Toxin Spotlight: Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)?

What It Is

BHT and its relative butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) are synthetic antioxidants that are most commonly used as preservatives.

Where It’s Found

BHT is primarily found in cosmetics, especially lipstick, foundation, eyeliner, and some moisturizers, among others. That being said, this ingredient does not stop at your bathroom cupboard. BHT is also found in numerous food products that require preservatives, including cereal, chips, and cookies.

Is It Bad?

Research around BHT has had various results. On one hand, the David Suzuki Foundation reports that the U.S. National Library of Medicine notes BHT’s association with some allergic reactions on the skin. BHT is also classified as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and is noted for its hormone disrupting properties by the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption. The David Suzuki Foundation also cites how long-term exposure to high doses of BHT in rats has led to liver, thyroid, and kidney problems. To top it off, a United Nations Environment Program assessment classified BHT as having moderate to high potential for bioaccumulation in aquatic organisms, meaning it can build up in the fish we consume.

On the other hand, other organizations have noted data gaps surrounding research around BHT and BHA, meaning the science could be faulty. For example, the European Food Safety Authority claims the evidence of BHT’s carcinogenicity is limited, and the David Suzuki Foundation admits that the claim that BHT mimics estrogen also has limited evidence. The University of California, Berkeley also notes that most research performed on BHA has occurred in test tubes, not on people. In fact, UC Berkeley claims that some tests performed on animals have revealed that BHT and BHA can have anti-cancer properties, such as through their stimulation of enzymes. So in sum, it comes down to you: which side do you choose to bet on?

Alternative Products

If the evidence around BHT’s links to cancer and hormone disruption is too much for you to ignore, then fear not! It is relatively easy to find cosmetics and food products that don’t contain the ingredient, as long as you’re willing to take a little bit of extra time to look. Or let me do the looking for you! Some of my favourite cosmetics that don’t include BHT or BHA are listed below. If nothing else, in an effort to avoid BHT and other preservatives in your food, you’re bound to eat less processed and more whole foods, which is better for your health and the environment–who doesn’t love a win-win situation?

– The Body Shop All-In-One Face Base Powder Foundation:

– The Body Shop Matte Clay Skin Clarifying Foundation:

– Wet N Wild Color Icon Kohl Liner Pencil:

– Pink Dust Cosmetics Lipstick in Bianca:

– Wet N Wild MegaSlicks Lip Gloss:




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