15 Hidden Toxic Ingredients In Cosmetic Products That You SHOULD Know

Feature | Medicine Pharmacy Cosmetology Concept | Hidden Toxic Ingredients In Cosmetic Products That You SHOULD Know

Before you buy any more skin care and cosmetic products, you need to find out what toxic chemicals these products may be hiding from you.

15 Harmful Ingredients in Cosmetic Products


1. Parabens

Parabens are added to skin and hair care and cosmetic products as preserving agents. But, the FDA continues to investigate parabens on their effect on the endocrine system.

This chemical has been found in breast tissue because it can mimic estrogen in the body. Parabens are then linked to breast cancer, skin cancer, impaired fetal development, and decreased fertility.

It is completely banned from being used in products made for children in Denmark. But, in the U.S. you may find products that claim to be safe because they use only a small amount of parabens.

Can be found in: body wash, shampoos, sunscreen, shaving gels, moisturizers, spray tans, makeup, personal lubricants, and most water-based products

2. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde | Hidden Toxic Ingredients In Cosmetic Products That You SHOULD Know

Formaldehyde is found in products that use synthetic preservatives such as urea. It is released by these preservatives and has been considered a neurotoxin, carcinogen, and liver and gastrointestinal toxicant.

The use of these formaldehyde-producing preservatives is legally used in the U.S. But, it is completely restricted in Canada, the European Union, Sweden, and Japan because this chemical can be inhaled or absorbed by the skin when heated.

Can be found in: nail polish, hair dye, soaps, shampoo and conditioners, hair straightening products, lotions, shaving creams, waxes, eyeliners, mascara, makeup-bases, and deodorant

3. Ammonia Compounds

Ammonia compounds such as triethanolamine (TEA), monoethanolamine (MEA), and diethanolamine (DEA) are often used in cosmetic products as foaming agents and emulsifiers. The use of these compounds is banned in the European Union.

These ethanolamines can turn into carcinogen compounds when mixed with the chemical nitrosamine which is often found in cosmetic products. Its toxicity can also affect the liver, cause organ system toxicity and skin irritation.

Can be found in: sunscreen, hair dye, shampoo, makeup, and most personal products used for skin care

4. Triclosan

Person Washing His Hands | Triclosan | Hidden Toxic Ingredients In Cosmetic Products That You SHOULD Know

Triclosan and triclocarban are used in products to act as antimicrobial agents, but they actually have no health benefit. Any brand in the U.S. that uses triclosan has been warned to remove this chemical or they’ll be removed from the market.

This potent chemical was first used in hospitals, but today it’s often found in domestic products. It can affect the endocrine system, immune system, muscle function, skin, and eyes. It can also cause organ toxicity, allergic reactions, and lung irritation.

Can be found in: antibacterial soap, hand soaps, hand sanitizers, deodorant, toothpaste, shaving gel, facial cleansers, body wash, teeth whitening products, and color cosmetics

5. Styrene Acrylates Copolymer

Styrene acrylates copolymer is an artificial colorant made up of a chain of polymers that have carcinogenic properties. It has been considered a safe product, but when absorbed with styrene, it can turn in a carcinogen or cause an allergic reaction, skin irritation, and acne.

Can be found in: nail polish, facial cleansers, sunscreen, body wash, shampoo, hair, skin, and baby care products, and makeup

6. Fragrances

Most cosmetic products will label this ingredient as “fragrance” or “perfume” but will not list down the ingredients used to formulate that fragrance. This is completely legal in the Federal law.

This lack of full disclosure makes products with fragrances very dangerous because they can contain hormone disruptors and allergens. They can also lead to developmental and reproductive toxicity and cancer.

Can be found in: lotion, sunscreen, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, soap, moisturizers, deodorants, facial cream, skin toner, exfoliating scrubs, serums, and perfume

7. Heavy Metals

Mercury | Heavy Metals | Hidden Toxic Ingredients In Cosmetic Products That You SHOULD Know

Heavy metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic, zinc, aluminum, and iron are still often used in cosmetic products. The heavy metals accumulate in the body because it takes longer for the body to flush them out. This means that long exposure to these heavy metals can cause:

  • reproductive issues
  • immune system disruption
  • allergic reactions
  • nervous system toxicity
  • increased cancer risk

Can be found in: lip products, teeth whitening and skin lightening products, nail polish, foundations, sunscreens, moisturizer, deodorants, colorants, eye drops, concealer, blush, and eyeshadow

8. Benzophenone and Oxybenzone

Benzophenone is used in cosmetic products as protection from UV rays. But, its accumulation in the body can cause hormonal imbalances, organ toxicity, and cancer.

