We girls all want to look our best, but it’s always a good idea to pay careful attention to what you put in (or on) your body. If you’ve read the ingredient list on the average makeup package, you’ve probably scratched your head over some of the ten dollar words you’ve found there. Methyl-propyl-oxy-glyceral Huh? What?? Most of the substances found in the better brands of makeup have been tested and approved as safe, at least in small amounts. But there are some common ingredients that it’s probably best to avoid altogether, if possible.

  1. Coal Tar or Coal Tar Dye: This stuff is used in things like dry skin treatments and anti-dandruff shampoos, and coal tar dye is used in hair color and lipstick. But it’s not usually called “coal tar” on the package – because who would buy something like that? It’s sometimes listed as a color, such as FD&C Red No. 6, or its chemical name, “P-phenylenediamine” or “CI” followed by a number. Coal tar comes from petroleum and composed of a bunch of different chemicals, many of which are recognized as carcinogenic and have been linked to brain damage. No thanks!
  1. DEA, TEA or MEA: These are used as emulsifiers and foaming agents to make shampoos, body washes and soaps soft and sudsy. DEA can cause skin and eye irritation and DEA compounds can react with nitrites in cosmetics to form nitrosamines, which are classified as a possible human carcinogen.
  1. Formaldehyde: This nasty chemical is used in nail products, hair dye, fake eyelash adhesives and shampoos, and used in Brazilian blow-outs. Europe has banned the use of Formaldehyde’s in cosmetics, but it’s still allowed in the United States. Low levels of formaldehyde have been found to cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. In larger doses, it can cause cancer!
  1. Parabens: Used as preservatives, parabens are found in all sorts of makeup products. They have been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity. If that isn’t bad enough, studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with UVB, leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage – and that’s the last thing you need!
  1. BHA and BHT are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in lipsticks, moisturizers, eye shadows, blushes, foundations, perfumes, moisturizers and many other cosmetics. BHA and BHT can induce allergic reactions in the skin and may also be carcinogenic. Studies have shown that BHT causes liver, kidney and thyroid problems in animals and can act as a tumor promoter. Scary stuff!

What’s a girl to do? We don’t want to give up on makeup altogether! Makeup is fun. It’s cool. It can make us feel better by giving us confidence in our looks. And frankly, most good makeup brands are perfectly safe to use. But nothing makes you look better than being healthy does, so it’s a good idea to read labels carefully and avoid any chemicals that give you cause for alarm. Pay attention, shop smart and you can continue to use makeup with total peace of mind.

And remember, girls: the best thing you can put on your face to improve your looks any time you want … is a pretty smile!