What Are We Putting On Our Faces? Part ONE

Are Makeup Brands for Black Women Less Safe than Others?

There are claims that black women are more often exposed to hazardous substances, because makeup brands for women of color contain more harmful ingredients. Let's take a look at this simple breakdown of the ingredients found in our makeup, and get an idea of what women, including women of color, are exposed to. Keep reading!

Lupita Nyongo - Makeup Ingredients

Image source: Taili Song Roth/Corbis Outline (via www.HarpersBazaar.com)

FIRST OFF, What in the world is an active ingredient??? 

  • FDA Definition: "Any component of a drug product intended to furnish pharmacological activity or other direct effect in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans or other animals."
  • Makeup Mosaic's definition: Basically, an active ingredient results in a chemical change, and gives us some therapeutic or pharmacological benefit.
  • For example, over-the-counter pain medications contain the ACTIVE ingredient Ibuprofen, which reduces pain. ALL other ingredients in that medication would be considered INACTIVE. Inactive ingredients wouldn't stop your headache (as Ibuprofen would), but may extend the shelf life of your Tylenol.

What does this have to do with MAKEUP? 

Women use makeup daily, and makeup has ingredients. However, most of us don't know what these ingredients are, nor do we care to find out! I recently came across an article involving makeup brands for black women, and how their ingredients were typically more harmful than other makeup brands. The article provided a link to the Environmental Working Group's Skin-deep Database (EWG.org), which did an analysis of various makeup brands and products (in various other categories) "marketed to black women".

Some of the categories in this analysis concerned me, such as antiperspirants, foot creams, and soaps. I may be mistaken, but I can't imagine what biological differences in our DNA would result in black women needing different deodorants, or FOOT CREAMS from white women?

Moving on...

So, the EWG claims that 1 in 12 beauty products for black women are highly hazardous. Scary right? Since foundations are a big part of our makeup routine, and there are makeup brands dedicated to serving black women, I wanted to know if these products were any more harmful than the rest. For the sake of brevity (research on these ingredients was brutal!), I compared:

1. Iman's Second to None Liquid Clay Foundation: A popular drug store liquid foundation typically marketed to black women, $11.00 (Walmart.com). Moderate hazard, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG.org).

Iman Liquid Clay - Makeup Ingredients


2. L'oreal's True Match Foundation: Popular drug store liquid foundation marketed to the general public, $8.99 (Target.com). Also, surprisingly, considered a moderate hazard according to the EWG.

L'oreal True Match Foundation Reviews

 Of course, we can't come to any GENERAL conclusions by comparing only TWO foundations. But we'll start here.

Ingredients Found in BOTH Products: 

  1. Titanium dioxide
    • Purpose: Protects skin from the sun
    • Concerns: Potential carcinogen, but very little evidence to support this.
  2. Cyclomethicone
    • Purpose: Moisturizes the skin
    • Concerns: May irritate the skin and eyes
  3. Dimethicone
    • Purpose: Moisturizes the skin
    • Concerns: Not considered harmful
  4. Glycerin 
    • Purpose: Moisturizes the skin
    • Concerns: Not considered harmful
  5. Parabens 
    • Purpose: Preserves makeup
    • Concerns: Considered "safe" for cosmetics, but may be linked to cancer in women. May also be linked to endocrine function disruption.
Iman's Second to None Liquid Makeup Clay (Ingredients) 

Sorbitol: Moisturizes the skin. May cause diarrhea IF INGESTED.

C12 15 Alkyl Benzoate: Moisturizes the skin. Not considered harmful.

Cera Alba (Beeswax): Moisturizes the skin. Not considered harmful.

Jojoba Esters: Makes skin appear smooth. Not considered harmful.

Sorbitan Isostearate: Moisturizes the skin. Not considered harmful.

PEG 30 Dipolyhydroxystearate: Moisturizes the skin. May cause irritation when used on broken skin.

Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt): May prevent wrinkling and blemishes. Not considered harmful.

Microcrystalline Wax: Increases thickness of foundation. Not considered harmful.

Butylated Hydroxytoluene: Preserves makeup. Safe for COSMETIC PURPOSES, but may be toxic and carcinogenic, particularly if ingested. (Studies show mixed results).

Magnesium Stearate: Increases thickness of foundation, provides lubrication. Not considered harmful.

