Harmful Chemicals List

This is a more detailed list of the most common harmful chemicals found in skin care products today. I didn’t want to bore you in my last blog with all of these explanations, but I thought it was important to share them here for anyone looking for a little more information.

Common Harmful Chemicals

  1. Coal Tar: Usually found in shampoos, scalp treatments, soaps, hair dyes, and lotions. Look for the world Toluene on the ingredient list. It has been known to cause skin tumors and neurological damage. See more at SafeCosmetics.org.
  2. Synthetic Fragrances: This stuff is just terrible. Skin Deep Cosmetics lists them in the moderate to high range of overall hazards and concerns of the use of it in skin care products and cosmetics. Also, wellandgood.com said that there are over 200 ingredients used for fragrances and no way to actually know what all the ingredients are, which makes it super dangerous. “Some of the problems caused by these chemicals are headaches, dizziness, rash, hyperpigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation by a cosmetic that has the word “Fragrance” on the ingredients label,” all according to the Organic Consumers Association.
  3. Parabens( Methyl and Propyl and Butyl and Ethyl ): This excerpt came from the FDA website on the status of their belief on the use of parabens in skincare and cosmetic products: “Parabens are used in a wide variety of cosmetics, as well as in foods and drugs. Cosmetics that may contain parabens include makeup, moisturizers, hair care products, and shaving products, among others. Many major brands of deodorants do not currently contain parabens, although some may.” Parabens are mainly used to lengthen the shelf life by inhibiting microbial growth. Make up your own mind on this one, because all over the internet there are sites claiming links to slow child development, cancer, and reproductive problems. I’m not taking any chances.
  4. Nanoparticles: These things are pretty scary to me, because According to greenamerica.org, they don’t always list them in the ingredients and they can be found in lotions, moisturizers, makeup, and mainly sunscreens (be very wary of this one). They are basically tiny, hence the nano, inorganic particles. But, not a lot is known about them.  You can check to see if products you are using contain these at CosmeticDatabase.org or NanotechProject.org/inventories/consumer/.
  5. FormaldehydeThis can be found in all sorts of things like eyelash glue (so scary) shampoos, conditioners, body washes, makeup, hair gels, lotions, nail polish hardeners, nail polish, deodorants, and other products. So bottom line.. it’s formaldehyde and it’s in all kinds of products you’re probably using on your skin. “This chemical was deemed as a human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) and has been linked to occupational related cancers: nasal and nasopharyngeal. It is known to cause allergic skin reactions and it may also be harmful to the immune system,”says  Huffington Post.
  6. Synthetic Colors: Colors are pretty, right? Of course they are, hence the reason why skin care products are choc full of them. It is so they will look pretty when you’re using them. Skin care manufacturers know colors can affect our moods. Colors can make you happy, be soothing, etc. However, when you are talking about adding dyes to food, skin care products, or cosmetics then it’s just bad news. Those synthetic colors are harmful no matter what product you are talking about. So although those colors may look pretty in the bottles and when you are using them, they are not safe to use.
  7. Propylene glycol:  “Propylene glycol and polypropylene glycols attract water and function as a humectant ;found in moisturizers to enhance the appearance of skin by reducing flaking and restoring suppleness. Propylene glycol is one of the most widely used ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, where it also serves as a viscosity decreasing agent, solvent and fragrance ingredient. It is used in many types of cosmetic formulations including facial cleansers, moisturizers, bath soaps, shampoos and conditioners, deodorants, shaving preparations, fragrances, etc.” (CosmeticInfo.org)  So, what’s the skinny on propylene glycol you ask? It’s actually been deemed safe by the FDA in the U.S. & also in Europe. The Cosmetic Ingredient review deemed it safe as well, as long as it was formulated to be non-irritating. CosmeticsInfo.org stated,  “However, in 2003, the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) Center fKor the Evaluation of Risk to Human Reproduction (CERHR) Expert Panel reviewed the reproductive and developmental effects potential of propylene glycol and concluded that there is “negligible concern for reproductive or developmental toxicity to humans.” So make up your own mind about this one too, deemed safe doesn’t always mean they are safe, so be cautious of it and stay up to date on information pertaining to this chemical.
  8. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate: “Also known as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). This is the second most concentrated ingredient in shampoos. READ YOUR LABELS – the FDA requires that label ingredients are listed in the order of highest concentrations – meaning that the highest level of ingredients are listed first. Take a look at your cleanser or shampoo and you will find SLS is second or third. It is used in concrete floor cleaners, engine degreasers, car wash detergents, and just about every soap and shampoo on the market. In the same way as it dissolves the grease on car engines, sodium lauryl sulfate also dissolves the oils on your skin, which can cause a drying effect. According to the Journal of the American College of Toxicology, Vol. 2, No. 7, l983, SLS is a mutagen. In sufficient amounts, it is capable of changing the information in genetic material found in cells. It has been used in studies to induce mutations in bacteria. It denatures protein, impairs proper structural formation of young eyes, creating permanent damage. SLS can damage the immune system. It can cause separation of skin layers and cause inflammation to the skin. If it interacts with other nitrogen bearing ingredients. Do your own research – there have been many studies done on these chemicals,” says MadeFromEarth.com.  It is crazy to me that they can put this sort of thing in our products we use everyday.
  9. Triethanolamine: This is basically used as a buffering agent ,a surfactant, a pH adjusting chemical and a fragrance ingredient. You know, those nasty fragrances we already discussed a few points up. So, we already know this is harmful. According to Truth In Aging it has been shown to cause bladder and liver cancer, as well as changes in testicles. Weird and scary all at the same time.
  10. Triclosan: You will typically find this in your anti-acne products, but can also be found in many other products like for oral hygiene, hand and facial cleansers, first aid creams and deodorants. I think it’s important to note that Bath & Body works uses this in almost all of their anti-bacterial hand soap line. Soap kills bacteria just as effectively as this anti-bacterial agent. Mainly a concern, because some people believe that all of the anti-bacterial products out there, the germs will build up an immunity to the agent and thus creating super germs. Yuck.
  11. PVP/VA Copolymer: This is found mainly in hair products. According to CosmeticsInfo.org “Polyvinylpyrrolidone/Vinyl Acetate (VP/VA) Copolymer is a white, free-flowing powder. In cosmetics and personal care products, VP/VA Copolymer is used primarily in the formulation of hair care products but can also be found in skin and nail products.”
  12. Petrolatum: This is mainly found in lip products so check your chapsticks, lipsticks, & glosses! According to The David Suzuki Foundation, “Petrolatum is found in many hair care products, lip balms, soaps and skin care products. It’s also known as mineral oil jelly, and it’s used as a barrier to lock moisture in the skin and to make hair shine.But this petrochemical can be contaminated with cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The European Union considers it a carcinogenand restricts its use in cosmetics,” says David Suzuki .
  13. Imidazolidinyl Urea and Diazolidinyl Urea: In short, this is a formaldehyde releaser. It helps form the formaldehyde in cosmetic products. There is a high concern about this chemical releasing agent. It’s a common misconception that, because of the word “urea” in the name, that it is made from urine. Thankfully, that isn’t really the case, but it is almost as scary, because it’s made in a laboratory. “You can find this chemical in facial moisturizers, cleansers, eye creams, lotions, sunless tanning lotions, mascaras, nail polishes and more. It does have a tendency to cause allergic reactions and can be irritating,” according to Ann Marie Gianni.

