Makeup Side Effects: Lipstick, Primer, Blush, Foundation

Cosmetics may help us look prettier and they can help us Plain Janes transform to gorgeous beauties (as a male Filipino model does transforming himself to Julia Roberts in the images below). But did you know that the beauty products we apply on ourselves can be harmful and dangerous? Here’s a list of the most common makeup essentials, what they do, and their possible side effects:

1. Makeup Primer: Primers are used to ensure that your makeup lasts longer. They also makes your skin smooth and even out its tone. The types of makeup primers are: face primer (use before you apply foundation and after moisturizer), eye primer (use before you apply eyeshadow), lip primer (use before you apply lipstick), and lash primer (use before you apply mascara).

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Makeup primers can cause an allergic reaction. Should this happen to you, you should consult your doctor immediately. Some primers may also cause an acne breakout for those who have acne-prone skin.

2. Lipstick. A few years ago, an organization called Campaign for Safe Cosmetics rang alarm bells on the presence of lead in lipstick after it detected the heavy metal in 61% of the 33 lipsticks it tested with levels ranging from 0.03 ppm to 0.65 ppm. Prompted by the campaign, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) soon conducted its own test and found lead in all 400 lipsticks it tested with levels ranging from 0.9 to 3.06 ppm.

The FDA went on to declare that these lead levels are safe. But, considering that some women are heavy lipstick users (applying it by as much as 14 times a day), the agency has failed to address concerns about the cumulative and long term effects of lead in lipsticks.

What are the effects of lead on the human body? Here’s a list from


  • poor muscle coordination
  • nerve damage to the sense organs and nerves controlling the body
  • increased blood pressure
  • hearing and vision impairment
  • reproductive problems (e.g., decreased sperm count)
  • retarded fetal development even at relatively low exposure levels


  • damage to the brain and nervous system
  • behavioral problems
  • anemia
  • liver and kidney damage
  • hearing loss
  • hyperactivity
  • developmental delays
  • in extreme cases, death

Incidentally, it is worth noting that the EPA believes that there is “no safe level of exposure to lead”.

3. Blush makeup is used to highlight the cheekbones and create a rosy healthy glow giving you a youthful appearance. Blush can cause allergic reactions. To avoid such adverse makeup side effects, you should be familiar with what causes your allergic reactions and not buy cosmetics made with ingredients you are allergic to.

For instance, in a very rare case, carmine – an ingredient used in a brand of blush cosmetics – has been reported to have caused allergic contact dermatitis on a 52-year-old woman.

4. Makeup Foundation. Foundation is used to even out the complexion of your skin as well as to cover the flaws.

Oxybenzone is more commonly found in sunscreens but it is also used in foundations with SPF. What are its possible side effects to your health? Well, here’s what the Environmental Working Group says about its harmful effects:

A new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that 97% of Americans are contaminated with a widely-used sunscreen ingredient called oxybenzone that has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage.

A companion study published just one day earlier revealed that this chemical is linked to low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy. Oxybenzone is also a penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin.

Before you go crazy throwing out your foundations, let me emphasized that not all foundations contain oxybenzone. This is why you should be familiar with the ingredients used to manufacture your makeup.

That’s it for now. Watch out for Makeup Side Effects Part II in the coming days.