Any makeup school should be certain that the products they are using for their makeup courses are completely safe. All cosmetic items promise the moon: they guarantee to give your eyelashes maximum volume; they promise you the most radiant and blemish-free complexion; they boast about how your wrinkles will disappear after the first application. What they conveniently neglect to mention is that some manufacturers, even some of the most trusted in the country, are selling over the counter products which can contain a concoction of harmful chemicals.

If you use makeup every day, it is vital that you know what you’re putting on your face. Your pores absorb the products you apply to your body, whether it is makeup or moisturiser, natural or chemical. For this reason, you need to be sure that the lotions, potions and powders you are mixing into your skin don’t contain any toxic ingredients.

We at The London School of Make-Up are well seasoned in the tricks of the trade. Many cosmetic companies will try to mask detrimental ingredients by using general terms, such as “fragrance” or “perfume”, but today we are here to educate you on just a few of the most harmful chemicals commonly found in beauty products.


Lead-based face powder was all the rage in the 18th century. It was also a silent killer of countless victims who died as a result of lead poisoning. However, even in the 21st century, lead is still a relatively common ingredient in lipsticks from several leading beauty brands. People bite their lips, lick their lips and, often, inadvertently miss when applying lipstick; all these habits amount to ingesting your beauty products, meaning you are ingesting lead.

Aside from lipsticks, lead can also be present in foundation and teeth whitening products, including whitening toothpaste. Research has proven that lead can cause serious health problems, including nervous system damage and brain damage. It has also been linked to miscarriages and a decrease in fertility, making it an ingredient you should avoid at all costs.


Found most commonly in the likes of deodorants and perfumes, “fragrance” is often a term used to mask harmful ingredients. Some scented soaps, face washes and lip glosses also list “fragrance” as a component. There are countless chemicals used to make fragrances, although the majority of them have not been tested for toxins. Given the number of different combinations used to create different fragrances, there is also the possibility that two chemicals combined can become twice as toxic.

This easy cover-all term may protect the cosmetic companies, but it also makes the consumer susceptible to a wide range of side effects, ranging from minor allergies to serious, long-term health issues, including respiratory and reproductive problems.


A relatively common ingredient in cosmetic products, particularly in moisturisers, perfumes and deodorants, is phthalates. As a large component in plastic, it is used to make the containers more flexible, also making it possible to retain the colour or scent of a cosmetic product. The University of Maryland conducted a study which showed that side effects of exposure to phthalates may include a decrease in fertility in men, as well as birth defects like premature labour.


There have been connections found between Octinoxate and various disorders relating to thyroid. This chemical is most commonly used in foundation products and is one that should be avoided wherever possible.


Usually referred to as “liquid paraffin” or “petroleum”, this ingredient is often used in moisturising products to help skin retain moisture. However, this everyday ingredient is considered to cause cancer by a range of authoritative institutions including The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the European Union.

“Trade Secrets”

Much like the term “fragrance”, some cosmetic companies will sidestep having to list certain ingredients that go into their products, calling it a “trade secret”. This needn’t mean that the item definitely contains a harmful chemical, it may just be a brand protecting their winning formula; nonetheless, it pays to be mindful that a company which is secretive of what their products comprise of may mean they a multitude of toxins.

PEG Compounds

Probably listed on the back of your makeup products as “Polyethylene Glycols”, PEG compounds are predominantly used to thicken and gelatinise cosmetics; for this reason, they are often found in cream products, such as foundation.

PEG compounds have the potential to be contaminated with the carcinogenic chemical, ethylene oxide. Aside from a risk of causing cancer, ethylene oxide has also been linked to damage to the nervous system.

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