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“My lipstick contains soy!” And Other Soy-Laced Beauty Discoveries

An alarming discovery:

Soy is contained in most cosmetics, hair products, and skin care products.

WHAT?! So, I’ve been poisoning my allergic-to-soy skin with various beauty products for years and years? No wonder my skin has been so irritated and unhappy. This could explain my adult acne and eczema. What’s more – my LIPSTICKS contained soy which means I’ve been ingesting small doses of soy all day long. Actually, after all the research I’ve done about soy in our foods, I can say that about more than just my lipsticks. But I digress.

A few weeks ago, I posted a small blurb about soy in cosmetics to my Facebook friends, just days after learning nearly every beauty product I owned contained soy. It was shortly afterwards that I realized I needed to start this blog.

The soy-laced cosmetics I've been using for years

The soy-laced beauty products I’ve been using for years.

This picture speaks volumes. First, ladies, can you imagine how much money I have invested in all these products?! I’ve used some high-end brands, and over the years this collection has cost me a pretty penny. Each of my products contain an ingredient shown as “soy” or “tochopherol” (which is most often derived from soy, but can be derived from wheat, cotton seed, olive oil, and others). The tocopherol ingredient has many names: Alpha-Tocopherol, a-Tocopherol, D-Alpha-Tocopherol, Vitamin E, D-MIXED-TOCOPHEROLS, O-Tocoferol, E 307, Tokopherol, Soy Tocopherols, Pflanzliches Vitamin E.

Many cosmetics companies use a soy-based tocopherol, yet they are not required to share the source of the tocopherol on the ingredients list. This bothers me. Does it bother you? I know I’m not the only one with topical allergies to soy – it would be so helpful if I could easily determine if I am allergic to the product before I buy it. Plus, lipstick is ultimately ingested…shouldn’t companies be required to state clearly that a known allergen is contained in their lipstick?? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect cosmetic companies to alert the customers to a possible allergy risk, whether it be for those allergic to soy, gluten, or any other known allergen that might be in the product.

Anyway, because there is a high probability that the tocopherol ingredient used in the product is derived from soy, when I’m shopping for makeup or skin care products, if I see the name tocopherol (or any one of it’s alternate names), I just assume it’s derived from soy and move on to another brand of makeup. Makeup is expensive, my time is valuable, and I don’t want to take any chances.

However, I did contact the companies who make the makeup I’ve been using (MAC, NARS, Bare Essentials Bare Minerals, and Laura Mercier) to see if they use soy in their products, and asked what their tocopherol is made from. Here are the responses:

  • From the Consumer Care Representative at MAC: “In regards to Tocopherol (Vitamin E), we are unable to determine the exact derivation of the ingredient as there are varied sources and vary from formulation to formulation…the Vitamin E could be derived from various sources such as synthetic, soy, etc.” In other words, MAC isn’t sure where their tochopherol is derived from at any given time…it could have soy in one batch and no soy in another. To be safe, avoid any MAC product containing the ingredient tochopherol. The MAC products that I owned that definitely contain soy (as confirmed by a MAC chemist) are the eye shadows, paint pot, powder plushes, sheer tone shimmer blush, mineralize blush, several lipsticks, and all the products in the Prep + Prime line. The Frost lipstick and Sheertone blush did not contain soy.
  • From NARS Cosmetics Customer Service: “Please be advised that NARS Sheer Glow and Sheer Matte Foundations and the Larger Than Life Lip Gloss currently contain soy. The other products you requested information on [blush, eyeshadow, and powder] do not contain soy derivatives as a synthetic vitamin e is used.”
  • From Bare Essentials Bare Minerals Corporate Office (as explained to me over the phone): “The tocopherol ingredient (vitamin E) is derived from soy.” This means that each of the products in the skin care line are off-limits for those that need to avoid soy. In fact, anything that is not a loose powder mineral product is off-limits too (those products in liquid, pancake, or lipstick form). The good news is, soy avoiders CAN use the loose powder mineral foundations, eyeshadows, and blushes (see more about this below). Please be sure to check the ingredients to ensure tocopherol is not an ingredient in the product you buy.
  • From Laura Mercier Customer Service: “Laura Mercier lists the ingredients for their products on the website so you can print, review and discuss with your doctor. The source of our Vitamin E (tocopherol) is bioengineered and not derived from any plant or animal.” This means the tocopherol is not made from soy. Great! However, I should note that after not using my Laura Mercier products for 3 weeks, I wore it last weekend and ended up with a terrible bumpy rash on my face. I checked out the ingredients list of the foundation and found the ingredients list to be more than a page long in MS Word. Apparently, while their products are soy free, they are not sensitive enough for my skin.

