Makeup and Heavy Metal Poisoning: Sources of Toxins

Makeup is supposed to make people feel beautiful, right? The reality is that makeup may be the cause of major stress to the body. Feeling beautiful, literally and figuratively, starts from the inside. When our beauty practices interfere with good health, it is very hard to feel beautiful. In the case of makeup and skincare products, harmful heavy metals can be the culprit.

To understand the dangers of heavy metals, we must first understand what role they play in our lives. Despite warnings and their alarming name, heavy metals are not all bad. In fact, some of them are an essential part of nutritional balance and overall health. These include nutritionally rich trace minerals like zinc, iron, copper, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous. They are found in tons of healthy foods ranging from fruits and vegetables, to whole grains and meat.

However, when heavy metal exposure is excessive, it can become toxic to the body. The build-up of disproportionate heavy metals that cannot be metabolized, especially those not meant for human consumption, occurs in soft tissues. In addition to food, heavy metals can enter the body through air, water and absorption through the skin. Heavy metals are indeed everywhere around us and unavoidable in our modern lives. In our environment they can be found in automobile emissions, inflammatory fossil fuels, cigarette smoking and nuclear testing. When heavy metals are in the atmosphere, they enter our water supplies as well. Beyond the naturally occurring nutritionally beneficial minerals found in food, heavy metals end up in our food chain through agricultural practices, pesticides, preservatives, food coloring and other manufacturing processes.

While we are able to eat organic foods and avoid environmental and atmospheric toxins as much as possible, we can have the most influence on our own heavy metal exposure when it comes to what we wear, especially what we apply to our skin. Many makeup items, skincare products, personal care products and clothes are surprising sources of heavy metal poisoning. Yes, poisoning, because that is exactly what it is doing to our bodies. It is estimated that approximately 5 lbs of makeup is absorbed into a woman’s skin every year. The cumulative effect causes stress to our bodies and can lead to serious medical conditions, diseases and overall sluggish mental and physical functionality.

Heavy metal and chemical contamination is found in almost every daily “health” and beauty product that women, and many men, use regularly. The most common include:

Body care and Body enhancers: deodorant, antiperspirants, body wash, body lotion, nail polish, teeth whiteners, artificial tanning and perfumes

Skincare and Makeup: facial cleansers, moisturizers, eye creams, face masks, foundation/base, blush, eye shadow, lipstick and eyeliner

Hair care: shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, hair gel and hair dye

According to a Canadian study on cosmetic safety, the most common heavy metals found in popular brands of cosmetics and personal care items are: arsenic, mercury, lead, nickel, beryllium, cadmium, selenium and thallium. Additional harmful heavy metals commonly found in makeup and personal care items are aluminum, zinc, chromium, barium and iron. The products tested range from premium brands sold at high-end department store cosmetic counters, to popular manufacturers that line cosmetics aisles in supermarkets and drug stores around the world. Because these heavy metals are deemed “unintentional contaminants,” there are no requirements on including these toxins on labels.

While you may not notice the heavy metals themselves on the label of our favorite cosmetics, many chemical compounds that contain heavy metals are listed. According to the Environmental Working Group, some of the worst offenders you can look out for on labels include: ammonia, peroxide, formaldehyde, p-phenylenediamine, diaminobenzene, triclosan, triclocarban, triethanolamine, sodium sulfate, sodium lauryl, parabens, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, PET and any chemicals ending in –eth.

On an individual basis, the heavy metals found in each of these products may be minimal. But these products do not affect our bodies in isolation. Read more on the dangerous cumulative effect of heavy metals and what you can do to protect your body.