Toxic Beauty (Formaldehyde in Cosmetics)

I don't know about you, but I am fascinated by the wildly dangerous and toxic lives that humans used to live during Victorian England, 1930's America & even in the homes of 1960's housewives. It seems like there was always an invisible agent of illness around the corner. Wether it's lead based paint, arsenic, or bleach in the face cream, I look back in wonder. 

In actuality, this is not a reality we have escaped. We, especially in American society, are surrounded by heavy metals, carcinogens & endocrine disruptors. There is little to no regulation on the cosmetic industry- allowing large manufacturers to essentially use any ingredients they see fit. 

I wonder how long it will take for us to look back on where we are right now, to see the products in the store isle and ponder "how did we ever think it was okay to put this on our bodies?"

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In 1933, a woman was hospitalized with severe eye pain after using an eyelash darkener called Lash Lure. The doctors watched her eyes burning as if exposed to acid, and discovered that the eyelash cosmetic contained a toxic coal tar dye. 

Throughout the 1930's, a depilatory called Koremlu was marketed heavily, but was known to contain thalium, a form of Rat Poison.

In 1936, a woman developed dark rings around her eyes and neck, bluish black gums and loose teeth. She had been using a product called "Gouraud's Oriental Cream", which contained levels of mercury. 

And not too long ago, women began experiencing dizziness, vomiting, scalp damage and hair loss from using drugstore hair products. These products, coming from large brands like Johnson & Johnson, L'Oreal & Revlon, contained ingredients that over time, when added to water, release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.


You might not believe that nearly 1 in 5*, around ~20%* of store-bought cosmetic products contain a substance that generates formaldehyde.

These are the ingredients that you need to look out for, the largest generators of formaldehyde in most cosmetics:

-DMDM Hydanoin

-Imidazolidinyl Urea

-Diazolidinyl Urea


-Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1 3-diol)

-5Bromo-5-nitro-1 3 dioxane


Feel free to copy these and keep them in your phone notes for quick reference!

Some recommendations for non-toxic beauty:

- Rabbit Brush :)

- Terra Stoma 

- Fat & The Moon 

- gatherwise

- Rowsie Vain


In conclusion-

FDA regulations on the cosmetic industries have not been updated since 1938, and the FDA does not have the legal authority to approve cosmetics before they go onto the market. They also lack the authority to properly recall potentially dangerous products.

It doesn't seem like large cosmetic companies are looking out for our well-being, and the FDA can't intervene. It's up to us as community members to make sure we are sharing the right information- that we know what to look out for and keep out of our homes & bodies. 

Some other generally toxic cosmetic ingredients to look out for:

- Parfum (Fragrance), is a legal loophole that allows companies to group together ingredients without having to list what they are. This can be proprietary, so avoid any products with artificial perfumes or scents. 


-Coal Tar Dyes (p-phenylenediamine + colors listed as "CI" followed by a 5 digit number)

-DEA related ingredients


-Dibutyl Phthalate


-Sodium Laureth Sulfate




As always, Rabbit Brush is committed to clean, organic, non-toxic, cruelty free ingredients <3 thanks for being here friends!

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