So…I am giving away my soy-filled beauty products to a friend (I’m wondering if maybe that isn’t a nice thing to do). What have I replaced them with? First, a disclaimer: please read the labels before you buy anything! Companies can change the ingredients at any time, so don’t just take my word that a product is soy-free. Double check for yourself before you make the purchase.

For makeup, I use Bare Essentials Bare Minerals loose powder foundation, eye shadow, and blush. I’m pretty happy with this choice of makeup. Beware though, the loose powder is messy and you can expect a bit of countertop cleanup after your applications.

Bare Essentials Bare Minerals

The loose powder mineral foundation, eyeshadow, and blush by Bare Essentials Bare Minerals is soy free. Beware of their other products – the tocopherol ingredient is always derived from soy.

Sephora store has several brands of lipsticks that are tocopherol-free. The brand I went with is Make Up For Ever.

Make Up For Ever lipstick is tocopherol-free.

Make Up For Ever lipstick is tocopherol-free.

I ditched my old face cleanser and my moisturizers since they were soy-infested. I am fortunate to have found Dermalogica, which carries SOME soy-free products: Ultracalming Cleanser, Ultracalming Serum Concentrate, Ultracalming Mist, and Active Moist (not in the Ultracalming line).

The Dermalogica has a few great soy-free products: Ultracalming Serum Concentrate, Ultracalming Cleanser, Ultracalming Mist, and Active Moist (not in the Ultracalming line).

So, now I’ve found makeup and skin care products that keep me happy. In fact, the few soy-free products in the Dermalogica Calming line actually do seem to calm my skin when I have low-grade itching. If I have a full-blown itchy flareup, these products won’t touch the problem…so I will resort to my dermatologist-prescribed medications. By the way, Dermalogica has body washes in the calming line too! I’ll be ordering some next month. My back will thank me…my wallet will not.

My shampoo and conditioner advertise as vegan and natural (Abba)…but they contain hydrolyzed soy. Instead, I replaced them with Bumble and Bumble Seaweed line of shampoo and conditioner. I am quite happy with this switch. Note 1/22/14: A reader of mine posted they contacted Bumble and Bumble and found out that the products do contain ingredients derived from soy! I have recently been experiencing irritated skin and I didn’t know why. This may be it. 

Bumble and Bumble Seaweed Line is soy-free

Bumble and Bumble Seaweed Line is soy-free…and I love what these products do for my hair.

Here are some great products for kids (and adults too!): The Original Sprout line is soy-free. I used the shampoo and conditioner for a while and it left my hair a bit too dry for all the blow-drying I do. The Natural Hair Gel works well enough. The Scruptious Baby Cream has a yummy vanilla scent and I use it as my body moisturizer. Johnson’s Baby Shampoo is also soy-free.

Great soy-free products for kids (and adults)

Great soy-free products for kids (and adults) by Original Sprout and Johnson & Johnson

I should mention that my soy-free replacements have been costly. Surely there must be more non-salon brands that are soy-free! Please feel free to post some of your finds down below.

One last thing. The U.S. Department of Health has a website called Household Products Database that allows you to do a search on household or personal products containing soy (or any other ingredient for that matter). It doesn’t seem to be an exhaustive list, but perhaps it can be a good start for checking the items you use.

In wellness!

36 responses »

  1. Do you know that glycerin and PEGs are often soy based as well?

  2. According to this website Johnson’s Baby Shampoo is not soy free –

    Water (eau) (Source: Water), Decyl Glucoside (Source: Coconut, Palm Kernel, Corn), Cocoglycerides (Source: Coconut, Palm Kernel), Sodium Coco-Sulfate (Source: Coconut, Palm), Coco-Glucoside (Source: Coconut, Palm Kernel), Glyceryl Oleate (Source: Sunflower), Polyglyceryl-10 Laurate (Source: Coconut, Palm, Soybean), Glycerin (Source: Coconut, Palm, Soybean), Xanthan Gum (Source: Soy, Corn), Sodium Benzoate (Source: *), Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose (Source: Plant, Mineral), Citric Acid (Source: *), Sodium Hydroxide (Source: *), Parfum (Source: Plant), * The remaining ingredients are essential to blend the product together and maintain effectiveness.

  3. Ultra Pure Cosmetics has the majority soy-free…but the handful that do have soy are marked clearly! <3, 100% Pure is soy-free. The use rice bran oil. And Tarte has a page of soy-free items, though I wish there were more because they're the only one I find in my local Ulta! Everything else I have to buy online. 100% Pure will do color match with a photo of you without makeup through live chat. They did an amazing job of matching and I love their foundation!