Methylisothiazolinone: Preserves makeup. Non-toxic for cosmetic purposes.

Tocopheryl Acetate: Antioxidant. Not considered harmful.

Phenoxyethanol: Preserves makeup. Skin and (severe) eye irritant, toxic in high doses.

Saccharomyces: Antioxidant. Not considered harmful.

Triethoxycaprylylsilane: Keeps liquid and oil from separating in foundation, helps foundation to spread evenly on the skin. Not considered harmful.

Iron Oxides: Gives foundation its color. Not considered harmful.

Mica: Provides color and shimmer to foundation. Not considered harmful.

Total number of potentially harmful ingredients: 3

L'oreal True Match Foundation (Ingredients) 

Isododecane: Helps foundation to spread evenly on the skin. Not considered harmful.

Cyclopentasiloxane: Helps skin feel smooth. Mild skin and eye irritation.

Cyclohexasiloxane: Provides lubrication. May be considered harmful. Potentially linked to cancer and endocrine function disruption.

PEG-10  Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer: Increases thickness in foundation. May irritate the skin and eyes.

Butylene Glycol: Moisturizes the skin. May irritate the skin and eyes.

IsoeicosaneGives skin satin-like texture. Not considered harmful.

Disteardimonium Hectorite: Increases thickness in foundation. Not considered harmful.

Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1: Gives skin a smooth, satin-like texture. May irritate the skin and eyes.

Sodium Chloride (salt): Increases thickness of foundation. May cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea IF INGESTED.

C9-15 Fluoroalcohol Phosphate: Preserves makeup, controls shine, allows makeup to last longer on the skin. Not considered harmful.

Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate: Used to "stabilize" the foundation's formula. Not considered harmful.

Hexyl Laurate: Smooths and softens the skin, thickens the product. Not considered harmful.

Isostearyl Neopentanoate: Used to "stabilize" the foundation's formula. May irritate the skin.

Diazolidinyl Urea: Preserves makeup. May irritate the skin, but  considered "safe" in small doses. Potentially linked to cancer, but there is little evidence to support this.

Iron Oxides: Provide color to foundation. Not considered harmful

Total number of potentially harmful ingredients: 2

Summing Things Up

So, it's clear that makeup production involves A LOT of chemicals. Most of these chemicals are deemed "safe" for cosmetic purposes, suggesting we shouldn't worry. I was surprised to find that most ingredients in these foundations had moisturizing, skin-softening, and/or preservative qualities. I was expecting to find a lot more scary stuff!

On the other hand, a few ingredients in BOTH products may relate to tumor production, among other things. Iman's liquid foundation contained 3 ingredients considered potentially hazardous, while L'oreal's True Match contained 2. Because it's not clear on "how much is too much"  of each ingredient, it's hard to definitively say what products (or brands) we MUST stay away from. Using this example at least, we can't say that Iman's foundation, marketed to black women, is more harmful than L'oreal's True Match foundation, marketed to the general community.

As mentioned before, this is only ONE comparison, so it wouldn't be smart to make any generalizations based on the info we have so far. Although researching ingredients for this post gave me a massive headache, I would love to offer others more information on the safety (or dangers) of makeup brands for black women, and women in general. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! If requested, I will do more comparisons of makeup products, and share them with the Makeup Mosaic community. It's important to know what we're putting on our faces! If we can make smarter decisions and stay healthy by looking at the facts, then let's do so!

If there's anything else you're interested in learning about, tell me about it here, or leave a comment, and I'd be happy to do some more research! As long as it doesn't involve chemicals : )


*Please note* Makeup Mosaic is NOT an expert in chemical compounds and we do not give medical advice. If you need help determining if you should use or stop use of a product, contact your physician. Just because a product is considered "safe" by the organizations listed below, doesn't mean that you may not experience adverse effects. The purpose of this research is to inform others on the potential dangers of makeup products. Specifically, we wanted to see if makeup brands for blacks are any less safe than makeup brands marketed to the general community. Sources for all information used in this post are listed below:
(U.S. National Library of Medicine) https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/
(Cosmetics Info) www.cosmeticsinfo.org
(Environmental Working Group SkinDeep Database) www.EWG.org/SkinDeep
(Truth in Aging) www.TruthInAging.com
(Center for Disease Control) www.cdc.gov




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