Harmful Chemicals in Cosmetics List to Avoid

The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, 

take their revenge;
for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future.
~ Marya Mannes, More in Anger, 1958 ~

          The following list is a Work in Progress and Incomplete.

We do NOT now, and NEVER will use any of the ingredients on this list

Please bookmark this list, use it to reference the ingredients on future purchases of personal care products.

Go through products you are currently using to assess the risk to your own health and your family’s health.

We have tried to create a fair number of harmful chemicals in cosmetics that should be avoided for the potential damage these are known for causing to your health, the environment and everyone’s future.

Please be aware this is List of Harmful Chemicals in Cosmetics; Skincare and Hair Care, intended to provide you with information that will help you identify the Synthetic, Petrochemicals and/or Natural Chemicals known for having Toxic Effects to People, Planet or Both. 

The Process of chemicals entering your body through your skin is called Dermal Absorption. Your skin is the largest organ of your body and what it absorbs, it distributes. Chemicals that are absorbed through the skin will enter directly into the bloodstream encountering intestinal microflora or the enzymes,acids in the GI tract, kidneys  and liver that may break down, neutralize, and detoxify many of them before they enter the bloodstream Add to it the presence of food digesting at the same time and the absorption rate can become even less. 
Chemicals that enter our bloodstream through the skin do not go through a cleaning process like when ingested. The chemicals go directly into our bloodstream. The amount that end up in out bloodstream is unknown but it does happen. When you are bathing, you are mixing the chemicals in your soaps and shampoos with water and spreading them all over your entire organ(skin) while your pores have been steamed wide open, are at their most receptive from your bath or shower. Once you become aware that the ingredients in the personal care products you use are able to go straight into your bloodstream, you start becoming a bit concerned, more cautious,maybe. Hopefully, you will begin looking into the ingredients in the products you have been using to see if any of the ingredients are dangerous, or even toxic.
We are going to list some of the common harmful chemicals in cosmetics, your family’s Bath & Body products. Many of these chemicals have specific uses and are not likely to be in all products.

As you shop for your personal care products, take a look at the list of ingredients. Cross reference them with the ones on this list. If you do see ingredients on listed on your products that are on this List of Harmful Chemicals in Cosmetics, it might be time for you to consider finding a safer alternative to the product you normally use/prefer.  

You only get one body, you only have one life. Make it work.
Please be aware that our list is a very small, incomplete list of the harmful chemicals in cosmetics. We are only trying to give you a place to start, something to think about. Once you have done some comparison, if you want to find out more, we suggest visiting the site www.ewg.org/skindeep/
You only get one body for your one life.

Cosmetics, Bath & Body, Skin Care, Hair Care,  Baby Products,

List of Commonly Used Harmful Chemicals in Cosmetics Formulations



1, 4 Dioxane:  Highly carcinogenic, irritates eyes and mucous membrane, skin, CNS depressant, nephrotoxin, hepatotoxin, irritation, liver and kidney damage, blood disorders. This is a contaminate usually found in another chemical so it does not get listed as an ingredient. Likely ingredients to be contaminated are: Sodium Laureth Sulfate(SLES) PEG compounds, Chemicals that include “xynol” “ceteareth” and “oleth”


Aluminum:  Neurotoxicant, eye,  skin & lung irritation, endocrine disruptor, linked to Alzheimers and breast cancer.
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate: Irritates skin, contaminant of water, may be contaminated with the carcinogen 1, 4 Dioxane


BA(Bisphenol) Hormone disruptor, obesity

Behentrimonium Chloride, Gurr Hydrosypropltrimonium Chloride, Linoleamidepropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate Necrosis mucous membranes, toxic

Benzene: carcinogenic, not metabolized quickly, can cause DNA mutations. Usually only a trace amount and not normally listed in ingredients.

Benzyl Alcohol: strong neurotoxicant, may cause allergic reaction in lungs, cause: itching, burning, scaling, hives, blistering of skin, liver damage, coma & death in animals

Boric Acid:
  Banned in Japan and Canada. Reproductive toxin, strong endocrine disruptor, unsafe to use with infants or on injured or damaged skin, causes death, birth defects in animal testing.

Butylated Hydrotoulene (BHT)
 Endocrine disruptor, low doses toxic to skin and lungs, caused death, liver, stomach cancers, thrombosis, fibrosis, liver and brain damage in animals, strong skin and eye irritant

hormone disruptor

Butylene Glycol:  skin, lung, eye irritant, environmental toxin.