  4. I have had good luck using Hugo Natural products. They are soy free, gluten free and all natural.

  5. What about glycerin? It used to be mostly deprived from animal fat but is now mostly deprived from soy. Please advise, if possible, as to the presence of glycerin in the products you chose. You’very obviously found relief but my allergy is severe! Thanks for your helpful post 😉

  6. Hey I think I am allergic to soy also. Ive been trying to find a shampoo. What kind of shampoo do you use now? I was going to get the Johnson and Johnson but I don’t see how it’s soy free. Tried Hugo naturals and it’s real dry. Also tried California baby and it seems to irritate my scalp. Please help.

  7. Thank you so much for this post! I recently discovered I am highly sensitive to soy (it reacts in my body like birth control pills did … no fun) and this website is a godsend! 🙂

    I was just on the “Original Sprout” website to hopefully replace my shampoo & conditioner, but I noticed they have “vegetable glycerin” listed in the ingredients. It is my understanding that this is usually soy-based. But the product is labelled as “soy-free,” which is confusing! I’ve sent them a message to see if I can get more information.

  8. After ingesting something that may contain soy, does anyone experience lip tingling or immediate irritation of just the top lip (mine is left side only)….I am trying to eliminate certain things from my diet and have been given 1000 different diagnosis, my newest venture is soy; however, like most of you I had no idea so many of my products have soy hidden in them that I didnt even consider.

    • I do! Two years ago I suffered from muscle weakness, fascicculations, headaches, fatigue, neuropathy, and a laundry list of other nuisances including dry, itchy skin, anxiety, and a TIA. I was seen by every specialist in the book, subjected to a battery of repeated tests, CT SCANs, MRI’so, blood draws, etc. My physician encouraged me to get away from gluten as it is a know contributing factor. Navigating further away from gluten and dairy, I got worse. With fears of MS or ALS, I threw in the towel and went to see an allergist. I’m now known to be allergic to bananas, kiwi, and, you guessed it, SOY! The repair has been gradual as it it super difficult to remember the name of every culprit name. I felt better but I’m still not out of the woods but plan to be soon with my newfound knowledge. Glycerin is also mostly deprived from soy and THIS was the worst surprise. Neosporin? Forget about it–made my skin fall off…no joke. Moisturizers (which hit me the hardest long term) burned my face.

      What got me the most was the tingling in my lips after I would eat cereal with almond milk. I never once thought to read the label. Why? After all, I wasn’t buying soy milk. So, to answer your question again after all of that, yes. Hidden soy is out there and, I swear, they’re trying to kill me, lol. In short, I feel your pain.

  9. Hi just came upon your blog as I am still looking for SOY FREE lipstick and Mascara. My adventure with soy started almost 3 years ago and after much trial and error it was determined that I had a hypersensitivity to soy. Like most people when I was trying to clear my diet of soy I thought it would be easy to just look for the word on the ingredient list. It is not, I stumbled upon another blog If you look at this you will see that there are 75 different names for and potential sources of soy in foods, skin care, cosmetics and even your medicine. Vitamin E or tocopherols is not the only ingredient in lipstick that can be soy. Occasionally, I go on a search for lipstick and mascara and still haven’t found one. If you are taking antihistamines for your allergies the only antihistamine that I have found to be soy free is the Benadryl Clear capsules. Soy is used as a binder or emulsifier in the majority of over the counter and prescription drugs. So if you are soy free and still having problems this is a place to look. Along with the soy I have contact dermatitis from MCI/MI which is right there with the soy in just about all of the skin care, hair care and laundry products. There is a line of products – VaniCream that the majority of their products are soy free and I use their bar soap, sunscreen, and body lotion. I have been using Acure shampoo and conditioner with wonderful results and Nourish organic deodorant again with wonderful results.

    • I found a soy free mascara at my Dollar Tree of all places and it’s pretty good. I have insanely long lashes and, most days, mascara is all I wear. You can find larger tubes at Sephora and Ultra but my dollar store tube is tiny. PÜR makes soy free Mascara and I can’t speak for anyone’s lipstick personally but Younique has soy free lip gloss.

      I hope this helps! Also, Google “soy free non-food items” to see a huge list of goodies.

  10. Gabriel and ZuZu Luxe cosmetics including lipstick and mascara are all Gluten and Soy free. I received conformation from the owner via email. They re-formulated the line in January to be Soy free. There website lists all ingredients. Still trying to find a good shampoo and conditioner does anyone have any ideas? 😊

  11. I am loving your blog and all the info in it. Thank you! I called bumble and bumble today to confirm ingredients and they stated that some of the ingredients in the Seaweed shampoo and conditioner are soy derived.(i wanted to do this prior to spending $25 a bottle) I also had them check for other types and labels and they all had soy ingredients. Are you reaction free when you use this shampoo/conditioner? Bumble and bumble’s customer care line is 1-800-573-7009.

