Toggle Nav
open icon

Real Cost of Makeup: Toxicity of Cosmetics

We understand it can become overwhelming when choosing to live a more natural and organic lifestyle - especially when you start to become conscious of the toxicity of cosmetics.

It may not feel achievable to always make natural, sustainable and ethical decisions whilst living in this modern world - because, that's quite simply impossible and we just can't do it all.

Instead let's shift our focus to being at peace with doing the best where we can.

Focus on simply reducing the load, and with each small change know that it will not only benefit your wellbeing, but also collectively benefit the greater good.

The guide to cosmetics ingredients has been compiled with research from certfied bodies, to empower women how to read product labels to make informed decisions about cosmetics that are right for their own personal ethos.


Adorn Cosmetics believes in empowering women with knowledge so they can make the best possible choices for their own personal ethos.

The below has been compiled with research from the following bodies, to help women understand how to read ingredient labels and make informed decisions about cosmetics that are right for them.

  • NICNAS (Australian Government Department of Health National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessments Scheme

  • EWG (Environmental Working Group) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database

  • Safe Cosmetics Australia


Parabens can disrupt hormones and have been linked to breast cancer.

The EWG rates Butylparaben a 7 to 10 which indicates a high hazard. For those wanting to avoid parabens, look out for the following in your ingredients list:

Butylparaben, Benzoic acid, 4-hydroxy-, butyl ester, Butoben, Butyl 4-hydroxybenzoate; Isobutylparaben; Propylparaben, 4-Hydroxybenzoic acid, propyl ester, Benzoic acid, 4-hydroxy-, propyl ester, Propyl 4-hydroxybenzoate, Propyl paraben, Propyl p-hydroxybenzoate; Isopropylparaben; Ethylparaben, Aseptoform E, Bonomold OE, Easeptol, Ethyl 4-Hydroxybenzoate, ethyl parasept, Tegosept E, Benzoic acid, 4-hydroxy-, ethyl ester; Methylparaben, 4-(Methoxycarbonyl)phenol, 4-Hydroxybenzoic acid methyl ester, 4-Hydroxybenzoic acid, methyl ester, Benzoic acid, 4-hydroxy-, methyl ester, Benzoic acid, p-hydroxy-, methyl ester, Maseptol, Metaben, Methaben, Methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate, Methyl butex, Methyl chemosept, Methyl ester of p-hydroxybenzoic acid, Methyl paraben, Methyl parahydroxybenzoate, Methyl parasept, Methyl p-hydroxybenzoate, Methyl p-oxybenzoate, Methylben, Metoxyde, Moldex, Nipagin, Nipagin M, Paridol, p-Carbomethoxyphenol, p-Hydroxybenzoic acid methyl ester, p-Methoxycarbonylphenol, Preserval, Preserval M, Septos, Solbrol, Solbrol M, Tegosept M.


Sulfates such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate often used as engine degreaser, can cause adverse eye and skin reactions, and contain a contaminant called Dioxane classified as a possible human carcinogen.

Safe Cosmetics Australia advises to avoid the use of sulfates in cosmetics.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS),Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES),Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS), Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Sodium Lauroyl Sarsocinate,Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate,Potassium Coco Hydrolysed Collagen,TEA (Triethanolamine) Lauryl Sulfate,TEA (Triethanolamine) Laureth Sulfate, Lauryl or Cocoyl Sarcosine, Disodium Oleamide Sulfosuccinate,Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate,Disodium Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate.

Synthetic Fragrances and Colours

Synthetic fragrances and colours can contain up to 4000 separate ingredients, many toxic or carcinogenic causing a multitude of symptoms including vomiting, allergic reactions, skin discolouration, and compromising the central nervous system.

Safe Cosmetics Australia advises to avoid the use of synthetic fragrances and colours in cosmetics.

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)

BHT is used in makeup and moisturisers. It has been proved that BHT is harmful to fish and other wildlife. They are used as preservatives in lipsticks and moisturizers. They can cause liver, kidney and lung problems. 

The EWG rates it a hazard level of 6.


Formaldehyde can cause joint pain, skin allergies, depression, headaches, cancer, ear infections, dizziness, chronic fatigue syndrome and many more. 

