Cosmetic skin care products are skin moisturizers, lipsticks, perfumes, fingernail polishes, makeup, shampoo, hair colors, deodorants and toothpastes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Laws are different for these products than they are for drugs, for example. The Food and Drug Administration states, on its website, that it does not have a premarket approval system for cosmetic products or ingredients. The FDA must recognize drugs as safe and effective before allowing them to go on the market. This is not the case for cosmetics, with the exception of color additives. Consumers should be aware of some of the dangerous chemicals in skin care products.
Phthalates are chemicals that can be in fragrances. They can disrupt hormone production, according to WebMD. Phthalates could be the cause for low sperm count and quality. Pregnant women who are exposed to them could see subtle changes in the genitals of baby boys. Phthalates are usually not listed on ingredient labels. They fall under the fragrance category. Fragrances with essential oils, such as lavender and citrus, are OK.
Parabens are preservatives that are in most makeup, moisturizers, hair care and shaving products, according to WebMD. Parabens act like estrogen when they enter the body. Some parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors, but there is no evidence, as of 2010, that parabens cause breast tumors.
For centuries, natural musk aroma was a prized aphrodisiac, according to WebMD. But, musk scents are now made in a laboratory using chemicals. These synthetic musks can build up to toxic levels in the body and cause tissue damage. Synthetic musk can be listed as “Tonalid” or “Galaxolide” on products, but usually it is just listed as fragrance.
Butyl acetate is a solvent that prevents chipping in nail polish. This chemical can cause dry, cracked skin. Breathing the vapors can cause drowsiness and dizziness.
Coal tar, a carcinogen, is in many creams to prevent itching and eczema. It is also in some shampoos and hair dyes. The European Union banned coal tar in 2004, according to Northwestern Health Sciences University. It is still in some U.S. products.
Formaldehyde is a chemical that is in some deodorants, soaps, shampoos, nail polishes and shaving products. Formaldehyde is also banned by the European Union, but not in the United States. It may be a carcinogen and may trigger asthma. Formaldehyde irritates the eyes and the upper respiratory tract.
Talc, designed to absorb moisture, can be in blush, powder eye shadow, baby powder, soap and deodorant. It is a carcinogen, linked to ovarian cancer. Its particles are similar to asbestos, and it may cause lung tumors.
Toluene, a solvent that improves adhesion and gloss, is in nail polish and hair dyes. Toluene can decrease fertility, reduce the chance for a full-term pregnancy and is harmful for the respiratory tract.