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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: The Science Behind Cosmetic Ingredients

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in some far less appearance-concerned alternate universe), you’ve seen makeup before.

We’ll give you the breakdown of the good, bad and ugly of common cosmetic ingredients
August 14, 2018

Adverts are plastered all over department store entrances, in the ad breaks on Saturday morning telly and all over Instagram and Facebook. Chances are, particularly if you’re female, you’ve even worn cosmetic products. Brushed onto your skin, swept through your eyelashes or buffed into the hollows of your cheeks—you probably don’t give a second thought about what exactly goes into these substances. After all, they’ve all been tested and must be safe enough to go on your face, right?

Not necessarily. But never fear, you won’t have to break out a lab coat just yet. We’ll give you the breakdown of the good, bad and ugly of common cosmetic ingredients so that the label on the back of your products don’t look so much like Pig Latin…





Everyone knows an ‘Allan’, and hopefully the one you know is as great as Allantoin. Found in many lotions and lipsticks, this moisturising anti-irritant has numerous beneficial effects in smoothing the skin, protecting it and even promoting wound healing. This dude doesn’t get a whole lot of media driven “super-ingredient-to-change-your-life!” sort of promotion, so we though it was only fair we top our list of the good with this.


Calcium Carbonate

Also known as ‘Calcite’, this baby is what makes up the larger part of limestone and 95% of egg shells. It’s an excellent absorber of excess moisture found in some powders , as well as in bath products, makeup products, skin and hair products and other things around the bathroom. There are absolutely no concerns related to cancer, reproductive toxicity or allergens, so CC gets a chemical green light from us!



Naturally sourced ingredients can be some of the best for our health, and beeswax is no exception. When honey is harvested, the wax must also come with it—so in order to save this wax from going to waste, it can be used in a number of beauty products to moisturise and nourish skin. Beeswax is especially good in that it doesn’t clog pores—bye-bye breakouts!  





Butylparaben is a bit of a highway to the danger-zone. One of the most common antimicrobial preservatives in cosmetics (read: guardians against bacteria, fungi and the like), butylparabens can be found in pretty much any cosmetic product. So… it keeps the bad guys out. What’s the catch?

Well. As a molecule, parabens can look and behave quite similarly to estrogen, the naturally occurring reproductive hormone in women. Traces of it have been found in tissue from breast cancer patients, causing a big stir. It basically messes with your endocrine system (controlling hormones)—not exactly what we want to hear an ingredient in our cosmetics are doing.


Ethylene Oxide

One of the most worrying things about Ethylene Oxide is that a lot of the time it’s a hidden ingredient, masked by chemicals such as Peg- , polyethylene glycol and polyoxyethylene in fragrances and also some shampoos. It is a known human carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and can at the very least cause irritation to the skin, eyes and lungs. Not good.



This is a chemical that has gained a lot of attention in the beauty world recently, due to the fact that so many cosmetic products use Formaldehyde releasing chemicals as preservatives. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen according to IARC, and subsequently formaldehyde releasing chemicals are banned in Japan entirely and restricted in the EU. However, it can still be found in many products still lying in your makeup bag, such as mascara—watch out!  


Lead acetate – often in large quantity companies – contamination

Thankfully this ingredient is rarely used, bar in a few hair dyes. You are probably well aware by now that Lead is not great for us humans, and can lead to some pretty serious poisoning. It can cause major problems in the reproductive system, as well as mentally with comas and seizures resulting with excess exposure. Often labelled as Lead-diacetate, in the rare case that you do come across a box containing this chemical, don’t use it.


So… How do we know about all of this? The answer lies in labs.

 Lab work is vital in just about every aspect of our lives. As we have more and more advances in things like chemicals and cosmetics, labs are becoming even more important in protecting our health. With LTT you can become qualified to work in this diverse and expansive industry—just click here for more info.