In the United States there aren't any real regulations in place to monitor the ingredients that are used in our makeup and beauty products. The FDA does monitor some stuff under what is called the FD&C Act, but that just makes sure that the products are not "adulterated" or "misbranded."
The FDA does not however do tests on the ingredients in makeup because it is not food. (Although tell that to your lipgloss that you're always getting in your mouth.) Other countries are a lot more strict than the U.S. is, and after reading this list you might start to question some of your favorite brands. Currently in the United State we have eight different ingredients that are off limits...but Europe has 1,373. Oh geez. Here are just a couple ingredients that sound pretty weird when you break it down.
Lanolin is an ingredient that is used in many lipsticks, lotions, shaving creams, shampoos, and makeup remover products. But what lanolin actually is, is a greasy substance that is collected from the skin of mammals that have wool. The substance helps animals like sheep to get water out of their cozy coats. The product is helpful in certain products because it does things like give lipstick its greasy shine. There are currently 100 different lipstick brands that use the stuff for this purpose. (Have you ever even seen an ingredient list on a lipstick? I haven't.)
You've probably heard of formaldehyde because it's what they use to embalm dead bodies. That alone makes it sound like it's not the best idea, but then add to that the fact that the ingredient is a known carcinogen to humans according to the US National Toxicology Program. It can cause throat, eye, and nose irritations, as well as, lead to asthma and cancer in some cases. But for some reason it is still used in a ton of beauty products like nail polish. It was also a big concern in Brazilian blowouts which lead to some changes being made in the haircare industry.
11 Whale Vomit
Some expensive perfumes actually contain whale vomit and feces, but only if you're getting those perfumes from France or Switzerland. Basically whales make a soft secretion in their digestive system called ambergris that has the duty of catching and expelling anything sharp they may have eaten by accident. The ambergris is then excreted from the body through feces or by vomiting, and ends up floating around in the ocean before washing up on the shore. By the time it does that it has turned into a waxy substance with a nice enough smell and it is used to make perfume scents last longer.
Oxybenzone is an ingredient that is used in many chemical sunscreens. (As a refresher, chemical sunscreens rely on chemicals to block the sun as opposed to the sunscreens that use minerals like zinc to physically make sure those rays don't get in.) Oxybenzone might work great at protecting you from a sunburn, but it hasn't been reviewed by the FDA for about 30 years and has been called a "hormone disruptor" which means that it has the potential to cause fertility problems as well as lead to obesity. In Europe it has to be labeled on products.
Cholesterol from animals is commonly used in products that aim to moisturize the skin. It actually does a really great job of keeping the skin moist and preventing wrinkles. But the concept does sound a little weird since we try to avoid eating too much of the ingredient from foods like cheese, milk, beef, and pork because it clogs up our arteries and makes us unhealthy. From studies that have been done thus far it seems that cholesterol is safe when used up to a maximum concentration level of 5 percent.
8 Crushed Up Beetles
In the South American and Central American countries there lives the cochineal beetle which is wingless and creates a natural dye. The beetles eat cactus plants and then secrete a red substance called carminic acid, which can be mixed with calcium salts to then create the dye named carmine. Although it sounds a little strange, the dye is totally safe for human consumption and use. It's not only commonly used in lipsticks but also in food and even in Starbucks drinks. The dye works for all natural things, but some vegans are super cool with it.
Whether phthalates are so dangerous or not is sort of up for debate...when it comes to grownups that is. More research has pointed to the fact that they might be dangerous for fetal development, which means that pregnant women probably shouldn't be going near the things. The problem with that is that phthalates are everywhere from nail polish to hair sprays and many plastic products. They have been labeled by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics as "hormone disruptors" but for most adults it seems that the low levels in many products could be safe enough.
The FDA is quite open about the fact that lead is found in 400 different lipstick companies. It is unregulated since it is considered a byproduct of the additives they use to color the lipstick. The problem with this, is that lead builds up in the body over time as opposed to being a water soluble substance, which means if you get too much you can have a problem. We also eat quite a bit of our lipstick whether we realize it or not. (Think about it...where else would it go when it wears off besides on our cocktail glass or into our mouth?) Lead is a toxic substance and can cause all kinds of issues.
Triclosan is another ingredient that is considered a potential hormone disrupter. The ingredient is commonly found in antibacterial hand soaps, so that's something to consider. Of course hand sanitizers are important to protect our bodies from all kinds of illnesses and skin infections, but it might be best to look for a version of soap that doesn't contain the ingredient. Triclosan is being studied by a few different health agencies to see if we should even be using it at all.
We love fragrances in our products because they smell nice, but unfortunately that word is not regulated in any way so what that fragrance is made of can be a little questionable. Often it is made from chemicals that can be really bad for you. Many unlabeled fragrances have been linked to allergies, dermatitis, respiratory issues, and also have potential effects on the reproductive system. The term is only used to begin with so that companies can protect their secret formulas for creating their signature scents in anything from shampoo to perfume.
Toluene is sometimes labeled as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, or methylbenzene, and it is a solvent derived from petroleum or tar that has the ability to dissolve paint. It's commonly found in nail polish and other nail products, as well as hair color and bleach products. Too much of it can cause skin irritations, nausea, and even respiratory problems. Some studies have linked it to immune system toxicity and it might cause developmental issues with fetuses if pregnant women come into contact with or inhale it.
2 Shark Liver Oil
The ingredient squalene can be found in many lipsticks, eye makeup products, shampoos, face lotion, sunscreen, and bath products. The thing is, squalene is literally an oil that is squeezed out of the liver of a shark. The good thing about squalene is that it is a great moisturizer without leaving the skin greasy. The bad thing about squalene is the whole part where to get it someone has to hunt down and kill a shark. These days most people are turning away from the practice, but some big companies only stopped using it a few years ago so you've probably been in contact with it.
1 Fish Scales
Fish scales, officially referred to as guanine, and labeled as CI 75170; are just so darn shiny that they've been used to make makeup products do the same. Guanine has been used in nail polish and shampoo, among other things. Basically fish scales are scraped off of some fish and then suspended in alcohol, which creates that gorgeous pearly look. Tons of nail polish companies use this simple tactic, including big ones like Maybelline. Who knew we could be walking around with so many different animal parts just hanging out on our bodies.