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




Beauty Trends Around the World

Clearly, there is no one true definition of beauty. This page examines some of the beauty trends and ideals in various parts of the world. Some countries place more of an emphasis on what they consider an attractive face, while others place higher value on a woman's body and curves. Of course, this isn't an exhaustive list of beauty trends worldwide, but provides an example of how subjective beauty truly is. Read more below, and please, don't forget to leave a comment! 

East Asia 

Beauty Trends Around the World Asia

Minimal makeup with an emphasis on skin care. 

In countries such as Korea and Japan, a soft and feminine look is considered most beautiful. Rather than the use of heavy highlighting and contouring, a popular trend in the United States, East Asian women focus more on skin care. A soft and youthful appearance is enhanced through skin care products meant to brighten and firm the skin. When used, minimal, skin-perfecting makeup gives the skin an almost porcelain-like appearance. Try a google search for 'Asian beauty trends' and you'll find the top results involve skin care tips, along with images of fair, near-perfect skin complexions. 

Typical beauty products used for a youthful, flawless face.

  1. Color-Correcting (CC Creams): Provide minimal, lightweight coverage, reducing the appearance of discolorations and uneven skin tone. Certainly popular here in the states!
  2. Blur creams: Used before applying makeup to minimize pores, lines, or wrinkles. Typically, in the U.S. at least, many makeup primers used on the face will have these 'blurring' qualities as well. One example is the Stay Matte Primer from Rimmel.
  3.  Sheet Masks: This is another recent beauty practice in East Asia that's becoming increasingly popular in American culture. Different sheet masks will contain different ingredients, mainly with the aim of increasing hydration, removing dirt and oil, and reducing fine lines. 


Beauty Trends Around the World Africa

Image source: Anthony Joseph Photography

Curvaceousness and Body Adornment

In African culture, a more curvy and voluptuous figure is highly celebrated. This is in stark contrast to the ideals of western cultures, where being thin is most popular and attractive. In fact, in Mauritania, women were once sent to 'fat camps' to gain weight! Fat camps became popular because full-figured body types were more attractive, symbolizing wealth and the ability to bear children. So, if women struggled to gain weight on their own, they would go to these camps to improve their chances of finding a partner. 

Although now considered an ancient practice, many Africans would engage in the practice of scarification. Scarification involves branding the skin in intricate designs. These designs may symbol social status, religion, or identification within a particular tribe. Scarification is becoming less popular, and there are movements taking place for banning of scarification practices in Africa. Most people now seen with scars as a result of scarification are elderly, symbolizing its decrease in popularity over the years. 

Body painting, however, is another form of body art practiced in Africa that continues today. Body painting serves some of the same purposes as scarification, but is less permanent. African body art aligns with the purpose of all other forms of art where a blank canvas (in this case, the body), provides an opportunity for self-expression. Recently, body painting has become a popular trend worldwide, with less of an emphasis on the face as typically seen in African culture. There are now annual body painting festivals in places such as the U.S. and Austria. 

Middle East 

Beauty Trends Around the World Middle East

Image source: @lookamillion (Instagram) 

Contour, brows, lips. 

The latest beauty bloggers from the Middle East have beauty habits that closely resemble those in the states. Right now, it's all about highlighting, contouring, and thick, well-defined brows. When a hijab is not being worn, which also adds another element of style to any look, Middle Eastern women typically sport long and loose waves in their hair.  

Western Europe 

Beauty Trends Around the World Europe

Image source: Photographer, Russel James 


When it comes to beauty in Europe, less is more. In France, for example, there is a higher emphasis on taking care of the body, such as eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water. French women recognize that taking care of the body on the inside will result in a healthy and beautiful outward appearance.  Heavy makeup and contouring is a no-no for these ladies. 

South America 

Trends Around the World South America

Sofia Vergara, Image source: www.HuffingtonPost.com

Curves, Curves, Curves. 

In South America, a curvy woman is an attractive woman, similar to beauty ideals observed in Africa. Women in places such as Brazil, will go to great lengths to obtain a curvy figure, while maintaining a super tiny waist. In fact, it's pretty well-known that there is an unhealthy fixation in Brazil involving cosmetic surgeries to enhance the look of the buttocks and breasts. Although we are now well aware of the dangers of receiving buttock injections for a larger-looking bum, some women still elect to have these risky procedures done in Brazil, due to cheaper prices. 

Problems Young Black Women Face with Beauty + Body Image

Problems Young Black Women Face with Beauty + Body Image

Article Review: Beauty and Body Image Concerns Among African American College Women

31 female African-American students between ages 19 and 25 participated in this study at a Southwestern U.S. University. 

Researchers wanted to know what unique issues young African-American women typically face in regards to beauty and body image. 

What did they find?

  • Young African-American women consider hair to contribute most to a 'beautiful' appearance!
  • African-American women spend a LOT of time and resources to keep up their hairstyles. In fact, AA women will sometimes round-up money for a trip to the hair salon BEFORE purchasing their next meal! 
  • Hair is sometimes used to stereotype black women. For example, some believe that women are trying to make a political statement with their hairstyles. 
  • Lighter skin tones are typically preferred than darker skin tones, both within AND outside of the black community. 
  • Many AA women feel that conforming to white beauty standards helped them to achieve more, such as in their professional lives.   
  • Most women in the study believed media representations (movies, tv, radio, etc.) of black women are inaccurate.
  • Many black women feel that their natural hair can cause problems in the workplace, affecting them economically and professionally! 
Source: Awad, G., Norwood, C., Taylor, D. S., Martinez, M., McClain, S., Jones, B., Holman, A., Chapman-Hilliard, C. (2015). Beauty and Body Image Concerns Among African American College Women. Journal of Black Psychology41(6), 540-564. 
What are your thoughts? Take a few seconds to tell us about YOUR experiences. If you'd like to start a discussion about this, or raise some questions of your own, do so at one of our forums.

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How Women REALLY Feel About Beauty

How Women Really Feel About Beauty

Article Review: Women's Attitudes to Beauty, Aging, and the Place of Cosmetic Procedures: Insights from the QUEST Observatory


In a study by Ehlinger-Martin et al. (2015), they surveyed 1000 French women between ages 25 and 70, about feelings towards beauty and aging. 

Researchers wanted a picture of women's attitudes towards beauty, skin care, aging, the use of anti-aging products, and minimally invasive cosmetic procedures. 

What Did They Find?

  • 92% of women in the study believe it's possible to age beautifully. (Of course!) 
  • According to these women, top tips for aging well and maintaining attractive skin included:
    1. Good diet 
    2. Regular exercise
    3. Lots of water! 
    4. Regular visits to the hair salon 
    5. Use of skin care products AND sun protection 
  • Keeping skin moisturized should always be priority #1! It helps create a 'youthful' appearance. 
  • Many women actually feel younger than their chronological age!  
  • For younger women, the biggest complaints included signs of tiredness and dark circles around the eyes. 
  • For older women, biggest complaints included fine lines and wrinkles.  
  • Many women feel it is necessary to begin using anti-aging skin care in your 30s!  
  • Although around 50% of women in the study were open to minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, such as chemical peeling, very few women have actually gone through with these procedures. 
Source: Ehlinger-Martin, A., Cohen-Letessier, A., Taieb, M., Azoulay, E., du Crest, D. (2015). Women's Attitudes to Beauty, Aging, and the Place of Cosmetic Procedures: Insights from the QUEST Observatory. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 15, 89-94.  

Ladies, please share your thoughts! Do you believe starting an anti-aging skin care regimen in your 30's is appropriate? If you would like to start a discussion about this topic, please comment below or head to our forums