Are some beauty creams toxic?

Unusual Skin Care Ingredients Image Gallery Can some of the ingredients in beauty creams cause harm?See more pictures of unusual skin care ingredients.
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You probably speed through your beauty routine each day without really thinking about it. Shower gels, fragrances, deodorants, hair products, lotions, makeups -- it all adds up to a big list of products. In fact, the average adult uses seven different cosmetics every day [source: WebMD].

What some people don't know is that manufacturers in the United States do not have to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before selling them. Instead, the FDA provides guidelines for manufacturers to follow, and the organization pursues legal action against companies that break them once products are on store shelves [source: FDA]. Although representatives from the cosmetics industry might say that small amounts of harmful materials don't have a negative effect, others disagree -- environmentalists believe that small amounts of toxic substances can build up in your body, especially when you use multiple products containing those ingredients on a daily basis [source: Bouchez].


One study found that some common skin care ingredients are capable of impacting your health, such as increasing your risk of developing cancer. These chemicals, which interfere with the production of estrogen in women's bodies, include:

  • Phthalates, used as solvents in hair products, fragrances, deodorants and nail polish
  • Parabens, used as preservatives in shampoos, cosmetics and lotions
  • Placental hormones or estrogens, often found in shampoos and other hair products

These chemicals typically affected the development of girls' bodies, as well as encouraged cancer growth in human breast cells in a laboratory setting [source: Vassar].

If you're concerned about these findings, you can help lower the risk of any danger from such ingredients. If you think you can do without a product, skip using it [source: Bouchez]. If you'd like to really read up on a particular product, visit the manufacturer's Web site or e-mail the company to learn about the different chemicals contained in the product you're considering.

To learn more about the ingredients in cosmetics, visit the links on the following page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Cosmeceutical Facts & Your Skin." (Sept. 8, 2009)
  • Bouchez, Colette. "Cosmetics Safety: What's in Your Makeup Bag?" WebMD. Nov. 6, 2007. (Sept. 8, 2009)
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "FDA Authority Over Cosmetics." March 3, 2005. (Sept. 8, 2009)
  • Vassar College. "Personal Care Products." Environmental Risks and Breast Cancer. 2008. (Sept. 8, 2009)
  • WebMD. "Allergies Triggered by Cosmetics." Feb. 5, 2009. (Sept. 8, 2009)