Butylparaben: irritates skin and eyes, disruptor to endocrine, linked to breast and ovarian cancer, environmental contaminant.


Chloracetamide Banned in Canada! Strong skin, eye, lung irritant, if inhaled is toxic, causes paralysis, goiter, birth defects in animals.

Coal Tar:  Banned in most countries including Canada and European Union; still used in anti-dandruff shampoos in U.S. and UK. Known human carcinogen, lung & urinary tract cancer, potent skin irritant, multiple cancers in animal studies.

Cocamide DEA: surfactant, an irritant, very drying to skin and hair. derived from coconut, industrially chemically processed into a synthetic, no longer a natural ingredient. Combines with other chemicals to produce nitrosamines, carcinogen

Cocoamidopropyl Betaine CAPB:  2004 Allergen of the Year award* a surfactant created from processing coconut oil with petrochemical amines, dimethylaminopropylamine. Known for causing allergic or sensitized reaction, including irritated skin, rash. burning, itching and even blistering skin. This reaction is usually attributed to impurities that remain in the end product from the chemicals used in processing. This could be 3-dimethylaminopropylamine.

~Cocoamidopropyl Betaine has made our List of Harmful Chemicals in Cosmetics not because it is the most toxic, but because it is an example of how “Natural” products are being so misleading . Manufacturers are using synthetic ingredienst “derived from” natural ingredients to show theirs is a natural product. When that is not true if they are using ingredients like this.  This “Greenwashing” is becoming more common as more people look for natural products. Manufacturers want to profit from the natural market without making natural products.  Ingredients like this usually come with (coconut derived) or (from coconut) or similar.  This is NOT a natural ingredient. ~

*by The American Contact Dermatitis Society


DEA(Diethanolamine)(MEA&TEA included): Detergent, solvent, carcinogen. Damage in Liver, kidneys and pancreas. Health risk to children, linked to miscarriage and detrimental to developing brain & teratogen. Found in over 600 personal care products. Easily absorbed through skin, carcinogen, hormone disruptor, affects fetal brain development. Significant cumulative toxicity. Damage to spleen, liver, kidneys, pancreas, nerve damage to brain and spinal cord. Mounting tissue and eye problems. Nerve damage, premature death. Animal testing shows cancer when applied to skin

Dibutyl Plthalate: Neurotoxicant, linked to impaired fertility and urinary abnormalities, breast and ovarian cancers, contaminates wildlife.

Dioxins found in the fats of animals. Cause Cancer, reproductive disordersk skin toxicant, endocrine disruptor

DMDM Hydantoin: contains carcinogenic Formaldehyde, skin eye and lung irritant, environmental toxin.


EDTA Toxic to: respiratory tract, eyes, skin, kidney damage, Toxic to: reproductive effects, fertility, post implantation, mortality, mutagenicity,morphological changes in chromosomestructure of plant and animal cells, , FETAL EFFECTS embryo or fetus, stunted fetus, developemental abnormalities, cardiovascular, mortality, Ecological and environmental soil perversion, marine life, aquatic organisms, leaches through soil into groundwater


Formaldehyde:  Banned in Canada and Japan. Determined to be safe for use in cosmetics in U.S.  May or may not be listed in ingredient. Known human carcinogen linked to leukemia, pancreatic, skin, liver and lung cancer.irritant of: skin, eye, lung, liver(causes cirrhosis), stomach kidneys and bladder. Can burn skin, trigger asthma, hazardous air pollutant, environmental toxin.

Formalin(Formaldehyde Solution):  Banned in Canada and European Union linked to Leukemia, nasal and nasopharyngeal cancer, neurotoxin in humans and animals, linked to badder and liver cancer.


Hexylene Glycol Toxicological data: oral, Dermal, Acute, Hazardous skin contact, eye, inhalation. Toxic kidneys, nervous system, liver. Sensitizer, Carcinogenic, Mutagenic, Teratogenic, Developemental Toxicity.. No Information Available/Data From MSDS


Lead acetate human reproductive system toxin, impair development



Mercury (thimerosal) eye drops, ointments, mascaras toxic human reproductive system, development 

 Mineral oil:
   petroleum by-product that coats the skin, clogging pores interfering with skins ability to eliminate toxins. Promote acne and other skin disorders.


