GUEST BLOG: What’s hiding in our make-up bags? | Breast Cancer UK

GUEST BLOG: What’s hiding in our make-up bags?

Published 20 Sep 2018

They make us sparkle, glow and even radiate. They cover up the blemishes, hide our spots or camouflage our bags. But while they make us feel beautiful on the outside, can we be confident about their effects on our insides?

We’re looking at chemicals in make-up, to size up our cosmetics bags and search out products which not only look good, but which we believe are not harmful.

Our research covers over 3000 mainstream make-up products and checks whether they contain potentially harmful chemicals which have been associated with health issues including irritation, allergies, toxicity, hormone disruption, impacts on the reproductive system, and cancer. 

Here’s what we found:

  • One in five Blushers contain chemicals of concern.  All of these contain parabens, preservatives, which can cause allergic reactions, and can also affect the hormone system by mimicking oestrogen in the body. Parabens have been linked to breast cancer.
  • One quarter of eye make-up and lipsticks / glosses contain chemicals of concern. The most commonly found in eye make-up are parabens and BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene), which is used as a preservative. BHT may irritate the skin, eyes and lungs, and can also be toxic and is the most frequently identified concerning chemical found in lipsticks and glosses
  • Half of foundations contain chemicals of concern

But although some of these chemicals may carry considerable risks, the good news is, there are plenty of products without them. In fact only 25% of make-ups contain what we consider as risky chemicals, so they are relatively easy to avoid.  So here are some to choose from:

Lipsticks and glosses: Burt’s Bees, Dirty Works, Korres, Miss Sporty and Rimmel London. 

L’Oréal Paris and Bourjois Blushers tend to be free from chemicals of concern. 

All or most Eye Make-Up products from La Roche-Posay, Miss Sporty, Rimmel London, Max Factor, Bourjois and Eylure don’t contain chemicals of concern.

A large proportion of these Foundations don’t contain chemicals of concern: Bourjois, George (Asda), and La Roche-Posay

From the smaller brands, here are a few options:

  • Balm Balm 
  • Bee Good 
  • Boutique  
  • EOS 
  • LipSilk 
  • Lula & Belle Cosmetics 

And if you are looking for a more ethical approach too – we looked for those that performed well against other areas too.

Final word, always check the label or download the Giki app free to scan your products and look out for the no chemicals of concern badge, and share this blog to help your friends.

Written by Jo Hand, founder of the GIKI App - Your Sustainable Shopping Companion. A mobile app that informs you about the products you buy and the companies you buy them from.

Breast Cancer UK does not endorse any products or any opinions expressed by our guest bloggers.  The blogs are the personal opinions and endorsements of the blogger and not necessarily reflective of Breast Cancer UK views.  If you have questions about the blog, please contact

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