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.


We regularly review new research on the causes of cancer to make sure our information is up to date and based on the best quality evidence. We develop our information by looking at lots of research carried out over many years. So, although new research comes out all the time, it is unlikely that one new study would change our position on a topic.  

Some studies are better than others at telling us about how different factors affect cancer risk. These are some of the things we consider:

  • Did the study look at cells, animals or people?

Studies in animals and cells can help scientists understand how cancer works, but they can’t always tell us how it’s relevant to humans. So we focus on studies in people.

  • How big is the study and how long did it go on for?

Studies on small numbers of people aren’t as reliable, because results are more likely to happen by chance. And studies that only follow people for a short amount of time can miss long-term effects. So we mainly look at studies that follow thousands of people over many years.

  • Did the study account for other factors that could affect someone’s cancer risk?

There are lots of factors that can affect someone’s risk of cancer. Studies should take known risk factors into account. For example, if a study is looking at air pollution and lung cancer, it should also look at whether participants smoked.

  • Where is the study published and who funded it?

It’s important to see if a study is published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. This means that other experts have checked the results. It’s also important to know who funded the study, as this can affect the findings. For example, Cancer Research UK disregards research funded by the tobacco industry.

How to find accurate information on cancer

Sometimes news outlets exaggerate stories about cancer. It’s helpful to think about some of the questions above to judge a news story. But the most important thing is to get information from a trusted source– for example our website and the NHS.

One way of knowing if you can trust health information is by checking if the Patient Information Forum (PIF) has accredited it. The PIF makes sure that information is based on up to date evidence and is high quality.

The Patient Information Forum tick looks like this.

Patient Information Tick

You can read more about spotting fake news on cancer on our blog.

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