Key Points:

Every day women expose themselves to around 168 different chemicals hidden in products like deodorants, shampoos and cosmetics, which are spread with gay abandon over every inch of skin. These chemicals don't just stay on our face - the average woman ingests 0.057 mg of lippy daily, around 1.248 kilos of the stuff over sixty years.

So ladies, what are we really putting on our faces?

Toxins in cosmetics have been linked to hormone-related problems, birth defects and skin irritation. Mothers are even transferring them to their unborn children. Luckily, international NGOs have created some tools to help us avoid chemical-crammed cosmetics. The EWG's Skin Deep® database shows products and chemicals, ranked from 0 to 10, with 10 meaning 'put down that product and walk away, now'. The Goodguide is another great resource that allows you to filter out animal tested and non-organic products.

Repeat offenders

These ingredients are found in multiple cosmetics. Learn them and avoid them. Parabens (lipstick, mascara, foundation and eye shadow) including butylparaben and methylparaben (and anything with a -paraben at the end of it), are used in more than 22,000 cosmetics as a preservative. They can cause major dermatological issues, penetrate the skin barrier, mimic hormones and could facilitate the development of breast cancer. The most toxic of the bunch is propylparaben (awarded a 10 on SkinDeep®) which also lowers sperm count in males. Oxybenzone also know as benzophenone-3 (lipstick and foundation), is another 10 on the SkinDeep® database. It is a sunscreen ingredient and has been linked to free-radical damage to skin, hormone disruption and allergies. Fragrances (lipstick, mascara and foundation) are the most common cause of skin irritation and could consist of any combination of hundreds of chemicals, including hormone-disrupting phthalates (pronounced tha-lates), mixed together in more than 5000 secret recipes. Teenagers going through puberty need no hormone interference and should choose fragrance-free products or opt for natural fragrances like essential oils. Vitamin A listed as retinyl palmitate, retinol and retinyl acetate (lipstick, mascara and foundation). This can build up in pregnant women harming unborn fetuses. It also increases skin sensitivity and creates cellular-level damages that are linked to reproductive issues and cancer. Diazolidinyl urea a.k.a. formaldehyde releaser (mascara, foundation and eye shadow) is a preservative that slowly releases the known carcinogen formaldehyde. It is a skin irritant and has been linked to cancer. Photo / Thinkstock

Other nasties:

Thimerosal (mascara) is a carcinogenic preservative. It contains mercury, which has toxic effects on the reproductive, nervous, and human development system. Morpholine (mascara) is another nasty irritant that also damages your kidneys and liver. Triclosan (eye shadow), a skin and eye irritant that disrupts hormones. Lead (lipsticks). A report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) found that many top-brand lipsticks contain lead, a neurotoxin that can affect developing fetuses. The US FDA also tested 400 different lipsticks and their lead contents finding L'Oreal's Maybelline Color Sensation to be the most lead-heavy. The top 10 contained lead concentrations between 7.19 and 4.12 parts per million (ppm) (the US FDA recommends the level of lead in children's sweets doesn't exceed 0.1 ppm). Most red lipsticks, whether they are 'natural' or not, use some kind of lead-based colourant.

LIPSTICKS: vital info

Worst offenders: L'Oreal and brands (including Maybelline), NARS by Shiseido, Procter & Gamble brands like Cover Girl and Cover Girl Queen Collection, Paula Dorf, Wet 'n Wild, Urban Decay, Black Opal, Black Radiance and Love my Lips. Best international brands: Dr. Hauschka, Au Naturale, Coastal Classic Creations, Maia's Mineral Galaxy, Afterglow Cosmetics Organic, Beautycounter and Lipstick Queen. Local options (certified natural/organic and no animal testing): Promising lead-free, Living Nature's lippies are good choices - plus the company is registered with the stringent BDIH international, natural cosmetics standard. Karen Murrell's lipstick range, which won best lipstick at the 2013 Oh Natural Beauty Awards. World Organic's lipstick range has some beautiful, bright options.

MASCARA: hits and misses

Worst offenders: Love My Eyes, CoverGirl, Too Faced, Rimmel, Physicians Formula, N.Y.C, Mommy Makeup, MaxFactor, Lumene and Almay. Best international brands: Dr. Hauschka, Rejuva Minerals, Eco Bella, Coastal Classic Creations, Jane Iredale, Maia's Mineral Galaxy, Organic Wear and Physicians Formula Organic Wear range. Local options (certified natural/organic and no animal testing): Living Nature's Thickening Jet Black mascara. Inika Mineral Mascara. Look out for: Steer clear of homemade mascara recipes that use activated charcoal - this is a major irritant and should not go near eyes.


Worst offenders: Physicians Formula, NARS, Rimmel, Neutrogena, Laura Geller and BY TERRY. The usual suspects also make the list including Revlon, CoverGirl, Maybelline, L'Oreal and Black Opal. Best international brands: Inika, Vapour Organic, Coastal Classic, Rejuva, Mai Couture, Cover FX, I AM goddess, KORRES, L'Oreal (Studio Secrets Magic Smooth range), Maybelline Fit Me! range and Organic Wear. Local options (certified natural/organic and no animal testing): Living Nature's Soft Lights Illuminating Foundation and Clear Lights Tinted Moisturiser took out Highly Commended in the 2014 Natural Beauty awards. They were also named Best Liquid Foundation award by The Ultimate Natural Beauty Bible.


Worst offenders: NARS, Wet 'n Wild, Vincent Longo, Physicians Formula, Maybelline EyeStudio Baked Eyeshadow and Laura Geller. Best international brands: Inika, Coastal Classic Creations, Maia's Mineral Galaxy, Rejuva Minerals, Alima, Au Naturale, bareMinerals, Boots No7, CARGO, DuWop, I AM goddess, Jane Iredale, LA Splash, Mally Beauty, Neutrogena, Vapour Organic and Wet 'n Wild (Fergie). Local options (certified natural/organic and no animal testing): Living Nature, eye shadows come in mostly muted tones. World Organic has a good selection.

No harm done

When purchasing safer products, why not go the extra mile and support non-animal-tested products? The most definitive resource available in New Zealand is the SAFE shopper guide. (NB: Some companies try to score PR points by claiming they do not test on animals except when required by regulatory authorities. This means that in countries like China, where it is mandatory to test all cosmetics on animals, it is business as usual.)

Stacy's says:

Stacy Malkan is the co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the author of award-winning book Not just a pretty face: the ugly side of the beauty industry. Choose products with fewer chemical ingredients Avoid fragrance when possible Use fewer products overall, especially on babies, children and while pregnant Avoid with a ten-foot barge pole: Skin-lightening products, hair straighteners, dyes and perms - "anything that changes the shape and color of hair for an extended period tends to be quite toxic chemistry" and Nanoparticles; "They need to be further studied and better understood before companies rush to put them in products we put on our bodies and on our kids." -