Ingredients to Avoid in Foundation

Makeup model

Whether it’s dolling up for that perfect flawless base or simply for getting a natural ‘no makeup’ makeup look, makeup lovers everywhere can’t get enough of foundation.

As beautiful and confident that blending foundation into our skin makes us feel, many people do not consider the harmful side effects of some ingredients within our favourite foundations.

Although it is put on the surface of the skin rather than into the body, the constant use of foundation allows for nanoparticles to be absorbed into the skin and into our bloodstreams.

This puts our organs, our bodies and our health at risk. Yikes.

It’s important to get to know your labels and check what ingredients is going into or onto your body.

Unfortunately, ingredients can be omitted from the list or even disguised under deceptive labels like ‘fragrance’.

The best bet is to go for foundations that are made for completely natural and organic ingredients that are kind to your skin and your body.

To help you out, we have compiled a list of the ingredients you should look out for when purchasing foundation so that you can try to keep yourself feeling beautiful without any worry. Keep on reading!

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)

Long-term contact with SLS has been linked to a tonne of nasty side effects including eye damage, canker sores, diarrhoea and disruptions in the skin’s natural oil balance. This is because SLS remains in our bodies for up to five days, entering and contaminating the heart, liver, lungs and brain. Ouch.

SLS is said to cause severe skin irritation such that the skin’s immune system is damaged and its layers become inflamed and start to separate.

It could also promote acne, particularly cystic acne around the mouth and the chin. If you want that flawless face, this is definitely one ingredient to be avoided!


Paraben-free is something we hear as a buzzword for ‘safe-to-use’, but what actually are they and what is the problem with them?

Parabens are the most commonly used preservative in cosmetics. Whilst this means your product has a long-life span, it could have negative effects on your health.

One of the dangers of parabens is that it interferes with a woman’s normal hormone function. They can also mimic oestrogen and have been detected in breast cancer tissue.

It doesn’t end there folks. Parabens can harm your reproductive system, the nervous system and the immune system. This definitely should be avoided to keep your body in good working order.

To avoid parabens, just look for ingredients with the suffix “-paraben”.


All of us know lead is bad for us. It’s no longer in our paint and the UK have even banned lead plumbing. It must be bad, so why would you put the stuff on your face?

Lead is a neurotoxin that can lead to neurodevelopmental problems in children and can cause miscarriages, a delay in the onset of females and infertility.

Lead makes its way into our makeup from contamination, mostly as a result of the colour additives.

The FDA tested popular cosmetics brands and discovered that 400 contained up to 7.19 ppm of lead!

Although lead is the most common neurotoxin, also watch out for any arsenic, mercury, chromium and iron which have pretty much the same horrible effects on your body.

The best way to avoid lead and these heavy metals is to opt for organic and natural makeup coloured by natural pigments.


PEGs are petroleum-based compounds used to thicken and soften products and are commonly used in cream-based products, like foundation. Imagine the impact of putting petroleum onto your face!

Ethylene oxide is a human carcinogen that can easily penetrate the skin.

It is potentially very harmful to the nervous system and human development.  It also has links allergies and disrupts the immune system.

The number next to the compound shows how many units of ethylene glycol they comprise, e.g. PEG-4, PEG-150.  The lower the number, the easier it can get into your skin.


This horrible group of chemicals are used to plasticise products, enabling them to be more flexible and/or able to hold scent and colour.

Phthalates are harmful to the endocrine system and disrupt normal hormone functions.

A study by the University of Maryland reveal that they can also lead to neurological and developmental damage, as well as reduced infertility and reproductive abnormalities.

Phthalates may not be included under the ingredients as many companies list this as ‘fragrance’ so is a bit trickier to suss out.

It’s best to avoid products that list ‘fragrance’ and opt for cosmetics that use natural ingredients like plant oils and essence.

Butylated Compounds (BHT, BHA)

This group of chemicals is used to extend our products’ lifespan and keep them on our shelves for longer.

Whilst this may seem like a good thing, they are known to be endocrine disruptors and are harmful to our reproductive, developmental and organ systems.

In fact, the European Commission even classified BHA as a human intoxicant and is on the EU banned and restricted fragrance list.

In addition, BHT is said to mimic oestrogen which will throw off your natural hormone balance, and in some instances it can encourage tumour growth.

Both BHT and BHA bioaccumulate which can lead to long-term detrimental side effects.

It is encouraged instead to seek products that use natural preservatives such as aspen bark extract and vitamin E, which also have great benefits for you skin.


This chemical is commonly used to protect your products from UV light, and are common in sunscreen. It is bound to be in many of our favourite foundations that contain UV protection!

Protection from the sun’s harmful rays sounds great, however, benzophenone is linked to cancer, endocrine disruption and is highly toxic for our organs, our reproductive system and our developmental system.

To avoid this ingredient, look for ingredients that contain either benzophenone or the suffix “-benzone”. You could also opt for using products that use natural sunscreens or that rely on non-nanoised zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA, DEA, TEA)

These are thick, clear and colourless chemicals with ammonia-like odour.

They are used as emulsifiers in many products. Basically, it is to ensure that water-based and oil-soluble ingredients blend together.

They also control the PH of many cosmetics and are often found in foundation.

These nasty chemicals have a lot of nasty side effects including promoting cancer and organ system toxicity.

There are also some environmental concerns because of bioaccumulation; the residue remains on the upper layers of your skin after exposure. Moreover, the European Commission bans DEA because of concerns over the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines.

They can be avoided and detected by looking for MEA, DEA, TEA on the label of your foundation.


As you can see, your foundation may have some seriously bad ingredients that can have some seriously harmful impacts on your body. It is definitely best to avoid these products.

We hope that this guide helps you determine what to look out for on your foundation labels.

It is also recommended to opt for foundations that use natural and organic ingredients that are not only kind to your body but also have great benefits for your skin.

There’s a tonne of high-quality natural foundations on the market so there really are no excuses!

Here are some safe cosmetics to try:


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