Parabens:  Found inside breast cancer tumors skin, eye irritant, endocrine disruptor, linked to breast & ovarian cancers, environmental contaminant. Endocrine disruptors, highly toxic, harmful if swallowed or inhaled. Allergic reactions skin rashes. immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, hormone disruptor acts like estrogen in body. Parabens usually start with  “methlyl” ” ethly” “propyl” and “Butyl”

Phthalates(AKA Fragrance, parfum): Never listed in ingredients)  THIS IS A PENETRATION ENHANCER! emulsifier, carrier for synthetic fragrance. 2008 president Bush signed a ban on phthlalates in childrens toys but is still used in children’s bath products.Hormone and Endocrine disruptor, reproductive and organ toxin, neurotoxicant, impaired infertility, obesity, respiratory toxin, allergies, Kidney & liver damage. It is a genotoxic, teratogenic in animals, causes changes in organs and enzyme systems in humans. Reproductive and organ toxicity.

***This is a potential to cause harm and negative effects on early development***

**Targets males in utero and after birth.**

Polyethylene (Micro Beads)  used in face/ body wash as abrasive exfoliators. Contain poisonious chemicals PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) and insecticide DDT. Carcinogens. Accumulative. Micro plastics absorb pollutants, organisms mistake them for food and eat them ending up in the food chain. Too small to be removed by water treatment plants filtration systems, they are carried by drains to larger bodies of water. Great Lakes testing contained 6000,000 micro beads per square kilometer. Major water pollutant, disruptive and toxin to wildlife and aquatic animals.

PPD, p-phenylenediamine thought to be a mutagen, cause genetic mutations

Propylene Glycol(propanediol, methylethylene glycol, methylethyl glycol, 1, 2-dihydroxypropane, etc.)  Carries chemicals directly into bloodstream!! Ingredient in most  baby products moist/baby wipes, make-up, moisturizers, shampoo & conditioners!!skin irritant, kidney damage, liver abnormalities. GI distress, nausea, headache, vomiting, CNS depression, contact dermatitis,strong skin toxin, seizure, cardiopulmonary, MSDS sheets advise to avoid skin contact as may cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.

Some Manufacturers of Natural Products are trying to appeal to the consumer of the Natural Market without giving up the harsh, toxic and cheap chemicals they want to use. Exchanging cheap and harmful for safe, natural requires using more expensive chemicals and that cuts profits. They are attempting to mislead the consumer, labeling the same ingredients with such things as :(derived from glycerin/coconut/palm oil), (Natural Sources)(corn),( vegetable derived )or( natural gas)  The “drived from” makes no difference. It is Propylene glycol no matter what it began as. Whether it came from vegetable oil or natural gas, it has the same effect in the product and to you.



Sodium Lauryl Sulfate(SLS)/ Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES):
  a surfactant, which is a foaming agent, found in almost every shampoo on the market and many detergents, soaps and even toothpaste!  Not only commercial products but it is sold to many smaller makers also.If it “foams up” then there is a good chance it contains either of these two chemicals, check the label.  In large enough doses, it capable of changing information of genetic material found in cells, breaking skin’s structure. In studies it has been used to induce mutations in bacteria, denatures proteins,. “…concentrations of SLS as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation” ~Journal of The American College of Toxicology 1983.  Although SLS is used in so many shampoos that have foamy bubbles, it is damaging to hair follicle, it will corrode hair follicles and damage the follicle enough to be unable to grow hair back. Permanent damage and corrode skin, hair follicle, skin toxin. Damage skin and permanently damage formation of a child’s eyes, and even cause liver toxicity. SLES is less irritating but is unable to be metabolized, building up over time.Mutagen, breaking skin structure, carcinogen,


Toluene: used for hair conditioners, long term use will cause hair to become dry and brittle, irritant, allergenic, toxic. Taken orally can be lethal

Naturally Misleading…..

Some Manufacturers of Natural Products are trying to appeal to the consumer of the Natural Market without giving up the harsh, toxic and cheap chemicals they want to use. Exchanging cheap and harmful ingredients for safe and natural requires using more expensive chemicals and that cuts into profits. Attempting to mislead the consumer, labeling the same ingredients with such things as :

  • (derived from glycerin/coconut/palm oil)
  • (Natural Sources)(corn)
  • ( vegetable derived )
  • ( natural gas)
  • Not a complete list, only an example

The “derived from” makes no difference. It is the chemical names what it began as. Whether it came from vegetable oil or natural gas, it has the same effect in the product, to the planet and to you.

List of Ingredients to Watch for in “All Natural Products”   These are not Natural Do not be Deceived This List Should Not be Found in All Natural Skincare Products 

Approximately 60% of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream.

