Chemicals to Avoid - QC Makeup Academy

One of your most important responsibilities as a professional makeup artist is to use safe and appropriate products on your clients’ skin. Your clients trust you to apply products to sensitive areas of their faces, and you are obligated to do everything you can to avoid infections, allergic reactions, and other safety hazards. You have to be very knowledgeable about which products are safe to use on the skin, especially the sensitive skin on the face, and this means that you also need to know which chemicals should be avoided! Here are some chemical ingredients often used in lower quality cosmetics that pose a risk to your clients’ health and should therefore be avoided.

Paraben preservatives:

These chemical preservatives can be found in some foundations, mascaras, concealers, and skin creams, among other products. They are used to preserve the product and increase its’ shelf life so that it can be sold for longer before it expires. Parabens are also often used as a germicide to keep products from accumulating bacteria. Despite these seemingly beneficial effects, paraben preservatives are suspected carcinogens, meaning that they are believed to cause various types of cancer. They also disrupt natural hormones after repeated use, cause severe rashes for people with sensitive skin, and can interfere with male reproductive functions after prolonged exposure.

Avoid Parabens

Even if you are only using products on a client for a single application and therefore will not be personally exposing them to any particular chemical for a long period of time, you should still avoid using cosmetics containing this type of harmful chemical. If every makeup artist a model comes in contact with ignores chemical ingredients, they might still experience the long term effects from separate sources. You should avoid playing a role in that exposure!


This is a generalized term used to describe several scented chemicals and toxins used to give several cosmetic products a pleasant smell. Products that are synthetically scented like this can cause rashes for people with sensitive skin, trigger allergic reactions of different types, trigger asthma, and cause headaches because of their overly perfumed smell. While these affects are more temporary than some chemicals, they still cause your client discomfort and should be avoided.

BHA and BHT:

These are synthetic antioxidants (or chemical preservatives) often used in cosmetic products to give them a longer shelf life. Despite being reported by some toxicology tests as harmful to wildlife and the environment, these preservatives are also used in some brands of pet food and some grocery products intended for human consumption. BHA and BHT are suspected carcinogens, meaning that they may cause or contribute to the development of various types of cancer. Additionally, prolonged consumption of or exposure to BHA and BHT may disrupt natural hormone levels, causing different health complications for different people. Be cautious of both of these acronyms (BHA and BHT) on the ingredients lists of cosmetic products, or keep an eye out for the full chemical names (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene) to ensure that you aren’t fooled by labels!

Shelf Life Chemicals

Coal tar dyes:

Coal tar is a substance produced by the partial burning of coal, and it is used to give many different cosmetic products color. Coal tar dyes exist in some forms that have been deemed generally safe by most health boards, such as food coloring. In many forms, however, coal tar dyes are known carcinogens, meaning they can cause various types of cancer. These harmful forms of coal tar dyes are often contaminated with heavy metal bi-products that end up in the cosmetics, and prolonged exposure to these can be toxic to the brain. As a makeup artist whose clients trust you to use safe products, you should avoid cosmetics that include coal tar products. Some companies will word the ingredient differently in an attempt to mask the inclusion of coal tar dyes, so pay careful attention to each item on the list.

Seeking Alternatives

Research Chemicals to Avoid

Being aware of the specific ingredients on every cosmetic product you use sounds like a hassle, but you can minimize the tedious process of searching ingredient lists by researching cosmetic brands and companies before you buy. Find out which professional cosmetic companies use safer components to create their products and avoid using cheaper brands or brands you don’t recognize. If you’re unsure about any of the ingredients on the list, do some research before you use that product on your clients. Some makeup artists go so far as to purchase their makeup products exclusively from small or local companies whose ingredients can be easily tracked, or ‘green’ companies that use all natural and organic ingredients in their makeup.

Whichever tactic you choose for purchasing safe makeup and avoiding harmful chemicals, remember that it’s essential to spot test your makeup on a new client regardless of the brand, and to keep your products and tools clean. This will help you avoid infection and allergic reactions at the same time as you avoid harmful chemical reactions. Your clients will appreciate the care that you take with their skin and your reputation will benefit as well!

If you thought this post was helpful and informative, be sure to read up on how to avoid infections and allergies from makeup!

Author Ana Scholtes

More posts by Ana Scholtes

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Rociel says:

    I agree on the rest of the other ingredients except for parabens. The issue that parabens could cause cancer has been disproved. Regarding makeup brands that are cheap, I think not because those are cheap, it will be labeled harmful. Based on my experience there are makeup brands which are unrecognized but the quality is good.

  • Diana M. says:

    I think this was a very good topic to talk about! Even though I’m still a student with QC Makeup Academy, I’am already starting to be much more aware of ingredients in certain products. Just now after reading this blog topic, I went to check my cabinets and found a few makeup products I have and skin care products I own to have some of these. At least my loyal baby shampoo is labelled in bold with “paraben free”. I’am thinking very seriously of going organic once I have graduated!

    • Ana Scholtes says:

      I’m so glad that you found this article useful and even implemented some changes because of it! Sometimes labels can be sneaky, so making yourself of aware of the ones to look out for will help everyone! Your clients will know they’re in good hands, artist-wise AND product-wise.

  • Gemma Parsons says:

    An amazing cosmetics line to check out is Arbonne International. They have an amazing cosmetics line that creates an extremely flawless look using optimist technology and the ethics behind the are the company are second to none. They formulate without parabens, petrolatum, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, PABA, Paraffin, Diethanolamine and animal derived ingredients.
    I run my own Arbonne business and it was being educated on such ingredients and seeing the amazing results that I was getting by doing home workshops that I decided to join QC Academy and train to be a make up artist.
    I highly recommend you check the cosmetics line out. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything better. for more information that will also take you to the company site.

Leave a Reply