Toxic Ingredients in Skin Care Products

Toxic is a subjective word but I use it with confidence.  In the skin care and cosmetics that you use everyday there are industrial chemicals such as carcinogens, pesticides and hormone disruptors.  There are degreasers, surfactants, lead, tar and mercury… Would you call these toxic?  I would!  And they are in the products that we are putting on our skin and in our hair and mouth.

There are so many nasty ingredients in our skin care and cosmetics that the list could go on forever, but I have compiled some of the most common chemicals found in the products we use everyday.


  • Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamide (MEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)
    • Used to make products creamy and sudsy.  DEA also acts as a PH adjuster, counteracting the acidity of other ingredients.  Found in shampoos and moisturisers.
      • Can cause mild to moderate eye and skin irritation.
      • Suspected carcinogens.
  • Formaldehyde-Realeasing Preservatives such as DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Methenamine and Quaternium-15.
    • Preservatives used to stop skincare from spoiling.  Found in nail polish, body washes, shampoo, conditioners and eye shadows.
      • Known human carcinogen.
      • Can cause allergic skin reactions.
  • Coal Tar goes by Aminophenol, Diaminobenzene and Phenylenediamine.  Also look for FD&C or D&C which proceed a colour and number.
    • These are used as synthetic colours.  Used in hair dyes and dandruff and psoriasis shampoos.
      • Known human carcinogen.
      • Can cause skin sensitivity and irritation.
  • Parabens (Methyl, Butyl, Ethyl, Propyl).
    • Most commonly used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mould and yeast.  Also used as fragrance ingredients that manufacturers do not need to list on the label.  Used in deodorants, body washes, makeup and facial cleansers.
      • Interfere with male and female hormone function.
      • Suggested link with breast cancer.
  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) also Propylene Glycol and Polyoxyethylene.
    • Petroleum-based compounds used as thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisture-carriers.  Found in baby care items, moisturisers, sunscreen, makeup, shampoo, conditioners and hair spray.
      • Can be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane which are known human carcinogens.
  • Phthalates such as Dibutyl Phthalates, Diethyl Phthalates, Dimethyl Phthalates.
    • A group of chemicals used to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics.  Found in deodorants, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays and moisturisers.
      • Links to liver/kidney/lung damage and cancer.
      • Links to increased risk of breast cancer.
      • Links to reproductive birth defects in males and females.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).
    • Is a foaming agent found in shampoos, soaps and cleansers.
      • Can be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane which are known human carcinogens.
      • Possible skin and eye irritant.
  • Triclosan
    • Used as a preservative and antibacterial agent.  Found in antibacterial hand soaps, hand sanitisers, deodorants, cleansers and toothpaste.
      • Can interfere with hormone function.
      • Possible irritant to skin and eyes.
      • May contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Toluene also Benzene, Toluol, Phenylmethane, Methlbenzene.
    • It is a petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal-tar sources used as a solvent in nail polish, nail treatments, hair colour and bleaching treatments.
      • Can cause developmental damage in fetuses.
      • Known to disrupt the immune system.
      • Can interfere with hormone function.
  • Sunscreen chemicals such as Avobenzone, Benzphenone, Homosalate, Ethoxycinnmate and PABA.
    • These chemicals function as a sunscreen agent to absorb ultraviolet light.
      • Can interfere with hormone function.
      • Can also cause cellular damage and cancer.


  • Fragrance, Parfum.
    • This is actually the most scary category!!  This term was created to protect manufacturers “trade secret formula” fragrances.  It can take three thousand or more chemicals to create a fragrance and companies do not have to disclose this on the label, they just group it under the Fragrance or Parfum term.  Some nasties that can also be grouped in this category is Phthalates, Parabens and Toluene.
      • Can cause allergic reactions, asthma and breathing difficulties.
      • Some have link to cancer.



I know so many people are still blissfully unaware, as I was until recently, of what they are putting on their skin.  So I thought a handy little list of the baddies that you can print out or save on your phone would be useful.

Just remember to always read the label and buy certified organic where you can.

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha


Join the journey
Sign up to our newsletter
We respect your privacy.

11 thoughts on “Toxic Ingredients in Skin Care Products

    1. I love that there are so many organic brands now. I also love supporting small boutique organic skincare companies. I know they really appreciate my business.

  1. There are so many nasty chemicals out there! I can’t believe what we put up with in the name of beauty. thanks for sharing on #wastelesswednesday blog hop!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.