WARNING: Toxic chemicals found in makeup -- even high-end brands, investigation finds

ATLANTA — It’s a part of most women’s daily routines – putting on makeup.

But some of those products could contain poisons never listed on the ingredients list, including some high-end brands.

The makeup women put on their skin may contain PFAS or forever chemicals that never break down.

“It’s just like, a big risk to take for beauty,” said metro Atlanta makeup artist Stephanie Bennett.

She sells her homemade lip products out of her DeKalb County kitchen.

But she fears even some of them could contain PFAS or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

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“Now that I know about this ingredient, I’ve even considered doing a third-party testing on my own products,” Bennett said.

University of Notre Dame researchers found PFAS in several makeup products from drugstore to high-end brands. Neither puts it on the label.

“We think that there’s intentional use of this that’s not being declared. We think that the consumer has the right to know what they’re buying,” said Graham Peaslee, Ph.D. a physics professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Women told Channel 2 investigative reporter Sophia Choi they want to know what is in their makeup.

“I think you should list the ingredients and let the consumer decide whether or not they want to add it to their face,” Sherri Hodge said.

“That’s why I look at labels to see if they have certain chemicals, if they have certain things inside of it, and if it’s something that I will never put on my face, I will want to know,” Tonice Taylor said.


The Food and Drug Administration has the power to regulate cosmetics in America and sets guidelines, but typically allows the industry to monitor itself. Bennett said the government needs to take action with regulations.

“I have a home makeup brand and nobody’s regulating me, and I make it here in my house in my kitchen. And I, you know, sell to thousands of thousands of customers from the U.S., overseas to, you know, Canada. So yeah, there’s nobody regulating me,” Bennett said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says PFAS may lead to cancer, liver damage, increased risk of asthma, thyroid disease and fertility issues.

Notre Dame researchers said long-lasting makeup had the most PFAS.

Two items topped the list.

“The waterproof mascaras, and the new liquid lips that paint on lipstick that is very long lasting,” Peaslee said.

The CDC and FDA are looking into how much PFAS the human body can handle before it typically becomes sick.

PFAS are in a lot of items we all use, like nonstick pans, fast food containers and stain and water-resistant clothing and furniture. They are also used in makeup to make it last longer and spread easier.

PFAS are called forever chemicals because they don’t ever fully break down. The chemicals end up tainting our soil, air and water.

A further concern is that PFAS can build up in your body, especially if you’re using products containing PFAS on your skin, eyes and mouth.

“Even if a small amount, because even at that level, you’re going to have a buildup in the blood very quickly,” Peaslee said.

Bennett said her clients are more aware these days about the potential dangers of what’s in their makeup. They’re demanding less toxic products. However, she said many women would still sacrifice their health for beauty, but not her.

“You don’t want to risk not being able to have a baby because, you know, you use like a lipstick or mascara,” Bennett said.

Unlike in the United States, Europe has very strict regulations about makeup. Everything is tested before it hits the market. But here in the U.S. it’s more of a hands-off approach with companies doing their own testing.

Notre Dame researchers say the good news is several makeup companies are now identifying which products in their line have PFAS and are taking them out.