What is Makeup Made Of — the Not So Pretty

While truly plant-based and safe cosmetic companies have been explaining the need for clean skin ingredients for years, it’s nice to see documentaries coming that support the information and share even more on why this is such a huge problem for our American society.

make up varieties

Not So Pretty on HBO MAX, hosted by Keke Palmer, investigates in a 4-part docu-series, some of the coverups, ugly truths, and terrible secrets behind the cosmetics and body care industries. 

When you ask, “What is makeup made of,” you may get a variety of answers from complete transparency to covering toxic ingredients with grouped terms like fragrance or even worse, greenwashing, which means they make it look like it’s plant-based and safe . . . instead of actually doing the work. Within the cosmetics, perfumes, and body care industries, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) most often does not regulate the ingredients that go into these products we use every day. 

We’re going to dive into a little behind why the FDA’s more hands-off, the way the cosmetic and body care industries benefit from this, and what you can do to educate yourself and keep yourself safe. 

The FDA and Skin and Body Care

The FDA claims no jurisdiction over body care products (cosmetics or anything rubbed on the skin that’s not considered soap), but the government does provide some review under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA). Under this law, it states “Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA.”

Within these laws, ensuring safe manufacturing standards and recalls stays mainly within the manufacturer itself. The 112 pages of FDA standards for food and drugs only dedicate 2 pages to how safe the cosmetics are. The law merely states that the labeling and the ingredients must be clearly marked and the products must be able to be safely used according to directions and warnings.

While we have seen an explosion of the number of companies producing cosmetics, this ruling was put in place more than 80 years ago, which gives the FDA little power to help regulate how safe these products are — and body care has become an almost $100 billion dollar industry.

Ultimately, it is up to us, the consumers, to vet and ultimately decide what are acceptable ingredients to use on our skin. And as seen on Not So Pretty, there are many ingredients and practices that endanger our health in the long term.

Research Products Yourself

Since the beauty industry is largely unregulated, it’s up to you to do your own research to find the safest products. There are no legal standards for personal care products labeled as “pure,” “natural” or “organic,” so look beyond the marketing claims and read labels carefully.

Thankfully, we have a variety of places to get information and educate ourselves on what ingredients, additives, and chemicals can harm us. MADESAFEⓇ is our gold standard when it comes to anything you put on your body. They have a wealth of information available on their website and back products that are vetted with their intense regulation standards. Other organizations like the EWG and The Clean Label Project can help you make informed decisions on what goes on your body. 

made safe

What is Makeup Made Of

Makeup is made primarily of water, preservatives, thickening agents, emulsifiers, moisturizers, coloring agents, and fragrances. Depending on the chemistry behind the product, it can have a range of health impacts ranging from hormone disruption to potential carcinogenic effects. 

If the makeup product doesn’t hold a Leaping Bunny certification or isn’t listed in PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program, you can’t be sure your product isn’t tested on animals or contains animal by-products. Some of the animal byproducts that may be hiding in your makeup include lanolin (wool grease), carmine (crushed beetles), gelatin (derived from cow bones, tendons, and ligaments), allantoin (cow urine), and placenta (sheep organs). 

Ultimately, resources like MADESAFEⓇ can help you weed through the struggle and find the best ingredients that are free of the ingredients you don’t want on your body. 

Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare and Body Care

Some potentially dangerous chemical ingredients include (bolded are top ingredients to avoid) —

  • Amines
  • Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • BHA / BHT
  • Butylene Glycol
  • Chemical UV Filters (Octinoxate and Oxybenzone)
  • Coal Tar Color
  • DEA
  • Dibutyl Phthalate
  • Diethanolamine
  • DMDH (Hydantoin)
  • Ethylene Glycol
  • FD&C Colors
  • Formaldehyde
  • Fragrances
  • MEA
  • Methicone
  • Mineral Oil 
  • Monoethanolamine
  • Parabens (Propylparaben and Iosbutylparaben)
  • Parfum
  • PEF Compounds
  • PFAS
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Phthalates
  • Polyethylene (PEGs)
  • Preservatives
  • Silicone
  • Siloxanes
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sulfates
  • Talc
  • TEA
  • Triethanolamine
  • Triclosan
  • Urea

Being aware of the ingredients and their effects can help you support your physical wellness as well as the causes you care about — like protecting animals and the environment. When you dive into what is makeup made of and find the ingredients for your skincare and body care, you may be shocked at first. But we hope you feel more empowered with a few resources to help you discover new effective products for makeup, body care, and skincare like Freegirl! 

Woman smiling with makeup on