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12 Types of Toxic Chemicals Most Commonly Found in Beauty Products

Time to spring clean your makeup bag, these top 12 chemicals are an absolute beauty faux pas!

Photo by Rodolfo Clix from Pexels

The world is becoming more health conscious everyday with food consumption. It seems like every other day someone I know is becoming vegetarian or vegan, or at least trying to be. We shouldn't lack that same initiative when it comes to our beauty products and knowing what's in them. Although cosmetics are agents that are applied to the outer layer of your skin, many of these products get absorbed into our pores and bloodstream. It's important that we do our due diligence and start reading ingredient labels, not only on our food but on our beauty products as well. Below I've accumulated a list of toxic ingredients to look out for on your next make-up shopping trip.

Parabens- is one of the most widely used chemical in beauty products. Parabens are preservatives. Parabens can be found in everything from mascara to moisturizer. Containing estrogen-mimicking properties, these toxins can interfere with the endocrine, nervous, immune, and reproductive systems, and have even been linked to breast cancer.

Petrolatum- Petrolatum is mineral oil jelly (i.e. petroleum jelly). It is used as a barrier to lock moisture in the skin in a variety of moisturizers and also in hair care products to make your hair shine.petrolatum can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Studies suggest that exposure to PAHs — including skin contact over extended periods of time — is associated with cancer.

Formaldehyde- Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP’s) are used in a variety of products to prevent bacterial growth. They are known to cause skin irritations, but pose a more dangerous risk of nasal and nasopharyngeal cancers when inhaled, and are classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a carcinogen. (Think: nail polish remover)

Heavy Metals- Brain damage, lung cancer, and miscarriage are just some of the severe health risks associated with exposure to heavy metals. Although not an intentional ingredient, nickel, chrome, and even lead have been detected in a variety of makeup products as a byproduct of color additives. Since these substances are contaminants and not ingredients themselves, you won’t easily find them listed on a label. The best way to avoid these chemicals is to purchase products that are colored with fruit or natural pigments.

Phthalates- Responsible for endocrine disruption, reproductive birth defects, and increased breast cancer risk, phthalates are a group of chemicals commonly found in deodorants, perfumes, lotions, and nail polishes. Used to plasticize products, these chemicals allow cosmetics to better retain colors and scents. As a result, they are often listed under the ambiguous term “fragrance” on labels.

Polyethylene/PEG compounds- Polyethelyne glycol, also known as PEG compounds, refers to a class of synthetic chemicals responsible for those tiny exfoliating beads in your scrubs and body wash. Containing varying levels of 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide, they are equally harmful to both the environment and your nervous system. These chemicals result in an enhancing effect when other ingredients are applied to the skin, indicated on the label by a number (i.e. “PEG-4” or “PEG-100”). The lower the number, the easier a product is absorbed.

Octinoxate- Valued for its ability to keep cosmetics intact after sun exposure, octinoxate has been linked to endocrine disruption, breast cancer, and thyroid disorders. It is commonly found in sunscreens, skin creams, and lipsticks.

Butylated Compounds- Used as a preservative in industries ranging from food packaging to cosmetics and skin care, butylated compounds are often listed on labels as BHA or BHT. They are prohibited by the European Union under evidence of hormone disruption and have been linked to skin depigmentation and irritation.

Siloxanes- Siloxanes are silicone-based compounds used to soften, smooth, and moisten. As such, they are often found in hair products, deodorants, and moisturizers. Classified by the E.U. as an endocrine disruptor, laboratory tests determined these chemicals have a potentially harmful impact on the immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. Check for the suffixes -siloxane and -methicone when inspecting.

Phenylenediamine- A byproduct of coal processing found in hair dyes and shampoos, phenylenediamine is a known human carcinogen. A respiratory toxicant and skin irritant, it is often listed on labels as “CL” and followed by a five-digit number.

Triclosan- Triclosan is used mainly in antiperspirants/deodorants, cleansers, and hand sanitizers as a preservative and an anti-bacterial agent. In addition to cosmetics, triclosan is also used as an antibacterial agent in laundry detergent, facial tissues, and antiseptics for wounds, as well as a preservative to resist bacteria, fungus, mildew and odors in other household products that are sometimes advertized as “anti-bacterial.” Triclosan can pass through skin i and is suspected of interfering with hormone function.

Carbon Black- Used as a pigment in eyeliners, mascaras, and eyeshadows, carbon black is another carcinogen that has been linked to both skin cancer and organ toxicity. Check your labels for:

  • Acetylene Black

  • Arogen

  • Arotone

  • Channel Black

  • D & C Black No. 2

  • Furnace Black

  • Lamp Black

  • Thermal Black

  • Pigment Black 6

  • Pigment Black 7

So as you can see many of these toxic ingredients could cause cancer. Do yourself a favor and go through the products you have and make sure none of these harmful ingredients are listed, and read product ingredient lists before you purchase. Your body will thank you.



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