Sarah from Surry Hills, New South Wales, Australia asked:

Are there ingredients in cosmetics and beauty products that cause cancer?

Paraben chemical make up and cancer

I heard that certain ingredients in make up and beauty products can lead to an increased risk of cancer. I'm really worried because I have used the same products for years.

The source:
Our answer

There are a number of products used in “everyday” beauty products and cosmetics that have been claimed to cause cancer. The chemicals used in these products are scrutinised by regulatory bodies around the world and so far there is no evidence that using cosmetics, shampoo and other such products as intended increases the risk of cancer. Parabens refers to a group of chemicals used in cosmetics and personal care products to preserve them. The US Cosmetics Ingredient Review has assessed the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics and concluded parabens are safe. Many types of toothpaste, soap, shampoo, bath products and moisturisers contain the chemical sodium lauryl sulfate. There is no scientific evidence that the amounts used in everyday health and beauty products like shampoo can cause cancer. Many lipsticks contain a wide variety of ingredients that may include: synthetic dyes, chemical stabilisers and preservatives. Several of the ingredients commonly used in lipsticks have been shown to cause cancer in rodents, but only in very high doses. Taken as a group, these studies do not suggest lipstick causes cancer. Studies have found exposure to butyl benzyl phthalate is linked to increases in some cancers in rats, however there is no evidence of danger to humans, especially given the very small amount of exposure. Some lipsticks contain lead at very low levels as a red colour additive. Very high exposure to lead has been linked to adverse health effects, however the levels found in lipstick are considered insufficient to be harmful. Coconut oil diethanolamine condensate is another ingredient commonly found in beauty products like shampoo, conditioner, lipstick, hair dye and soap. While some studies found it caused cancer growth in mice, similar tests on rats didn’t. Based on the current evidence, the World Health Organisation has classified coconut oil diethanolamine condensate as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. Statutory authorities around the world continue to authorise its use, considering the amounts and circumstances of human exposure pose a negligible risk of cancer.

This page was last updated on: June 20, 2012

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