Chemical Free Product Guides:
How To Choose A Chemical Free Foundation

chemical free foundationFoundation is one of those can’t-live-without products for a lot of women.  It’s your getting-ready sidekick that makes you feel ready to take on whatever child, work or household challenge that might come at you each day.  So we would never suggest you ditch your makeup, but we do want to give you some tips to choose a more toxic chemical free foundation.  Toxic chemicals in foundation, you ask? We hate to tell you, but your foundation is likely not nearly as safe as you think it is.

First, the law does not require safety reviews before a cosmetic product like foundation is sold to consumers. The US is much more lax than other countries when it comes to cosmetic product regulation.  For perspective, the FDA has only prohibited the use of 11 ingredients in cosmetics, compared to thousands in the EU and hundreds in Canada. And research has shown that what we put onto our skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Add that to the fact that common foundation ingredients are associated with health problems like hormone disruption, neurotoxicity, organ & reproductive system toxicity. And foundation is just one part of the toxic burden you are putting on your body.  Research shows that the average American woman uses an average of 12 products containing 168 chemicals each day. Net, by removing the most common toxic culprits in your foundation, you will do your health a big favor.

Choosing a Chemical Free Foundation: Top 5 Ingredients to Avoid

1. Phenoxyethanol – Phenoxyethanol is an ingredient that’s commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care products. Though it has a nearly ubiquitous presence in conventional products like foundation make-up and other products, it’s been shown to cause skin, eye, and lung irritation as well as organ system toxicity. Phenoxyethanol can also cause nervous system effects, allergies and eczema. Just another reason to choose a chemical free foundation. To avoid this chemical, skip any foundation listing these ingredients:  

  • phenoxyethanol by itself, preceded by a number, or as part of a longer ingredient name
  • separated into 2 words (phenoxy ethanol) with or without a number
  • ethylene glycol, monophenyl ether
  • 2-hydroxyethyl phenyl ether
  • 1-hydroxy-2-phenoxyethane

2. Parabens –  Parabens are commonly used preservatives that have been linked to multiple health concerns including endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation. The CDC has detected parabens in almost all Americans tested. To avoid them, avoid foundations with ingredients ending in -paraben.

3. BHA/BHT – Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are also preservatives that are commonly found in cosmetics products like lipstick and foundation to prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria or fungi. These chemicals are known to cause disruption to the endocrine system as well as organ-system toxicity. BHA and BHT are also common ingredients in fragrances. To avoid them, skip any foundation that lists these or their acronyms on labels and look for a chemical free foundation alternative.

4. Fragrances – You might not think your foundation is fragranced, but in all likelihood it is.  It’s very common for manufacturers to add masking fragrances to make the foundation appear to be unfragranced.  And fragrances are bad news when it comes to health.  They are associated with all kinds of health risks including asthma, allergies, hormone disruptionneurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, and increased risk of cancer. How can this be? The fragrance industry is self-regulated and considers fragrances ingredients “trade secrets”. That means the one word “fragrance” can hide a cocktail of hundreds of toxic ingredients. Add to the label sneakiness the fact that safety testing does not have to precede product sales, and you end up with a class of ingredients that it makes sense to avoid.  To avoid a fragranced foundation, skip any product listing fragrance on the label. Make sure to also check the labels on foundations that claim to be un-scented, because they may contain masking fragrances.

5. Phthalates – Phthalates are dangerous chemicals that you’ll find in just about any fragranced foundation. They have been linked with serious health issues such as reproductive abnormalities in baby boys, diminished testosterone levels, and compromised sperm quality in men. Girls who have been exposed to phthalates may go through puberty early. Getting rid of these products in favor of less toxic alternatives can make a big change in your health in just a few days. To avoid these toxic villains, skip any foundation with fragrance listed on the label.

Learn More

Keep this checklist handy the next time you need to choose a foundation.  A great resource for researching more about ingredient safety is the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. You can also use this EWG tool to research the safety of specific products.

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