Commonly used as an embalming fluid, camphor is a waxy substance derived from a variety of trees and contains turpentine oil. Scientifically, camphor is known as C10H160. At the time of publication, camphor is still being used in many beauty products in the United States although it is banned for such use in Canada. Research shows that camphor causes seizures and can be toxic to children. Nail polishes, lipsticks and other makeup are some of the products containing camphor.

Nail Polish

Camphor is found in many types of nail products, particularly nail polish. Maybelline is one of the brands that still has camphor in its products at the time of publication. The Wet Shine line has the highest amounts of camphor. Other brands known for including camphor in their ingredients include Wet & Wild, Sally Hansen, Avon and Cover Girl. However, not all of Sally Hansen’s nail products contain camphor.


There is an abundance of lipsticks and lip products on the market that list camphor as an active ingredient. Camphor gives these products the waxy consistency which holds it together. At the time of publication, Almay lipsticks in the One Coat Lip Shine line contain camphor. Chapstick lipbalm medicated as well as the Chapstick Spearmint use camphor. Blistex Liptex is another lip product which contains this substance.

Make up

Camphor is found in numerous makeup products. Typically, it is listed in the ingredients under the name camphor, norcamphor, or camphor laurel. In makeup, camphor is generally used as a bonding ingredient to hold products such as pressed powders together. At the time of publication, Cover Girl pressed powders and Ultimate finish liquid makeup both use this chemical. Sea Breeze astringent make up remover also uses camphor as an ingredient. Camphor assists in giving the remover its medicinal aroma.

Safe Alternatives

Although many products on the market still contain camphor at the time of publication, there are many safe alternatives that do not. L’Oreal Quick Dry and Jet Set varieties of nail polish are camphor free. Revlon Max Speed 1-Minute Manicure as well as Nailene nail glue are two safe nail care alternatives. However, finding camphor-free lipsticks can be a challenge. Peacekeeper brand offers its Paint Me line of nail colors. In the makeup department Maybelline offers both loose and pressed powers without camphor. L’Oreal Visible Lift makeup is another safe choice. If chemicals are a worry for you, there are a variety of organic brands on the market.

Adverse Reactions

Camphor-related reactions vary but include headaches, stomachache, and hallucinations. Ingestion leads to liver problems. The FDA requires that any product containing camphor must have a level less than 11 percent, which is considered to be safe in small amounts of use. Skin irritations are possible. Pregnant women should use camphor products sparingly as research shows camphor crosses the placenta, which potentially can cause fetal exposure.