  12. I am so happy to have found your blog. In addition to being recently told I have an intolerance to soy foods I decided the skin problems I am experiencing may be caused by soy in the products I use on my skin. Lipstick is a big one I’ve found out. I am going to try some if the products you have found safe for your skin to see if they work for me. As you mentioned, I agree that it is a costly endeavor to spend money only to find your skin can’t tolerate it!! then dealing with the red rashy skin I’m left with due to timeless reactions. wanted to know if you have tried RMS beauty products?
    I’ve seen mention on other soy-free sites.

  13. I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you! Thanks for doing this leg work for us, I’ve experimented (and paid) too much to always end up discovering that the product has soy. This is a huge help to me! Ps. I love you. 

  14. I AM Goddess and Poofy Organics’ products are ALL soy free! I love the body scrub, all purpose cleaner, mascara, nail polish, lotions & deoderant (that actually works!).

  15. A great soy free eyeliner and mascara I found is made by 100% Pure. All of their products are fantastic and soy free. I received an e-mail from the company confirming this.

    • hmmmm…..I e-mailed 100% pure and they told me that “some” of their products are soy free but I think also that they use soy-ink for the products too:(…What gives?

  16. Either I missed it or it wasn’t mentioned so I wanted to leave a note concerning. Please be advised if you didn’t already know that the “glycerin” and/or “vegetable glycerin” listed in a product could be soy derived as well.

  17. I have a soy allergy. I use a lot of Badger Balm products. Most of their items are soy free. If their items are not soy free, it is very clearly labeled. Also, I have been living with a soy allergy for 10+ years, and 10 years ago, people thought I was crazy for asking about make up and other beauty product ingredients. I am happy to see that I am not alone.

  18. Thank you for posting. Just figured out that my 15 year struggle with major skin issues is due to a soy allergy. It is an overwhelming task to tackle. You have given me a great start.

  19. Love your blog. I have no soy or Milk allergy as I can put it on my skin or eat it without any problems and although I think if you don’t have an allergy to Milk that it is good for you…SOY IS NOT! I recommend a book called “The whole soy story”. It is very scary what I have learned. Soy does some horrible things to your body over time. I would also suggest people google Why soy is bad for them. I’m sure you could also come up with benefits of soy But after reading “the whole soy story” I think everyone should stay away as much as possible! some of the adverse affects of soy – hair loss, estrogen dominance, thyroid/ breast cancer, alzheimers, weight gain, shuts down thyroid, sterilization & fertility problems…etc.

  20. Oh…another good soy free line is “emulate” its a very small company and you have to order direct from them…but I love the cleanser and moisturizer!
    They even have sunscreen.

    I am still hunting for soy free mascara and eye liner…any one have some ideas?

  21. Try Hugo Naturals….everything is soy free and we love all their products!

    • i checked Hugo products and has soy,i also tried baby johnson shampoo after couple hours my scalp start feeling itchy.any recommendations im allergy to soy,almonds and peaches

  22. Thank you! I just found out I was allergic to soy in June and switched all my moisturizers (also allergic to oats). I am still breaking out but didn’t know about the tocopherol. It is in my moisturizer. Will be trying out he ones you have listed here. So glad I found this. Thanks again!

  23. Pingback: CeraVe Skincare Line is Soy-Free/Easily Make Your Own Liquid Foundation Using Mineral Makeup « A Soy and Milk-Free Life

  24. Thank you SO much for this, it has helped me immensely! I have a soy allergy and couldn’t figure out why I was breaking out and my skin was acting strange…now I realize most of the products I am using contain tocopherol. Now, is tocopheryl the same thing?

    • You’re most welcome! I’m so happy this helped you. Tocopherol is basically the vitamin E ingredient. It is most often derived from soybeans (it may be the cheapest way to produce vitamin E). So, my assumption has been that if the product’s ingredient list includes tocopherol, I assume the tocopherol is derived from soy, unless I am assured by the company that it is not. I am currently writing two companies about this very thing — Givenchy and Estee Lauder. I’ll report back what I find here…

  25. Thanks for the AWESOME blog!! Have you by any chance discovered a soy free eyeliner? I cannot live without it, but mine is making my eyes itch 😦 Thanks for all of the helpful information!!!

    • You’re most welcome, Dara! I have the same problem with itchy eyes, and I’ve neglected to search for an alternative yet since my changeover to all new cosmetics has been so expensive. Laura Mercier claims to use no animal or plant materials in their makeup, so I’ll likely start there. Their foundation still irritates my skin even though it contains no soy, but at one time I could tolerate it. If you find any other good options, please let me know!

  26. Pingback: Living a Soy and Milk-Free Life: 4 Month Progress Report « A Soy and Milk-Free Life

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