Manufacturing goods designed to enhance external appearance and fragrance, the cosmetics industry is involved in the production of make-up, skincare, oral care, haircare and perfume. Continually developing new and better products to bring to the marketplace, cosmetics is a highly innovative and science-driven industry.

Generating an estimated $170 billion USD worldwide, the cosmetics sector continues to grow at a steady pace. Largely due to growing usage by both men and women, the industry stays strong despite economic downturns and market fluctuations. An increasing ageing population and the demand for anti-ageing products also fuels the sector’s growth.

Batch Mixing

The manufacture of makeup and skincare products often requires the blending of powders and other ingredients in large mixers or blenders. Referred to as batch mixing, the application is essential to obtain the correct consistency and texture for lotions, creams, makeup and haircare products.

Even with the use of highly efficient, state-of-the art machinery, batch mixing still creates a significant amount of dust as workers need to continuously load and unload ingredients into the machines. These dusts affect the facility’s air quality and put the workers’ health at risk.

But these dusts do more than pose a threat to worker health, they can also disrupt shop equipment and electronics. If not properly controlled, these dust accumulate inside machines causing them to malfunction.

Chemicals Used in Cosmetics Manufacturing

Many of the dusts created by batch mixing contain chemicals that are hazardous to worker health. Some of the most common toxic ingredients found in the manufacture of cosmetics include:

Titanium Dioxide

Often used as a pigment, titanium dioxide is found in many cosmetics, sunscreens and toothpastes. On its own, titanium dioxide is relatively benign. But more and more companies are using what is referred to as titanium dioxide nanoparticles. Ultra-microscopic in size, these nanoparticles can penetrate the skin, making their way into blood vessels and the blood stream. Exposure to these nanoparticles can have toxic effects on the brain as well as causing nerve damage

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has labelled titanium dioxide a Group 2B carcinogen. These findings were based on animal studies that showed the inhalation of titanium dioxide dust over time can lead to cancer.

Butylated Compounds (BHA BHT)

Used as a preservative, butylated compounds (BHA and BHT) are found in lip and hair products, makeup, sunscreen, deodorants, fragrance and creams. Exposure of butylated compounds can lead to irritation, endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, cancer as well as developmental and reproductive toxicity. Dermal exposure has been associated with toxic effects in lung tissue.

Carbon Black

A black powder used as pigment, carbon black is found in eyeliner, mascara, nail polish, lipstick and other types of makeup. Containing organic contaminants, inhaling carbon black can lead to tumors on the lungs, bladder and skin.

The IARC has labeled carbon black as a possible human carcinogen. The powder form of carbon black poses a serious threat to workers as they risk exposure through inhalation and eye contact. Research suggests that breathing carbon black powder may lead to lung disease as well as increased incidence of cardiovascular disease.

Coal Tar

Derived from burning coal, coal tar is found in hair dyes, soaps, shampoos and lotions. Coal tar is a mixture of several different chemicals, some of which are known to be carcinogenic including benzene, toluene, naphthalene, anthracene and xylene.

Epidermal exposure of coal tar can lead to skin tumors. It has also been linked to cancers of the lung, bladder, kidney and digestive tract. A component of coal tar, pyridine, has been associated with neurological damage, sleep and emotional disturbances as well as loss of coordination.

Crystalline Silica

Crystalline silica is used in the manufacture of lipstick, lip gloss, eyeshadow, eyeliner, foundation, sunscreen, lotion and shampoo. When inhaled, silica can penetrate the lungs and cause a number of health issues including silicosis, an incurable disease that affects the lungs. Tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and kidney disease have all been associated with silica exposure.

Labelled a known human carcinogen by the IARC, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has set guidelines for workplace exposure to silica dust. The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for workers is 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8 hour period. To adhere to these guidelines, businesses need to implement strict engineered controls for the safe capture of silica dust.


A colorless, strong smelling, flammable chemical, formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC) used in the manufacture of some personal care products. Formaldehyde can be found in makeup, nail polishes and glue, hair care and bath products, even some baby shampoos.

Companies use formaldehyde to inhibit microbes from growing in water-based products. Giving off a toxic gas, formaldehyde can cause a number of health problems when inhaled. The IARC has classified formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. Studies done on workers exposed to the chemical have shown a correlation between it and leukemia, brain cancer and tumor formation.

Recognizing the risks formaldehyde poses to the workforce, OSHA has set guidelines for exposure limits. Under OSHA regulations, workers should not be exposed to more than 0.75 parts per million (ppm) of formaldehyde over an 8-hour period.


Workers in the cosmetics manufacture setting are also at high risk of experiencing health problems as a result of exposure to mica.

A mineral dust used in makeup foundations, mica is toxic when inhaled. Many workers who have been exposed to mica over several years have experienced respiratory problems including lung scarring.

Heavy Metals

Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, chromium and cadmium can all be found in personal care products. While some of these metals are intentionally added as ingredients, others are contaminants.


Found in some lipsticks, lead is a highly toxic neurotoxin that has been link to learning, language and behavioral problems. Other problems associated with lead include infertility, hormone disruption and miscarriage.


A contaminant found in some lotions, shampoos and foundations, exposure to arsenic can lead to hyperpigmentation, vascular complications and keratosis. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has stated that arsenic may cause lung and lymphatic cancer and has the potential to damage the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs and lymphatic system. Exposure can result through inhalation, skin and eye contact as well as ingestion.


Used as a preservative in mascara, eye makeup cleansing products as well a skin lightening creams and soap, mercury can cause nervous system, reproductive, immune and respiratory toxicity with exposure.


Used as a colorant, aluminum is often found in deodorants, shampoos and cosmetics. In powder form, aluminum poses a number of health risks. Exposure to aluminum powder over the long-term may lead to Alzheimer’s Disease as well as organ-system toxicity, neuro-toxicity and hormone disruption.


Another heavy metal that’s used as a pigment by cosmetics companies, chromium poses serious health risks to workers. A known human carcinogen, exposure to chromium can result in lung cancer. It can also lead to the formation of tumors and immune, respiratory and systemic toxicity. The PEL for chromium is 5 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour period as recommended by OSHA.


Found in lip gloss and eye shadow, cadmium also serves as a colorant. High levels of exposure over a short period of time can result in flu-like symptoms and damage the lungs. A known carcinogen, chronic exposure of cadmium over a long period of time may result in kidney, bone and lung disease. OSHA has set the PEL for cadmium at 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour period.

We at Diversitech understand the dangers faced working in the cosmetics industry. To protect workers from inhaling toxic materials used in personal care products, we provide a series of cartridge dust collectors and extraction arms. For dangerous fumes from VOCs like formaldehyde, we offer our FRED Overspray Master as well as our downdraft booths.

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