NakedPoppy

The ABCs of BHA and BHT

by Valerie Bisharat

What is BHA and BHT

Between BHA, BHT, and a whole bunch of other chemicals, it’s tough to keep up with what's in our makeup. In this post we’ll tackle these two common cosmetic ingredients and break down how they can affect our beauty and our bodies.


What are BHA and BHT?

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and similar chemical butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are man-made compounds used as preservatives and stabilizers in food and personal care products, including makeup. BHT is also sold as a supplement. Both have been linked to serious health issues including cancer (more details on that below). Butylated hydroxyanisole is different from beta hydroxy acid, an exfoliant also called BHA that’s used in some skincare products.

Keep in mind that BHA and BHT are antioxidants, albeit synthetic ones – and are often referred to as such. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe.

BHA and BHT show up in all kinds of makeup products, but especially lipstick and eyeshadow.

How do BHA and BHT affect our health?

BHA and BHT have been linked to quite a few health concerns, including cancer [1], disruption to the hormone system [2], liver damage [3], kidney issues [4], thyroid problems [5], and autoimmunity [6].

They can also contribute to changes in fatigue [7], headaches [8], hives [9], and rashes [10].

How do I get exposed – and how much is harmful?

When we use cosmetics with BHA and BHT, we get exposed through three routes: skin absorption (when products are applied topically), inhalation (mostly when products are sprayed), and ingestion (in trace amounts, especially when wearing lip products).

Like with many other chemicals, people likely respond differently to BHA and BHT, so it's hard to predict exactly how much exposure would be harmful and in what ways. If you suspect you’re sensitive to BHA and BHT, it’s prudent to avoid both altogether.

Of course, minimizing exposure by consuming fewer processed foods that have BHA and BHT as a preservative would help too.

Should I avoid BHA and BHT?

Lots of women enjoy the peace of mind that can come with avoiding products with toxins like BHA and BHT. When you reduce your use of personal care products with toxins, research shows that lower levels of chemicals in the body can register in a few short days [11].

How can I tell if a cosmetics product is formulated without BHA and BHT?

The easiest way is to use items from clean beauty companies who do the screening work for you. Clean isn’t the same as “natural” or “organic” – more on the distinction here.

Second to that, you can read cosmetic ingredient labels and look out for “butylated hydroxyanisole” (BHA) and “butylated hydroxytoluene” (BHT).

Doesn’t the FDA regulate BHA and BHT and other known or suspected toxins?

Despite the potential risks associated with certain chemicals including BHA and BHT, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only restricted 12 other problematic ingredients in cosmetics. BHA and BHT are not included on the list.

On the other hand, the E.U. has banned the use of over 1,300 known or suspected toxins from use in cosmetics. Both BHA and BHT are banned for use in cosmetics in the E.U.

NakedPoppy bottom line: we avoid BHA and BHT

We prefer to use products formulated without BHA and BHT and want to make it easier for you to do the same. NakedPoppy products are all formulated without BHA or BHT, using other preservatives that work well.

This article has been reviewed for accuracy by two scientists: Tim McCraw, PhD chemist and CEO of Skin Science Advisors, and Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., neurologist and PhD in Environmental Toxicology.

What are your questions and comments about BHA and BHT? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear your perspective.

References:

[1] Contribute to cancer:
https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article-abstract/70/2/343/969907

[2] Endocrine disruption:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0300483X04006079

[3] Liver problems:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/605053
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0300483X04006079

[4] Kidney problems:
ttps://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0300483X86901599

[5] Thyroid problems:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0300483X04006079

[6] Autoimmunity:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15120750

[7] Fatigue:
Bingham, E.; Cohrssen, B.; Powell, C.H.; Patty's Toxicology Volumes 1-9 5th ed. John Wiley & Sons. New York, N.Y. (2001)., p. V5 927

[8] Headaches:
Bingham, E.; Cohrssen, B.; Powell, C.H.; Patty's Toxicology Volumes 1-9 5th ed. John Wiley & Sons. New York, N.Y. (2001)., p. V5 927

[9] Hives:
Bingham, E.; Cohrssen, B.; Powell, C.H.; Patty's Toxicology Volumes 1-9 5th ed. John Wiley & Sons. New York, N.Y. (2001)., p. V5 927

[10] Rashes:
Bingham, E.; Cohrssen, B.; Powell, C.H.; Patty's Toxicology Volumes 1-9 5th ed. John Wiley & Sons. New York, N.Y. (2001)., p. V5 927

[11] Reduction in days:
http://www.inchem.org/documents/jecfa/jecmono/v10je03.htm
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015626467831481

2 comments

Gd Mar 11, 2018

Great..

Paul Mar 10, 2018

Awesome!

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