As careful as we may be in removing Dangerous Synthetic Chemicals from our lives, we can only remove those that we are aware of. We may be determined to use only All natural Skincare products but what can we do when our synthetic chemicals get slipped into products that claim to be All Natural? It is up to us to become educated about what is and is not natural. What chemicals we will and will not allow in the products we purchase. Skincare, like most things, has a market. Where there is a market, there are people who will take advantage of it.


Pigment, Oxides (Mineral Pigment) & Ultramarine:  

  • synthetic colorants, lab made.
  • “Fortunately”(un), they are considered “Natural Identical” by many cosmetic manufacturers allowing them to feel that they can put them in products and still keep the labels “All Natural”


  • There are two very different Micas, causing confusion for some and provided an opportunity for others to mislead, deceive and misrepresent. Mica, the colorant used in skincare products, is not the same as Mica, the inorganic natural material
  • The natural, mined mica may contain lead, mercury, arsenic, selenium or other dangerous elements.
  •  The only mica that is approved for use in cosmetics is synthetic mica.
  • It is usually white, coated with titanium dioxide and then coated with a colorant, usually either synthetic FD&C or D&C Colors or synthetic oxides.
  • The mica usually also has a coating added to help resist caking.
  • This is either a synthetic plastic-based polybutane or Dimethicone.
  • A more complete list of ingredients used in the colorant Mica looks closer like: Phenozyrthanol, Ferric Ferrocyanide, Methylparaben


Fragrance oil/Fragrance: 

  • When this is listed as an ingredient on an “All Natural” product, you might be inclined to believe the fragrance is from a natural source.
  • FDA allows that the chemicals under “fragrance” are considered a trade secret and undisclosed.
  • Unfortunately, that means that we don’t have a right to know what we are being exposed to.
  • “Fragrance” can mean any number of chemicals, synthetic or natural.
  • There are over 3500 materials approved for use in fragrance oils and are NOT policed by the FDA. Instead, the are self-regulated. Yikes!
  • Fragrance oils are either wholly synthetic chemicals or contain synthetic chemicals.
  • This can include the infamous: phthalates, Synthetic musks, ethylene oxide, and many dangerous others.
  • These have such risks are hormone disruption, neurotoxins, sensitizers. It is being advised, over and over, to avoid anything that lists “fragrance” as an ingredient.
  • Instead opt for fragrance free or naturally scented with essential oil or others nature produced.



Flavor oil/ Flavor Fragrance: 

  • are made to taste/smell. Usually to resemble a natural flavor. 
  • These are made by enhancing a fragrance oil with either a flavor or sweetener.
  • Fragrance oils are synthetic. 
  • Starting with a synthetic, you add more synthetic. 
  • Flavor fragrances are IFRA(International FRagrance Association) approved for contact with lips and are produced using GRAS(GENERALLY Recognized As Safe). 


Nature Identical essential oil:

  • these are made with a small amount of essential oil and the much larger, remaining portion is taken up with synthetic fragrance oils.
  • These are marketed as being just as good and safe for soaps, lotions and other skincare products as the much more expensive essential oils.
  • These are likely more fragrant, stronger scented than the actual essential oils they are recreating in a lab.
  • After seeing ads promoting Nature Identical Essential Oils for use in cosmetics, soaps, and candles, better than fragrance oils.
  • Then, just another click to the MSDS information where the listed information is somewhat contradictory.
  • The MSDS information list such things as: “remove contaminated clothing immediately”, “avoid contact with skin and eyes”, “wash after any contact”, “ environmental toxins”, “very toxic to aquatic organism”, “harmful to environment” “avoid any pollution of ground, surface or underground water”(all in “”’s taken directly from MSDS) and many other gleaming tidbits of information making it seem as if using these is skincare products may be a little alarming, and definitely a  step in the wrong direction when the are added to products being sold as “All Natural”.
  • No, these are not the same as an essential oil. What makes them more terrifying is that there are people who see the words “essential oil” and see a much more affordable price and will use these it in their skincare and label their products as “All natural” and not feel they have left anything out.

Going through a few of the UN Natural ingredients that are sometimes used in All Natural Products will hopefully give you an idea of things to look for and help you to be better informed in your products. We hope we can give you the ability to determine whether or not the products being sold as “All Natural” should be considered for you. Our List of Harmful Chemicals in Cosmetics  is not complete, and it may never be, but not because we aren’t trying.

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