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Here’s How to Read Makeup Labels to Avoid Toxins

The natural cosmetics market has exploded, but are your products truly free of toxins? Here’s a dermatologist’s guide to making sure your cosmetics are safe.

Lauren Smith
Written by Lauren Smith | Reviewed by Alexandra Schwarz
Updated on January 28, 2022

If you’re looking for non-toxic makeup, dermatologist Bobby Buka, MD, agrees that labels can be a misleading. Instead, look for more specific claims. One claim Dr. Buka suggests looking for is “fragrance-free.” Adding an artificial fragrance can introduce toxins that may irritate the skin. If you prefer scented, choose products that get their scent from essential oils.

Similarly, choose natural makeup without artificial colors whenever possible. This is admittedly tough since the majority of items contain some color (that’s kinda the point, right?). Some brands contain dyes made from natural ingredients like red clay, turmeric, or beets, but it will up the price.

One toxin that most natural makeup products eliminate is parabens. In some preliminary research, parabens have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and a reduction of sperm counts. That’s because it mimics estrogen when in the body. Many personal care products will advertise right on the front if they are paraben-free since this toxin is under so much scrutiny at the moment. If it doesn’t say, just flip that bottle over and read the ingredients list. If you see any word ending with “paraben,” you may want to pick a different product.

On the bright side, if you’re looking for great skin care products, you can always make them yourself at home. Consider these facial mask recipes, beauty uses for coconut oil, and this coffee grounds body scrub.

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