although the health hazards of synthetic products are many, the good news is there are also numerous organic and natural cosmetics which can achieve the same effects as synthetic products, but without the side effects.