Part 2: Cancer causing cosmetics, fact or fiction?

Welcome to part two! Today we are discussing….


Many “green” products boast not containing these, but what are they exactly? These are found in all kinds of products, and are mainly used as anti-cracking agents or solvents (meaning that they are used to dissolve/break down other ingredients).The two most common phthalates present in cosmetics are ibutylphthalate (DBP) and dimethylphthalate (DMP). They are usually present in cosmetics in quantities of up to 10%. The reason phthalates are frowned upon is because in high quantities it causes birth defects and affects the reproductive systems of both males and females.

The National Toxicology program, back in 2000, conducted extensive testing on these ingredients and determined that reproductive risks in response to levels contained in cosmetics is negligible or nonexistent. This was due to the fact that the levels of phthalates in products were much too low compared to levels used to induce cancer in animals. Furthermore, levels of phthalates in products have been steadily declining ever since the year 2004, reducing chances of any negative effects becoming prominent.

 Lead in my lipstick?!

 Although not necessarily cancer causing, lead is disastrous when in close proximity to our bodies in large quantities. The fear mongering with lipstick was that our lips are thin an thus can readily absorb the lead contained in these cosmetics, or even worse, is ingested throughout the day.

 The FDA confirms that lead is commonly found in lipstick, as it is a part of the color additives. Lead is allowed to make up only 20 parts per million in any tube of lipstick, and all the brands that were tested by the FDA, and contained this substance, were well within this limit.

Lipstick is also very minimally ingested, when you combine this with the fact that the levels of lead found in these cosmetics are extremely low…. it is safe to conclude that there are no adverse effects that can be experienced by consumers.

 Aluminum components

 This is the active ingredient in deodorants and it  has caused tons of controversy due to the belief that it had the ability to penetrate the skin, particularly through razor nicks, and make its way to the breast tissue located nearby. Aluminum also carries estrogen like qualities, also adding to the fear that it can influence cancerous breast tissue growth.

The national cancer institute refutes these claims, many of the studies that supposedly showed connections between deodorant use and cancer were not conclusive… and several times not even taking into consideration familial history of cancer amongst women whom were studied. Furthermore, there have been studies strongly showing the opposite, that deodorant use shows no link whatsoever with cancer. In short, smear on that deodorant, it is safe to use!



Part 1: Cancer causing cosmetics, fact or fiction?

One of the biggest fear inducing claims from the green cosmetics movement is that right beneath our noses the FDA is allowing cancer-causing ingredients to be used. Although they are included in minute quantities, eventually they build up and cause disease. Scary right? But how much truth is there behind this really? I will be discussing some of the most popular ingredients that “natural” products love to bash, but it will be up to decide if you still want to use them!


What lies here yonder?

First up…


 Many products tout themselves as not containing these, but what are they exactly? Parabens are commonly used as preservatives. Preservatives are vital ingredients in cosmetics because they keep bacteria from growing in the solution and lengthen the shelf life of products. The amount found in cosmetics is quite small usually ranging from .01 to .3%.

Parabens came under fire when in a 2004 toxicology study they were discovered in small quantities in breast cancer tumors.  The study then went on to describe parabens as having estrogen-like qualities, leading to their ability to affect breast tissue.

The fact is that although parabens have weak estrogen-like qualities, their influence are far below of our body’s own naturally occurring estrogen. Even the strongest forms of parabens have been tested, and their capacity to affect the body was still 10,000-100,000 times less than naturally occurring estrogen.  Additionally, the study was also too small, and merely correlational and did not prove parabens’ connection to cancer.

talc powder

Talc is commonly found in powder foundations and blushers

 Talc or should I say Asbestos?

Talc is an ingredient found in all kinds of base makeup, blushes, and even baby powder! It is commonly used because of its ability to mattify the skin, and lend soft texture to a product. Talc is a naturally occurring ingredient and is derived from oxygen, silicon, magnesium, and hydrogen.

Asbestos is also another naturally occurring silicate material, which can be found near where talc naturally appears. Asbestos has a completely different crystal structure from talc and is a proven carcinogen. The fear-mongering behind talc started when there were claims that tiny asbestos fibers may be located inside talc, and subsequently making its way into our cosmetics.

The FDA responded to this by seeking out talc suppliers and testing their supplies for asbestos. Research found no traces of asbestos, and confirmed that cosmetic grade talc (containing no asbestos) is not carcinogenic to humans. Several other smaller studies have been done, but results have been mixed and inconclusive.