What are they and why are they used? BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) is a white or slightly yellow waxy solid and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) is a white powder. Both are chemical compounds that are used as antioxidants or preservatives in cosmetics. Their purpose is to extend the shelf life of products containing oils. When oils are exposed to oxygen, they become rancid over time. With these added toxins, well… they are shelf stable for a very long time.


BHT and BHA are found in TOUSANDS of products including eyeliners, eye shadows, lipsticks, lip gloss, blushes, mascaras, foundations, perfumes, moisturizers, skin cleansers, Preparation H and even Desitin Diaper Cream. If that wasn’t bad enough… they put it in our food, too! I’m not kidding.


BHT and BHA are also used as food preservatives and are found in processed foods (chips, baked goods, sweets) butter, meats, sausage, poultry, cereals, chewing gum, active dry yeast, dry mixes for beverages, vegetable oils and beer.


Why? Well, again, they keep products from going rancid. For this reason, it is also added to the food packaging – you know, to give it a healthy layer of chemicals… errr… I mean, protection.


Okay, back to our topic of skincare. BHA is rated a 10 (highest hazard) on and BHT is rated a 6 (moderate hazard). Both are classified as possible human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.


Studies with animals have shown that BHT causes liver, kidney and thyroid problems and can act as a tumor promoter. These toxic waste products have been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen and disrupt your endocrine system.


The National Toxicology Program also classifies BHA/BHT as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogens.” They can cause severe skin depigmentation. In animal studies, BHA produced liver damage and caused stomach cancers such as papillomas and carcinomas. It also interferes with normal reproductive system development and thyroid hormone levels.


Sounds like a real contender for being added to a multitude of beauty products, doesn’t it? Well, the cosmetic industry certainly though so!


California, products that contain BHA must carry a warning label notifying consumers that it may cause cancer. Limited studies have shown evidence that BHA interferes with hormone function. BHA is banned in the European Union.