Chemicals in Cosmetics Studied for Links to Breast Cancer

Many women wouldn’t consider leaving the house without at least some makeup.  Beauty magazines routinely tell us that a simple way to look less tired is to at least put on some blush and lipstick.  Billions of dollars are spent on cosmetics alone. Increasingly celebrities are lending their names to beauty products promising to get you that perfect Hollywood look.  But what you use to compliment, or even completely cover your face, could be increasing your chances of breast cancer.

Cosmetics should be gentle, especially since the skin on your face is often thinner, sensitive, and more prone to reactions than other areas.  Clogged pores are not the only concern you should have when choosing which makeup brands to buy.  All those pigments, fragrances, smudge-proof abilities, shimmer and shine effects, etc. come from chemicals.  And some of those chemicals are being studied for links to breast cancer.

According to Breastcancer.Org there are two groups of chemicals to watch out for and avoid at all costs:

  • Parabens(the most common are methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, and butylparaben) are chemicals commonly used as preservatives in many cosmetic products, including makeup, moisturizers, hair care products, and shaving creams/gels (most major brands of antiperspirants and deodorants don’t contain parabens). Parabens can penetrate the skin and act like a very weak estrogen in the body — potentially turning on the growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers. Parabens have been found in breast tissue and breast cancers, but this really doesn’t mean much. Parabens have been found in many other tissues because of their wide use. 
  • Phthalates are commonly used to hold color and reduce brittleness in nail polish and hair spray. They’re also a component of many personal care and cleaning product fragrances. Phthalates are a hormone disruptor. Phthalates don’t act exactly like estrogen, but they can disrupt the balance of other hormones that interact with estrogen, including testosterone.

With the hundreds of chemicals present in our cosmetics, the sad reality is that it is nearly impossible to show a direct link for any one chemical to increased chances of breast cancer.  What we do know is that many of these chemicals are considered hormone disruptors.  Our hormonal balance can be thrown off when these hormone disruptors block or mimic how hormones interact with estrogen.  It has been shown that estrogen can cause hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer to both develop and grow.  For this reason, many women already avoid estrogen-mimicking chemicals, and those who don’t should strongly consider doing so.

SOURCE:  Breastcancer.Org.  (2017, January 3).  “Exposure to Chemicals in Cosmetics.”  Retrieved from