The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is telling giant multinational cosmetic company Procter & Gamble to get cancer-causing chemicals out of their cosmetic products now!

We consulted a number of cosmetic databases like Think Dirty and SkinDeep to investigate the presence of carcinogens in products sold by six of the world’s biggest cosmetic companies – Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Revlon, Estee Lauder, Avon and L’Oreal — and then verified our findings by going out and reading product labels. We were shocked by what we found: the majority of the world’s giant multinational cosmetics companies are using chemicals identified as carcinogens by the world’s most-respected scientific authoritative bodies in a whole host of cosmetic and personal care products.

In the case of Procter & Gamble (P&G) we found a number of products made by brands owned by P&G – Cover Girl, Max Factor, Pantene, Herbal Essences, Olay, and Infusium – were made with cancer-causing chemicals.

Procter & Gamble markets its Pantene Beautiful Lengths Finishing Crème with a pink ribbon – even though the product contains DMDM hydantoin — a chemical that releases formaldehyde to preserve the product.

Formaldehyde has been designated as a carcinogen by many authoritative, scientific bodies, including the United States National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found even more chemicals linked to cancer in a number of additional Procter & Gamble products on store shelves:

  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) in CoverGirl and Max Factor mascaras;
  • Benzophenone-1 in CoverGirl nail polishes;
  • Titanium dioxide (in inhalable form) in CoverGirl pressed powders, powder foundations; bronzers, eye shadows and blush; and
  • Formaldehyde releasing preservatives like DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Polyoxymethylene urea and Quaternium-15 in Pantene Beautiful Lengths smoothing hair balm, CoverGirl BB creams, foundations, Herbal Essences hair styling products, Infusium conditioner and leave-in treatments, Miss Jessie’s hair products, Olay anti-aging creams, face washes and moisturizers; CoverGirl foundation makeup, blushes, pressed powders, bronzers, and eye shadows.
  • Styrene which the company includes in its fragrance palette. This means styrene may be present in any P&G product that lists fragrance on the label.

In addition, we found two ingredients that are likely contaminated with carcinogens:

  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) which can be contaminated with PFOA in Olay anti-aging cream and Gillette shaving cream; and
  • Polyacrylamide which can be contaminated with acrylamide in CoverGirl BB cream and Olay anti-aging creams.


If P&G really cares about women’s health, it must do more than merely slap a pink ribbon on its products.

The best way for P&G to prioritize women’s health is to stop using these chemicals linked to cancer in its cosmetics:

Ingredient Why we’re concerned Which Products? Category What’s on the label
Benzephenone-1 Benzophenone is used in personal care products such as lip balm and nail polish to protect the products from UV light. California Proposition 65 lists benzophenone as possible carcinogen. Lip balm, nail polish Cancer
(prop 65); EDC
Benzophenone, benzophenone-1,


Butylated hydroxyanisole;
BHA (25013-16-5)
BHA is used as a preservative in a wide array of personal care products. It is listed as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the United States National Toxicology Program (NTP) designates it reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen, and California’s Proposition 65 lists it as a possible carcinogen. Lotions, lipstick, mascara, nail glue, makeup powders, eye shadow, blushes, tonics and hair grooming aids, artificial nails, nail polishes and enamels, nail adhesives Cancer
Prop 65)
BHA, Butylated hydroxyanisole
Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasing
Preservatives (FRPs)
Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) are used in many personal care products, particularly in shampoos and liquid baby soaps. These chemicals, which help prevent bacteria from growing in water-based products, can be absorbed through the skin. Formaldehyde has been designated a known human carcinogen by many expert and government bodies, including the United States NTP and the IARC. Nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, hair gel, hair-smoothing products, baby shampoo, body soap, body wash, color cosmetics Cancer (Formaldehyde is listed as IARC 1; NTP known) Formaldehyde,
DMDM hydantoin,
imidazolidinyl urea,
diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate,
1,3-diol (bromopol)
Polyacrylamide Polyacrylamide is used as a stabilizer and binder in lotions and other products. Polyacrylamide can be contaminated with acrylamide, which is strongly suspected to be a human carcinogen and has been linked to mammary tumors. Facial cleanser, moisturizer, anti-aging lotions Cancer (contamination with acrylamide, IARC 2A, and Prop 65); developmental toxicant (Prop 65); linked to mammary
polyquaternium, acrylate
Polytetrafluoro-ethylene (PTFE) The most common fluorinated compound used in cosmetics is PTFE, also known by the trade name Teflon®. It is a fluorine-based compound that persists in the environment. It is used in lotions, eye shadows and powders. Perfluor-ooctonoic acid (PFOA) is used in the manufacture of PTFE, and can contaminate the finished product. PFOA is considered a possible carcinogen by the IARC, and considerable evidence links it to endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity. Lotions, eye shadows and powders Contamination with perfluoroo-ctonoic acid (PFOA),
PTFE; Teflon; related compounds include, Polyperfluoro-methylisopropyl Ether, Polytetrafluoroethylene,
DEA-C8-18 Perfluoroalkylethyl
Styrene Styrene may be present as a secret ingredient in fragrance. Since fragrance ingredients are not disclosed on labels, consumers have no way of knowing if the chemical is in their products. It may also be used in products to create an opaque quality, adjust the thickness, or create a chemical film in cosmetics products. Styrene is designated as a possible carcinogen by the IARC, and as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen by that U.S. NTP. Fragrance, Baby shampoos, body washes and soaps, bubble bath, shampoos and conditioners, hair styling products, blushes, aftershave. Cancer (IARC 2B, NTP RA) Fragrance
Titanium dioxide
(in inhalable form)
Titanium dioxide is used in a variety of personal care products, including sunscreens, pressed and loose powders. It is a very effective UV filter, and of low risk in creams. However, when titanium dioxide is inhalable, as is the case in loose powders, it is considered a possible carcinogen by the IARC. Titanium dioxide in nano form should be avoided in powders or spray sunscreens. Sunscreens, pressed and loose powders, eye shadow, blush Cancer (IARC 2B; Prop 65 for airborne,
particles of respirable size)
Titanium dioxide; TiO2