The EWG rates it at the highest level of risk at a 10, and Safe Cosmetics Australia recommend avoiding them too. Formaldehyde releasers include:

1,3-Propanediol, 1,3-Propanediol, 2-bromo-2-nitro-, 2-Bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, 2-nitro-2-bromo-1,3-propanediol, BNPD, bronidiol, bronocot, Onyxide 500, 1,3-Bis(hydroxymethyl)-5,5-dimethylhydantoin, 1,3-Di(hydroxymethyl)-5,5-dimethylhydantoin, 1,3-Dimethylol-5,5-dimethyl hydantoin, 1,3-Dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin, 2,4-Imidazolidinedione, 1,3-bis(hydroxymethyl)-5,5-dimethyl-, Dimethylol-5,5-dimethylhydantoin, DMDM Hydantoin, DMDMH, Glydant, 3,5,7-Triaza-1-azoniaadamantane, 1-(3-chloroallyl)-, chloride, 3,5,7-Triaza-1-azoniatricyclo[,7]decane, 1-(3-chloro-2-propenyl)-, chloride, Dowicil 100, Dowicil 75, N-(3-Chloroallyl)hexaminium chloride, and Quaternium 15.

DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) and TEA (Triethanolamine)

Restricted in Europe due to their link to cancer, DEA, MEA and TEA have all been linked to cancer of the liver as well as precancerous changes in the skin and thyroid. 

The EWG rates DEA risk at a 10, TEA at 5, and Safe Cosmetics Australia also advise avoiding DEA, MEA, and TEA.

Lead and Other Heavy Metals

Heavy metals like lead, arsenic, mercury, are contaminants found in a wide variety of personal care products including lipstick, whitening toothpaste, eyeliner and nail colour. 

The EWG rates arsenic risk at a 10, and mercury at 9, with associated risks as cancer, develpomental and reproductive toxicity, and allergies. Safe Cosmetics Australia also advises against the use of lead.

Mineral OIl

Mineral Oil disrupts the body’s ability to rid itself of toxins and can lead to cancer.

The EWG rates it a risk of 3 with low risk of cancer, and moderate link to allergies. Safe Cosmetics Australia advise to avoid Mineral Oils in cosmetics. Ingredients to check for are:

Deobase, Heavy Mineral Oil, Light Mineral Oil, Liquid Paraffin, Liquid Petrolatum, Paraffin Oil, Paraffin Oils, Paraffinum Liquidum, Petroleum White Mineral Oil, Prolatum Oil, White Mineral Oil, Petroleum.


Hydroquinone is a skin lightening agent and has been linked to cancer and hormonal disruptions.

The EWG rates it a risk of 9, with associated risks as cancer, develpomental and reproductive toxicity, and allergies. 

toxicity of cosmetics

Bismuth Oxychloride

A primary ingredient in commercial mineral makeup powders, Bismuth Oxychloride is added to face powder because it adheres well to the skin and provides a shimmering, pearlescent finish.

Unfortunately, Bismuth Oxychloride can cause irritation to the skin due to its crystalline structure. The crystals can get lodged in the pores where it scratches the skin resulting in redness, itchiness and inflammation. So an especially big ‘no no’ for those suffering Rosacea, Eczema, Psoriasis and acne.


Kaolin is a popular ingredient in face powders as it is a cheap ‘filler’ or bulking agent and it draws excess oil out of the skin helping to keep the skin matte throughout the day.

Whilst it is considered an active clay mineral, the Kaolin found in some commercial products has often undergone processing that has removed its minerals and since it has a very drying effect on the skin it is one ingredient to stay away from especially if your skin is dry. Kaolin can also clog the pores with long term use.


Linked to cancer, this is one ingredient to completely avoid and like Kaolin it's popular in some brands formulations because it is a cheap ‘filler’ or bulking agent and is used for its mattifying effect. Talc can cause excess dryness and congestion.

Rice Powder

This starch is commonly found in cosmetics and similarly used like Talc and Kaolin as a cheap substitute to that of using pure minerals. It helps makeup last longer on the skin and gives a silky finish, however just like Kaolin and Talc it can cause dryness and congestion.

Propylene Glycol 

Propylene Glycol is a "skin conditioning" agent, that can cause severe allergies such as dermatitis and hives.


EWG Skindeep Cosmetics Database

The EWG's mission is to use the power of information to protect human health and the environment. Their scientists compare the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases. 

Safe Cosmetics Australia

Safe Cosmetics Australia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation. The Toxic-Free Campaign addresses two key areas of hazardous chemical use found in cosmetics and home cleaning products. They help protect your health by campaigning for a healthier future and certifying brands that minimise exposure to harmful chemicals.


The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) helps protect the Australian people and the environment by assessing the risks of industrial chemicals and providing information to promote their safe use. Their focus is the industrial use of chemicals. This covers a broad range of chemicals used in inks, plastics, adhesives, paints, glues, solvents, cosmetics, soaps and many other products.