6 Common Beauty Products to Avoid

Just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics researched numerous common beauty products—from big-name mascaras and nail polishes to hair styling products—looking for unsafe ingredients. What it found will surprise you.

To determine the presence of cancer-causing ingredients and contaminants in cosmetics, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics consulted a number of cosmetic databases like Think Dirty and SkinDeep. The Campaign searched products sold by six of the world’s biggest cosmetic companies—and then verified their findings by going out and reading product labels.

The bottom line: the folks at the the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found cancer-causing chemicals in a number of cosmetics made by Procter & Gamble (P&G), including Cover Girl blushes, mascara and eye shadows, Olay anti-aging creams, Max Factor mascara, and more. Even P&G’s Pantene Beautiful Lengths Finishing Crème—which is marketed with a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness—contained a chemical linked to cancer.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ investigation of P&G products on store shelves found many chemicals linked to cancer in many of their brands and products, including:

• Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) in CoverGirl and Max Factor mascaras

• Benzophenone-1 in CoverGirl nail polishes

• Titanium dioxide (in inhalable form) in CoverGirl pressed powders, powder foundations; bronzers, eye shadows and blush

• Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives like DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Polyoxymethylene urea and Quaternium-15 in Pantene Beautiful Lengths smoothing hair balm, CoverGirl BB creams, foundations, Herbal Essences hair styling products, Infusium conditioner and leave-in treatments, Miss Jessie’s hair products, Olay anti-aging creams, face washes and moisturizers; CoverGirl foundation makeup, blushes, pressed powders, bronzers, and eye shadows

• Styrene, which the company includes in its fragrance palette. This means styrene may be present in any P&G product that lists fragrance on the label.

In addition, the invesitagtion found two ingredients that are likely contaminated with carcinogens:

• Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) which can be contaminated with PFOA in Olay anti-aging cream and Gillette shaving cream

• Polyacrylamide which can be contaminated with acrylamide in CoverGirl BB cream and Olay anti-aging creams.

Want to learn more? Click here for the full listof P&G products identified with carcinogens.

Keen to get involved? It doesn’t have to be this way—cancer-causing chemicals are not a beauty secret. Click here to tell P&G you want cosmetics without concerning ingredients.

Erinn Morgan


After a 10-year career as an award-winning New York City-based editor launching and redesigning urban, style-driven magazines, Erinn Morgan left downtown Manhattan after September 11th, 2001, in search of a less encumbered, freelance lifestyle. A two-year-long trek around the country eventually landed her in Durango, Colo., which she now calls home.

Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Bike, Skiing, Delicious Living, American Cowboy, and on away.com.

Erinn is also the author of the eco-focused book, Picture Yourself Going Green, Step-by-Step Instruction for Living a Budget-Conscious, Earth-Friendly Lifestyle in Eight Weeks or Less.

She was previously the editor-in-chief of 20/20 magazine, a special projects editor at Playboy (overseeing the launch of a new, custom magazine), and the founding editor/editor-in-chief of SoHo Style, a much-lauded, avant-garde magazine that covered the culture and style of downtown New York and its reach around the world.

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