Skip to main content

27 Sep, 2019

Content’s Guide to ‘Detoxing’ Your Make-Up Bag

Ever wondered what the hard-to-pronounce ingredients in your cosmetics are? Even with natural make-up, it can be complicated! CONTENT is here to help you decode the ingredients list so you can detox your make-up bag.


Ever wondered what the hard-to-pronounce ingredients in your cosmetics are? Even with natural make-up, it can be complicated! Content Beauty is here to help you decode the ingredients list so you can detox your make-up bag.

Make-up may contain any of the usual ingredients you might be avoiding in your skincare. The rest will often be made up of mineral oil, talc, PEGs, silicones, polymers and stabilisers. Read on for an A-Z of additional ingredients we choose to avoid in make-up at CONTENT.

Ingredients to Avoid In Your Make-Up Bag

Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163)

This ingredient is most often the culprit when people think they have reacted to mineral make-up. Often used in mineral powders, it can be a skin irritant for some, causing itchiness and sensitivity. It is also thought to contribute to pore congestion and acne. It is usually buffed into the skin in powder form.


It’s surprising how many make-up products, from mascara to lipstick, which you wouldn’t assume contain fragrance, actually do. Synthetic fragrances don’t have to list all their ingredients, making it tricky for the hypersensitive.


Talc is a natural mineral with an absorbent effect that leaves the skin shine-free and smooth. In the past there were concerns about talc being contaminated with asbestos fibres, but this is less of an issue now as cosmetic-grade talc is used. Often referred to as ‘clean’ talc, it has to adhere to purity requirements, and is tested to ensure it meets these standards. Other studies show that talc may have implications on lung conditions via repeated inhalation, but most of these studies were carried out on people working in the mining industry.

Talc has cleaned up its act and been allowed in formulations under some natural certification standards when in a pressed format, to avoid inhalation so you may find it appearing in ingredient lists more often.
With some careful product consideration, you can ensure you are either avoiding talc altogether or being smart about your choices.

My advice if you are tempted by the perfect eye shadow colour or matte- finishing powder only to discover it contains talc, is:
● Look for products that are certified natural and/or organic.
● Ensure it is in a pressed format to ensure inhalation is kept to a minimum.
● Don’t use talc on your body or your baby – non-negotiable. There are several court cases in the USA where Johnson & Johnson has been implicated in cases of ovarian cancer.

Looks like this on a label: (CI 77718), talc.


These polymers are probably the cosmetic industry’s most useful and used invention. Once you start looking for them, you’ll see them everywhere. Used to hold colour and product in place on the skin, the particles sit on the surface of the skin and make it feel smooth and ‘silk’ like. They will also give some waterproofing qualities to your make-up, making them popular for ensuring your colours stay put – sounds good so far. But this occlusive (air- and water-tight) quality may want to be avoided by many. Your skin is a living organ and layering on silicones over large areas of skin is often likened to wrapping it in cling film. But they do make things stay put and not all brands otherwise considered natural, omit them, so check the label if you want purity over wear longevity.

Looks like this on a label: cyclomethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane, dimethicone, phenyl trimethicone, trimethylsiloxysilicate and polymethylsilsesquioxane.


To be clear, no-one is adding lead to your make-up. Lead is an element that occurs in the environment. Through manufacturing storage processes, minute traces of lead can find their way into cosmetic products.

Much has been written about lead being found in lipsticks over recent years. In the US, the FDA has carried out testing on over 400 lipsticks from the most commercial to some more niche brands to capture all types of products. They found the average lead concentration was 1.11 parts per million (ppm). Typically no more than 20 ppm is allowed to be present in colour additives approved for use in cosmetics. The FDA also requires some colours to be batch-certified, which includes testing each batch for lead, before they may be used in cosmetics.

Lead poisoning and lead intoxication are a serious business with complications including anaemia, convulsions and, in severe cases, death. is is highly unlikely to be a side effect of make-up use though.

Synthetic Colours

These are often derived from petroleum or modified mineral pigment sources, where previously they were coal-tar derived.You may find that some otherwise natural brands that want to avoid carmine use what are deemed safe synthetic pigments from the food industry in very small amounts (0.03 per cent is typical). Some bright colours are not producible through mined mineral pigments and these brands are dedicated to making safe cosmetics in colours that we actually want to wear and are transparent about the ingredients they use, so just check the details if you want to avoid all synthetics completely.

Colours that are banned due to concerns are: D&C Orange No. 17, D&C Red No. 8, D&C Red No. 9 and D&C Red No. 19. Also avoid carbon black (carbon black, D & C Black No. 2, acetylene black, channel black, furnace black, lamp black and thermal black), sometimes also found in cosmetics such as eyeliners and brow products.

If you would like to avoid synthetic colours altogether, some companies are using fruit and vegetable pigments as colourants, the only problem being they tend to be very sheer colours that wear off easily – no harm in reapplying though.

Looks like this on a label: CI numbers


This ingredient will want to be avoided by some, such as vegans and those with sensitivities, as it is a bright red pigment produced from cochineal insects. This could actually be termed naturally derived, but many brands will avoid it as an animal ingredient. Just ask about it when shopping if you would like to go insect-free and look for the CI number. It is most commonly found in coloured cosmetics like lipsticks and blush.

Most organic and natural brands have actually shifted to a small percentage of safer food-grade synthetic colours to avoid carmine. However, if you are avoiding this because you are vegan, don’t assume just because a brand is carmine-free it is vegan – many may still use beeswax in lipstick or cream formulations.

Looks like this on a label: CI 75470.

CONTENT is a boutique organic skincare store, naturopathic clinic, beauty salon and website at the forefront of the move towards natural and organic skincare and complementary therapies. We have partnered with Content Beauty to offer the ultimate skin-boosting package including:

  • 10 days of nutritious, skin-boosting Detox Kitchen meals delivered to your door daily
  • Voucher for a Content Natural Lift Facial Massage at Content Beauty, worth £55
  • Pai Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser + Cloth, worth £30

Click here to book now!