Most conscious beauty fanatics are already well aware that the U.S. allows over 1,000 chemicals in our cosmetics that are banned by the European Union. In the U.S., we also have a growing natural and organic makeup industry and a growing number of labels to help us pick cleaner, healthier cosmetics to enhance our appearance.
While makeup is never really good for your skin, applying non-toxic mineral makeup with a clean brush (to avoid trapping bacteria) does help create a barrier to protect our face from the elements (UV light, pollution). Those of us who have tried various makeup brands, clean, natural and otherwise, know that the quality will vary. Clean, mineral based makeup tends not to offer as full of coverage nor as vibrant of colors. It also tends not to photograph as nicely as some other makeup formulations.
Even some natural ingredients are irritants for some and some safe products contain safe chemicals. In determining what makeup to use consider any existing skin concerns you may have, any health concerns, how often you’ll wear this product and the look you’re going for.
Looking at a modern makeup label we normally see a list of ingredients that are not in this product. Sometimes these labels are great and are referencing ingredients most would like to avoid (e.g. no parabens, no lead, no petrochemicals). Other times these labels look great, but really only reference specific concerns (e.g. no talc, no gluten, no silicone). To better understand and begin the feat of selecting makeup that has what we need performance wise and does not contain the toxins or irritants we do not want, we need to understand what these chemicals and irritants are.
The common list of chemicals to avoid in makeup includes sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, parabens, lead, formaldehyde and petroleum distillates.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is banned by the European Union. It seems the claims that it is linked to cancer are being deemed unfounded, but it is known to be drying and should be avoided by those with eczema or psoriasis.
Phthalates are chemicals commonly found in plastics to create more flexibility. They are believed to be an endocrine disrupting chemical and some (DEHP) are considered probable carcinogens by the EPA. Canada has banned DEHP in cosmetics. The EU has banned several phthalates.
Parabens are used as preservatives. Parabens are also considered endocrine disrupting and linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. They may also cause skin irritation.
Lead is found in most lipsticks though in very small amounts. It is a neurotoxin which is especially harmful to developing young minds. There are companies testing to assure their lipsticks do not contain lead.
Formaldehyde (quaternium-15, DMDM, imidazolidinyl urea) is used as a preservative and has carcinogenic effects. It can also cause skin irritation and rashes.
Petroleum distillates (e.g. mineral oil) are petroleum by-products with potential carcinogenic effects which may also cause skin irritation and allergies.
Still there are other ingredients that may or may not be an issue for you. You may decide that some controversial ingredients offer enough performance enhancing benefits that periodic use is not a major concern. You will still see labels indicating these are not in this product.
Talc absorbs oil and prevents caking in powder makeup. It is still considered debatable as to whether or not talc has carcinogenic effects and whether or not the physical region of application is relevant (facial application has not been linked to claims of cancer). If you have sensitive skin, talc may cause irritation or breakouts making talc a potential irritant.
Silicone has a lot of performance enhancing effects. It enhances the barrier function of our skin while still allowing oxygen molecules to penetrate and keeping water molecules inside. It is considered non-comedogenic, gives slip to products and creates that silky canvas most want to build their face upon. However, some silicones (D4 or cyclotetrasiloxane and D5 or cyclopentasiloxane) have been ruled to have endocrine disrupting effects and have been banned by the EU. You will still find silicones in some clean makeup brands.
If your goal is simply to remove parabens from your routine, not much sacrifice is needed. Many makeup brands are removing parabens from their products. Too Faced is paraben-free and Kat Von D has no parabens, phthalates or sulfates.
Even if you’re ready to go all in with some of the cleanest, irritant free, most natural products on the market, you’ll be pleased with how nicely the formulations are improving. 99% of the time if I receive a compliment on my eye makeup, I am wearing Aether which is EU compliant, organic, free of a long list of chemicals and irritants and the shimmer is made from crushed gemstones! Fior Minerals has the cleanest, lightest, silkiest feel to their lipstick while still offering nice, natural coverage. One of my favorite organic foundations, Antonym, may not be a good match for you if you have a talc sensitivity or concern.
Best brands to consider and analyze for your personal needs