Close-up of 5 different makeup brushes with different colored powders on their bristles

WHAT IS IT? TBHQ is a phenolic preservative and stabilizer used in cosmetics, varnishes, lacquers, baby skin care products and resins.

HEALTH RISK: TBHQ is in fact, a chemical preservative which is a form of butane. This chemical is not only used in the stabilization process of explosive compounds, but also as a preservative in beauty products and food. Consuming high doses (between 1 and 4 grams) of TBHQ can cause nausea, delirium, collapse, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and vomiting. There are also suggestions that it may lead to hyperactivity in children as well as asthma, rhinitis and dermatitis. It may also further aggravate ADHD symptoms and cause restlessness. A number of studies have found it to be mutagenic (DNA damage) or carcinogenic (cancer-causing) at high doses. TBHQ is a phenol, so it does have the potential to interfere with the way estrogen and estrogen receptors work in the body.

ALTERNATIVES TO TRY: Look for foods and products that are ‘preservative-free’. Become a label-reader and watch out for those four little letters. It’s important to eat fresh foods that don’t require preservatives as often as possible and, when necessary, to buy packaged products free from unnatural and potentially harmful preservatives.  The same is true of bath and beauty products and other items used in the home: read labels and avoid products heavy in preservatives like TBHQ.

For more on toxic ingredients you should be avoiding check out our other Toxic Tuesdays here.

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