The Weird Ways Makeup Affects Your Health

by Miki Hayes
Sad millennial woman sitting on bed looking away thinking about problems and bad feelings
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Makeup is a powerful thing. It has the ability to affect our confidence and our creativity. But there are also ways that makeup affects our health. Because as much as we may fawn and obsess over our holy-grail products, they do still have properties and ingredients that may not be the best for our health to use on a regular basis.

I'll blame it on the pretty colors that make me forget, but the majority of the makeup I use is concentrated around my eyes and mouth — two of the most sensitive and vulnerable places on the body. I mean, remember when there was enough lead in lipstick to be a safety concern? Well, there are actually still some products with traces of lead in them. And even though the FDA has determined these amounts are not harmful when makeup is used as intended, it's good to pay attention to what ingredients are in your favorite products. This way, you're less likely to unknowingly ingest or absorb as many chemicals and metals that could do harm in the long run. So you have a better idea of what your makeup could be doing to your body, I spoke with some experts who shared 10 ways that your makeup could be affecting your skin and health.

1. Clogging Your Pores

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Especially if you use oil-based or long-wearing makeup, there is a tendency for it to clog your pores. And according to Karen Ballou, Founder and CEO of skin care brand Immunocologie, makeup that is meant to last longer on your skin will also sink deeper into it, making it harder to remove. To make sure you cleanse off every last bit of makeup, she recommends using a good chemical exfoliator so your pores won't be clogged and lead to other skin concerns like acne.

2. Making You Sick/Giving You An Infection

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When it comes to your makeup and makeup brushes, don't share with others unless you can easily sanitize them. You never know if your friend is carrying a cold, and you could easily catch it, especially if you're sharing products that come in contact with your eyes or mouth like mascara and lipstick. It's also important to pay attention to your makeup's expiration dates so as to not use a product that may be growing bacteria or mold. Finally, if you're sick or have some sort of infection (like conjunctivitis), don't wear makeup if you can help it. If you feel like you must, sanitize or toss those products immediately afterwards. You wouldn't want to give yourself pink eye again.

3. Irritating Your Skin

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Ballou explains, "Unlike Europe and Asia, ingredients in skincare and beauty products are unfortunately not very well regulated in the US. This means it's more likely than not you'll find something less than appetizing for your skin and health in many makeup products on the market." So one of the most important things you can do before wearing makeup is to check the ingredients. Especially if you have sensitive skin, there are plenty of ingredients that could aggravate it and cause contact dermatitis or worse. If you're worried about a certain product, test a small amount on the inside of your wrist to see if it causes a reaction before putting it on your face.

4. Preventing SPF

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Many makeup enthusiasts have noticed that certain sunscreens can cause flashback, or that severe white-tone on your skin that isn't visible in-person, but reflects when a flash goes off and is captured on film (or your phone) forever (or until you hit "delete"). Anyway, if you've ever forgone sunscreen before applying your makeup (or selecting a non-SPF foundation when you might've needed one), just to avoid the dreaded flashback, you're only contributing to sun damage. And as we know, sun damage can lead to some really bad things like premature aging and even skin cancer. So if you still need your makeup to be on point, but don't want to worry about how you appear in photos, try a slightly lower SPF (like 30 or 15), and use a loose, pigmented powder or bronzer on top of it.

5. Allergies


Fragrances and some preservatives found in makeup could trigger allergic reactions like excess sneezing and hives. If you know you're sensitive to scents or certain ingredients, make sure to check the ingredients or give products a quick whiff before committing to wearing it on your face.

6. Damaging Your Eyes

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Be careful what you put near your eyes. Especially when it comes to eyeliner and glitter. Because eyeliner in the waterline can make it easier for particles to get in the eye and cause harm or infections, make sure to always sharpen or sanitize your liner before drawing too close to the eye. This way, you can be sure that you're not getting contaminated pencil in your system. Also, always be wary when applying glitter around the eyes. Glitter pieces are harder for the eyes to flush out, and can even cause scrapes and tears on the eye itself. And be especially careful when it comes to expiration dates on eye products. There are some horror stories of women actually losing their eyes because of moldy products.

7. Respiratory Problems

As much as we may love our setting sprays and facial mists, using them too much or too often could be harmful to not only the skin but also the respiratory system. There are certain ingredients that may be present in some sprays that can be irritating to the skin, and hazardous if inhaled. And with all of those tiny particles released into the air (and on your face), you're bound to inhale at least some of it. Keep the danger to a minimum by always checking the ingredients, researching ones you don't know, and limiting your exposure.

8. Headaches

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Fragrances and certain ingredients in your makeup could even be causing headaches, as Dr. Frank Lipman told Byrdie. While this cause can be a little harder to pinpoint, if you find that you have frequent headaches, or headaches at odd times during the day, and also tend to wear a lot of makeup, try cutting back or going natural for a while to see if your headaches lessen or cease.

9. Internal Damage

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Certain ingredients like parabens have been suggested to be related to damage in the reproductive system, and there are other chemicals and ingredients that could be just as hazardous to other processes within our bodies. However, the FDA still finds the amounts of these chemicals found in makeup to not be at a level of concern. Because it's better to be safe than sorry though, if you're worried, always pay attention to the ingredients in your products, and try to limit how much makeup you wear and how frequently you wear it.

10. Cancer

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Let me start by saying that there is currently no conclusive evidence that wearing makeup will increase your risk of developing cancer. However, because there are suggestions that prolonged and increased use of makeup could play a role in the development of cancer, as previously mentioned, it's always best to check the ingredients of all your products, and limit your time spent caked in makeup.

But really, as long as you're paying attention to what you're putting on your face, and remember to take it off before you sleep, you shouldn't have anything to worry about.

Images: Getty Images (10); Miki Hayes (1)