What is in your cosmetics?

lipstickI grew up with eco warrior parents in the depths of Wales, living the self-sufficient dream. That’s a long way away now, working in banking in the heart of the City. The principles have never left me and I adapt my learnings from all those years ago to my London life. I respect the planet and that reflects in the decisions I make.

There is so much more awareness than when I was a teenager but it still surprises me how friends of mine don’t know the ingredients of the consumer goods they use or the knock on effect to the environment. I want to share my learnings so that you can make more informed decisions regarding the products you use. Starting with make-up, in my early teens there was a simple choice, chemical based cosmetics or no make-up. Skip forward (quite) a few years and there is so much choice and it is also easy to access.

But what is so bad about the ingredients of high-street make-up brands? Take a look at the ingredients listing on the back of your cosmetics, and see below what it really is;

Personal impact
  • Triclosan – Limits the growth of bacteria and mould, it is a pesticide. Can affect the hormone system and disrupt normal breast development.
  • Parabens – An antifungal agent. It is absorbed through the skin and has been identified in breast tumours from biopsies.
  • Retinyl Palmitate – Decrease pore size, creating softer, smoother skin. In studies when exposed to UV rays, it creates changes in the skin that could lead to damage, aging, and cancer.
  • 1,3-Butadiene – A propellant found in sunscreens and foundations. Animal studies found it increased mammary tumours.
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – Group of chemicals that occur naturally in coal and tar. They have been shown to increase risk for breast cancer.
  • Pthalates – Mainly used in nail products preventing it from becoming brittle. Not required to be listed as an ingredient. Considered to be a hormone disruptor interfering with fertility.
  • BHA and BHT – Used as preservatives. Between them they are classed as possible carcinogen, hormone disruptor and reproductive toxicant
  • Benzophenone – A sun protector used in a wide range of cosmetics. Considered a possible carcinogen and a hormone disruptor, toxic to the skin and sensory organs (ears and eyes).

*Carcinogen – a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.

OrangEnvironmental impact

Aside from the personal impact, the environmental impact of ingredients is huge. For example Triclosan once washed down the drain, does not break down easily in the environment. It can accumulate in the tissue of living organisms. It reacts with light and chlorine to form dioxins and chloroform both toxins and carcinogens and toxic to aquatic systems. Palm Oil is another ingredient harmful to the environment although not toxic to Humans.

The heavy demands of the World for Palm Oil are decimating the rain forests of areas such as Indonesia and forcing their already endangered species such as, but not exclusively, Orangutans and Sun bears in to extinction.


This is just a small sample, but gives you an idea. The good news is with the abundance of ethical manufacturers, internet shopping and Waitrose stocking great alternatives, it has never been such a good time to experiment with healthier products.

My personal favourites are Neals Yard and Levera although there are a huge number of brands and health food shops are a good place to start. Holland and Barratt are stocking more and more products but the best shop I have ever been to is Whole Foods in Kensington, it is an experience.

A really good clip to watch http://youtu.be/pfq000AF1i8

Author Bio

Cleo Webster is a financial change accountant by trade, a conservationist by passion and has spent a lifetime avoiding consumer chemicals. She currently works for a rain forest protection project in Borneo developing funding opportunities. You can contact her www.linkedin.com/in/cleo1

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