Make sure your read my previous blog too,  to find out why you should care what chemicals are being used in skin care and cosmetic products.


[1] Women’s Voices For the Earth: http://www.womensvoices.org/avoid-toxic-chemicals/?gclid=CjwKEAiAyanCBRDkiO6M_rDroH0SJAAfZ4KL2D_WnqO8z7uVs8rUnC3U8UMtmgzBNs06KZHh3k1HoBoCDYnw_wcB

[2] Campaign For Safe Cosmetics: http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/

[3] Green America: http://www.greenamerica.org/

Other References

[4] Skin Deep: /www.ewg.org/skindeep

[5] Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vanessa-cunningham/dangerous-beauty-products_b_4168587.html

[6] Women’s Health Mag: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/style/formaldehyde-in-cosmetics-whats-the-verdict

[7] Cosmetic Info: http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/propylene-glycol

[8] Organic Consumers: Association: https://www.organicconsumers.org/old_articles/bodycare/toxic_cosmetics.php

[9] David Suzuki Foundation: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/toxics/avoid-petrolatum-in-personal-care-products/

[10]  WELL + GOOD: https://www.wellandgood.com/good-looks/ingredient-intelligence-what-you-need-to-know-about-fragrance-inskin-care/

[11] Made From Earth: http://www.madefromearth.com/harmful-ingredients-skincare-products.html

[12] Truth In Aging: https://www.truthinaging.com/ingredients/triethanolamine

[13] Anna Marie Gianni: http://www.annmariegianni.com/ingredient-watch-list-urea-the-preservative-that-may-release-formaldehyde/


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Might have to print this list out! Really great info!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It took forever to dig up all the info, but I’m so happy it could help you!! There’s so many things I didn’t realize went into our skin care products! Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

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