Can cosmetics cause cancer?

  • Using cosmetics doesn't cause cancer 
  • UK law is very strict about the ingredients in cosmetics
  • Always make sure that you buy your cosmetics and toiletries from reputable retailers

Cosmetic products are things like makeup, skin care, hair care, toiletries and perfume. This page looks at whether chemicals in cosmetics cause cancer. The evidence doesn’t suggest that we need to avoid using these products. 

 

Are cosmetics from the UK safe?

Yes, cosmetics are safe if you buy them from a reputable retailer. The UK and EU have strict rules that control the ingredients in cosmetics. This ensures that cosmetics for sale in the UK and EU are safe. Some substances are banned in cosmetics, and others are restricted. For example, some ingredients can only be used in small amounts or ‘rinse-off’ products.

Always buy cosmetics from a reputable retailer and use them in line with manufacturer instructions. Take care if you are buying products online. Cosmetics from outside of the UK and EU may not be regulated by the same rules and could contain harmful ingredients.

 

Can deodorant cause cancer?

No, using deodorants, antiperspirants and body sprays doesn’t cause cancer.

Some people have wondered if aluminium in some deodorants and sprays increases cancer risk. There is no good evidence to suggest this.

The NHS tells people not to use spray deodorants before a breast screening. This is because they can affect the screening results, not because they are harmful.

 

Can hair dye cause cancer?

No, there is no good evidence that the personal use of hair dye causes cancer. This includes regular root coverings, balayage and changing your hair colour.

There is some evidence that daily contact with hair dye, for example by hairdressers and barbers, could increase the risk of bladder cancer. This needs more research for us to be sure.

 

Can talcum powder cause cancer?

No, there is no good evidence that using talcum powder causes cancer.

Some studies have suggested a possible increase in risk of ovarian cancer in women who use talcum powder on their genitals. But there isn’t good enough evidence to say that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer. More research in bigger, higher-quality studies is needed to confirm if there’s a link or not.

 

Can parabens cause cancer?

No, parabens do not cause cancer.

Parabens are used in cosmetic products as a preservative. This means that they allow products to last longer on the shelf.

Some small studies in rats found that paraben might act like the hormone oestrogen, which is linked to breast cancer. But there’s no good evidence linking parabens to breast cancer in humans.

 

Allam, M.F., Breast Cancer and Deodorants/Antiperspirants: a Systematic Review. Cent Eur J Public Health, 2016. https://cejph.szu.cz/artkey/cjp-201603-0015_breast-cancer-and-deodorants...(link is external) 

International Agency for Research on Cancer, Occupational exposures of hairdressers and barbers and personal use of hair colourants. https://monographs.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/mono99-17.pdf(link is external)  2018 

International Agency for Research on Cancer, Volume 93 Carbon Black, Titanium Dioxide, and Talc. https://monographs.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/mono93.pdf(link is external) 2018 

Wu, A.H., et al., Risk of breast cancer and prediagnostic urinary excretion of bisphenol A, triclosan and parabens: The Multiethnic Cohort Study. Int J Cancer, 2021. 149(7): p. 1426-1434. 

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