They make us sparkle, glow and even radiate. They cover up the blemishes, hide our spots or camouflage our bags. But while they make us feel beautiful on the outside, can we be confident about their effects on our insides!

As part of Breast Cancer UK’s Prevention week, we looked at chemicals in make-up, to size up our cosmetics bags and search out products which not only look good, but which are good for us too!

Our research covers over 3000 mainstream make-up products to check whether they contain potentially harmful chemicals which have been associated with health issues including irritation, allergies, toxicity, hormone disruption, impacts on the reproductive system, and cancer.


  • Four in five Blushers are free from chemicals of concern.  The 1/5 which do have potentially harmful chemicals, all contain Parabens, a preservative, which can cause allergic reactions, and can also affect the hormone system by mimicking oestrogen in the body. Parabens have been linked to breast cancer.
  • Three quarters of eye makes-ups and lipsticks / glosses are free from chemicals of concern. The most commonly found chemicals of concern in eye make-ups are parabens and BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene), also a preservative. BHT may irritate the skin, eyes and lungs, and can also be toxic and is the most frequently concerning chemical found in lipsticks and glosses
  • Half of foundations are free from chemicals of concern

Table 4. Proportion of chemicals of concern in make-up products

Chemicals of concern   Blusher  Lipstick & Gloss  Eye Make-Up  Foundation 
Yes  21% 23% 26% 49%
No  79% 77% 74% 51%

Source: Giki Social Enterprise 2018.

So the good news is, although some chemicals in make-up carry potentially serious health risks, the majority of make-ups are free from chemicals of concern. Only 25% of those we analysed had potentially risky chemicals. So it is easy to avoid them, if we know how!

Here are some brands to choose from which are largely free from chemicals of concern:

Lipsticks and glosses: Burt’s Bees, Dirty Works, Korres, Miss Sporty and Rimmel London.

L’Oréal Paris and Bourjois Blushers tend to be free from chemicals of concern. 

All or most Eye Make-Up products from La Roche-Posay, Miss Sporty, Rimmel London, Max Factor, Bourjois and Eylure don’t contain chemicals of concern.

A large proportion of Foundations from Bourjois, George (Asda), and La Roche-Posay don’t contain chemicals of concern:

From the smaller brands, there are also some options:

  • Balm Balm
  • Bee Good
  • Boutique
  • EOS
  • LipSilk
  • Lula & Belle Cosmetics

If you want to reduce your risk, here are some brands which more frequently contain chemicals of concern:

  • for blushers, Collection;
  • for lipsticks and glosses, Miss Roxie, Nivea, Max Factor, Make Me Up, Blistex and Lypsyl;
  • for eye make-up, Collection and Make Me Up and
  • for foundations: Collection, Maybelline and Miss Sporty.

So, always check the label or download the Giki app free, scan the barcodes on your make-up and look out for the no chemicals of concern badge and share this blog to help your friends.

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