Oxybenzone, a derivative of benzophenone, is the most toxic ingredient found in sunscreen products and it can mimic estrogen. It can impair fertility and also impair the endocrine system.

Can be found in: nail polish, lip balm, sunscreen, lotions, and facial day creams

RELATED: Best Natural Ingredients For Skin Health

9. Polyethylene

Polyethylene | Hidden Toxic Ingredients In Cosmetic Products That You SHOULD Know

Polyethylene or PEG is most commonly used in facial cleansers and exfoliants. The tiny plastic beads in these scrubs are made from this toxic chemical. This synthetic chemical can easily penetrate the skin and turn into a carcinogen inside the body. It’s also used in moisturizing products because it helps retain moisture, but it can irritate the skin and damage it. This makes it even easier to penetrate the skin and cause body toxicity.

Can be found in: skin, hair, body, and baby care products, body wash, scrubs, toothpaste, contact lens cleaner, and makeup

10. Phthalates

Phthalates are used in cosmetic products to make the product’s texture more flexible and easy to apply. They are often found in fragranced products because they stick to the skin, making the scent last longer.

These chemicals can impair the endocrine system, fertility, and fetal development, and are probable carcinogens. It has been banned in the European Union but continues to be used in the U.S.

Can be found in: nail polish, hair spray, lipstick, hair care products, perfume, fragranced lotions, body wash, and color cosmetics

11. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are used in cosmetic products because they can easily penetrate the skin, plus they allow other chemicals to enter as well. They are so effective that they are used as stimulants during tests for allergies and irritation.

SLS works by stripping the skin’s natural oils. This then causes a number of skin problems like irritation, dryness, acne, allergic reactions, canker sores, and eye damage.

Can be found in: body wash, facial wash, mouthwash, toothpaste, shampoo, baby bath, bubble bath, and foundation

12. Petroleum Distillates

Mascara applying long lashes | Petroleum Distillates | Hidden Toxic Ingredients In Cosmetic Products That You SHOULD Know

Petroleum distillates used in cosmetic products are manufactured in oil refineries. This ingredient is also used as car fuel, chemical feedstocks, and heating oil. This harsh chemical can cause contact dermatitis. They may also contain carcinogenic chemicals.

Can be found in: mascara

13. Retinol and Retinol Compound

Products that contain retinol and its two derivate forms (retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate) can turn into carcinogens and cause signs of aging when exposed to sunlight. It can also cause reproductive and developmental toxicity.

Can be found in: anti-aging products, lipsticks, moisturizers, and foundation

14. Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is one of the most commonly used bleaching ingredients in skin lightening products. The FDA warns that bleaching can cause ochronosis which is a skin disease characterized by blue-black lesions on exposed skin.

This is still legal to use in the U.S. but is banned in the European Union. Its other negative effects on the body include respiratory tract infection, organ toxicity, and an increased risk of cancer.

Can be found in: skin lightening products, hair conditioners, and nail polish

15. Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, and Formaldehyde

Hair dye bowls brush coloring | Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, and Formaldehyde | Hidden Toxic Ingredients In Cosmetic Products That You SHOULD Know

These three chemicals are considered the “toxic trio” which can cause:

  • hormonal imbalances
  • birth defects
  • respiratory problems
  • headaches
  • skin irritation

Toluene is especially toxic because alone it can cause headaches, respiratory complications, reproductive damage, and cracked skin. It’s also used in paint thinners, rubber, adhesives, and added to gasoline.

Can be found in: nail polish and treatment and hair dyes


Check out this video by The Story of Stuff Project about the story of cosmetics:

When your cosmetic products contain ingredients that are hard to pronounce or chemicals you’ve never heard off, it’s easy to brush it off and place it in your basket. But, some of these chemicals can cause irreparable damage. It’s important to be mindful of what you’re applying on your face and body, but the safest tip is to use products that only contain natural ingredients.

Do you have more questions about cosmetic products and their toxic ingredients? Share them with us in the comments section below!

Up Next: 16 Best Natural Makeup Products Your Skin Will Thank You For

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