Beautiful but Deadly: The Cancer-Causing Agents in Your Grooming Kit

Who doesn’t love starting their day with their favorite beauty routine? A splash of refreshing cleanser, a dollop of luxurious moisturizer, and two fingerfuls of SPF covering your face generously.

These moments of self-care help us gain the much-needed confidence to conquer the world. But what if you were told that these seemingly harmless products hide the threat of cancer? 

A couple of months ago, Valisure – an independent laboratory – tested the presence of Benzene in popular skincare products being used around the country. 

These included Estee Lauder’s Clinique, Reckitt Benckiser’s Clearasil, and Target’s Up & Up. In light of the tests, the laboratory has filed a petition to the Food & Drugs Association (FDA) to order a product recall and investigation. 

While the FDA hasn’t responded to the petition, the news has worried those who use these products on a daily basis. Could your cosmetics be exposing you to the threat of cancer? Let’s find out today.

The Presence of Cancer-causing Agents in The Cosmetics You Use

When you apply your favorite cosmetics, the last thing you expect is to be putting your health at risk. Yet, many everyday beauty products contain ingredients that have been linked to cancer. 

These hidden dangers are often masked by scientific names and glossy marketing. The result? Consumers have little knowledge of what’s really in their grooming kits. To demystify the threat of cancer from certain ingredients in your cosmetics, let’s move on to learn more about them below. 

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Skincare Products 

When it comes to skincare, we all want products that make us look and feel our best. But it’s not every day that the thought of them posing a threat of cancer crosses our minds. Take a look at what you need to know about the safety of your skincare essentials: 


Sunscreens are our defensive shields against harmful UV rays. But did you know that some of them possess harmful, hormone-disrupting chemicals? The chemical we’re talking about is benzene, which was detected in 27% of the SPF samples tested by Valisure in a survey.

David Light, the CEO of Valisure, pointed out that the presence of Benzene is not natural in sunscreens, leading them to consider it a contamination. 

Popular brands whose sunscreens have tested positive for the contamination include Aveeno, Neutrogena, Coppertone, Banana Boat, Sun Bum, and Up & Up.

Moisturizers and Lotions

Your trusty daily moisturizer, the staple of your skincare routine, does more than just hydrate—it plays a key role in your skin’s health. However, hidden within its silky texture may lurk ingredients that pose potential health risks.

Parabens, commonly used as preservatives in moisturizers and lotions, are known to mimic estrogen in the body. 

Meanwhile, formaldehyde-releasing agents are employed to extend the shelf life of these products by inhibiting bacterial growth. Since formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, we’re no strangers to its threat. 

Tanning Products

Want that sun-kissed glow without the sun? Be cautious with fake tanning lotions, which often contain DHA (dihydroxyacetone). 

DHA reacts with the skin to create a tan. However, it also generates free radicals when exposed to UV light, potentially leading to cancerous changes in skin cells.

What poses an even greater threat are tanning drugs – such as self-tanning pills, injections, and nasal sprays. None of these drugs have been approved by the FDA, making them dangerous and unregulated.

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They’re made using synthetic hormones, which elevates the risk of skin cancer, observes Dr. Dustin Portela – dermatologist and surgeon at Treasure Valley Dermatology, Idaho. 

Dr. Portela also revealed to have personally removed pre-cancerous and cancerous moles from patients taking Melanotan – a popular tanning drug.

Lip Balms

Lip balms, those handy sticks we reach for to keep our lips soft, can, unfortunately, be carriers of cancer-causing chemicals. Several lip balms contain heavy metals like lead and cadmium – used as color and texture additives. 

Lead, in particular, is a known neurotoxin and carcinogen. Chronic exposure to even a small amount of it can lead to serious health issues, including cancer.

Haircare Products

Our hair is our crown, a canvas we style and care for every day. Yet, amidst the routine of haircare, certain products hide potential risks. Let’s explore the following hair products and reveal their impact on both our locks and our health:

Hair Straighteners and Dyes

Hair straighteners and dyes promise transformation, from sleek styles to vibrant hues. However, these products often contain chemicals like formaldehyde, used in relaxers for straightening, and aromatic amines found in dyes. 

Long-term exposure to these products makes us vulnerable to skin irritation, allergic reactions, and even an increased risk of cancer. In recent years, new research into the link between hair straighteners and cancer has highlighted the issue even more. 

In response to it, a large population of their women consumers has filed a hair straightener cancer lawsuit against its manufacturers. 

The lawsuit – which currently has over 8,000 pending cases – alleges that manufacturers failed to warn their customers of their products’ potential dangers. TorHoerman Law estimates that each claimant in the lawsuit can receive a settlement between $100,000 and $1,500,000. 

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Shampoo and Conditioners

Shampoos and conditioners are the core of anyone’s hair care routine; they cleanse and nourish our hair. The ingredients in many of these products include sulfates and parabens – chemicals linked to skin irritation and hormone disruption. 

Dry shampoos, which have gained attraction in recent years due to their convenience, pose an even greater threat. CNN revealed that certain dry shampoos manufactured by several global brands had the potential presence of benzene. 

These brands included Dove, Suave, TIGI, TRESemmé, and Nexxus – all of which were recalled by Unilever in 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are mineral sunscreens safer than chemical sunscreens? 

​​Mineral sunscreens, which typically contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are often considered safer than chemical sunscreens. They are less likely to cause skin irritation or allergic reactions and are generally stable in sunlight. They also offer broad-spectrum protection without the concerns associated with some chemical filters.

What ingredients should I avoid while buying shampoo? 

When buying shampoo, avoid sulfates which can irritate your scalp and strip it of natural oils. Steer clear of parabens, for they can cause hormone disruption in your body. Phthalates, often in fragrances, might pose risks of reproductive toxicity. Therefore, it’s safer to go for fragrance and color-free shampoos.

Can foundations and concealers potentially cause cancer? 

Yes. Toulene, a natural ingredient used as a stabilizer in makeup creams like foundations and concealers, is a well-known skin irritant. Long-term exposure to toluene through foundations and concealers can make you vulnerable to respiratory issues, poor immune function, and cancers like lymphoma.

To sum it up, we can agree that the products we’ve come to rely on for our skin’s wellness might not be completely safe. Many regular skincare and haircare products – from moisturizers to shampoos – can make us vulnerable to the hidden threat of cancer.

In light of it all, the only way forward is to educate ourselves enough to differentiate between what’s safe and what’s toxic for our skin.

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