Is It Possible That Your Makeup Is Causing Cancer?

The end of a hard day brings with it the opportunity to unwind, kick off your shoes, and… remove the caked-on layers of makeup that have accumulated on your face. What exactly is contained in the stuff? Could it be that doing so is actually detrimental to your health?

We posed this question to Gina Kirk, an expert esthetician at LewisGale Medical Center in Salem, Virginia, who specialises in dermatology. We wanted to know her take on the most common ingredients found in cosmetics, as well as her opinion on whether or not these ingredients may pose any kind of long-term health risk.


According to Kirk, parabens are compounds that contribute to the preservation of cosmetics. “They are designed to keep you safe by inhibiting the growth of mould and germs that can be hazardous to your health.”

She goes on to say that parabens are extremely widespread. Makeup, moisturisers, shaving products, and sun protection lotions are just a few of the products that contain them. Because they are used so frequently and can be absorbed via the skin, researchers estimate that approximately 99 percent of people in the United States have parabens in their bodies.

Kirk emphasises that the most important thing is to use the items as advised and, as with any other cosmetics, to read the label before using them. A number of names, most of which end in “-paraben,” may be used to refer to parabens, including the following examples:

  • Methyl-paraben
  • Propyl-paraben
  • Butyl-paraben
  • Ethyl-paraben

Have studies shown a connection between parabens and cancer? There is not sufficient data to support the contention that these substances represent a risk to the health of humans. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not control cosmetic preservatives before they are released onto the market, and the majority of the time, the producers themselves do safety testing. Nevertheless, all studies that are published on preservatives are subject to assessment by the FDA. If scientists determine that a substance poses an unacceptable level of danger, the FDA is required to inform the general public. The FDA has not shown any worry about parabens as of now.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), parabens have been shown to have an estrogen-like action, albeit a mild one. Estrogen is a hormone that has a function in female reproduction, and research suggests that having high amounts of oestrogen may contribute to the development of breast and ovarian cancer.

Studies conducted on rodents found that exposure to parabens had a variety of consequences, including weight gain and alterations in the ovary. It had an inhibitory effect on the generation of sperm and male hormones in the male rats. Additional research in the lab suggests that parabens may contribute to weight gain; however, there is not enough information to determine whether or not they would actually have an effect on human weight.

Despite the results of several lab tests, research has not found any evidence of a causal relationship between parabens and any health issues.


Formaldehyde is a preservative that can be discovered in cosmetics, baby creams, and hair products from time to time. According to studies in which people who had significant exposures to the substance participated, it is an agent that is known to cause cancer. Although the level found in items sold in the United States is believed to be harmless, some people may experience allergic skin reactions when they come into touch with it.

It’s possible that some hair treatments, like hair smoothers, include methylene glycol, which, when heated, turns into formaldehyde and releases it into the air. It bears repeating that the FDA does not conduct pre-market testing or approval of hair or cosmetic products. However, the organisation does alert the general public and sends warnings to businesses if it determines that a product may put customers in danger. The use of formaldehyde in cosmetics is not restricted by the FDA, although the agency has issued cautions regarding methylene glycol.

Because formaldehyde is released when methylene glycol is heated at the salon (for example, when it is used for blow drying, curling, or straightening the hair), clients and personnel at the salon run the risk of breathing it in. Because of the high degree of exposure, they are at risk for:

  • Problems of a neurological nature, such as headaches and vertigo
  • Vision problems
  • Having trouble breathing or discomfort in the chest
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Reactions caused by allergies

According to the findings of the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), inhaled formaldehyde has also been linked to cases of lung and nasal cancer (OSHA).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests reading product labels before making purchases if you have concerns about inhaling formaldehyde or methylene glycol in your own home. Also be on the lookout for formalin, which is a chemical with comparable properties, and be wary of the following compounds that can release formaldehyde:

  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Quaternium-15
  • Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol )
  • 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane
  • Hydroxymethylglycinate

Request that they forgo using hair smoothers in order to reduce the risk of being exposed while getting your hair cut. You have the option to phone ahead and confirm that the products are free of formaldehyde as well.


Talc is a mineral that has been utilised by our company for many years, according to Kirk. You’ll find it in baby powders, dry shampoos, foundations, and makeup powders, to name a few products that include it. As a result of its ability to draw moisture to itself, it is frequently included in products designed for oily skin and hair types.

According to Kirk, “in its natural condition, some talc powders include asbestos.” [Citation needed] “It is common knowledge that asbestos is a carcinogen, which is a chemical that can cause cancer. It is possible that the risk of ovarian cancer will be increased if asbestos-containing talc is applied directly to the vaginal area or if it is placed on a sanitary napkin.

Despite this, the FDA does not allow talc used in cosmetics to contain any asbestos. An investigation into whether or not the chemical has been successfully removed from cosmetics sold in the United States was carried out by the organisation from 2009 to 2010. The researchers looked at thirty-four different goods and found no evidence of asbestos fibres in any of them.

Kirk offers a word of caution, stating that despite these results, the FDA is not claiming that all items that include talc are devoid of asbestos. Due to the fact that only four of the nine talc producers in the United States were involved in the study, not every product was examined.

A number of researchers have looked into the question of whether or not talc products still provide a danger once asbestos has been removed. There is conflicting evidence from different research regarding whether or not talc is linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer. If you are concerned, the American Chemical Society (ACS) advises limiting the usage of goods containing talc until additional information is available.

Are you interested in learning more about the other components of your beauty supply? Find out more about the ingredients in cosmetics, and investigate whether or not using deodorant can lead to cancer.






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