7 Toxic cosmetic Ingredients To Be Aware of

1. Parabens

Parabens are preservatives used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. Not always labeled.

What to look for: butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, other ingredients ending in –paraben.

Why Avoid: Parabens can increase cell proliferation in human breast cancer MCF-7 cells.
Potentiall endocrine disruptors (affect hormones). Propyl paraben is also a reproductive toxin as it affects the male reproduction system and reduces sperm production and testosterone levels. Butyl paraben, specifically, appears to disrupt the male reproductive system and affect reproductive organs. Methyl paraben and other parabens in personal care products can lead to UV-induced damage of skin cells and disruption of cell proliferation (cell growth rate). Of the parabens, methyl paraben is generally of lower concern, because it is less estrogenic.

2. Fragrance

This particular category is pretty scary, because what does “fragrance” mean anyway? The word “fragrance” or “parfum” on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate.

Why Avoid:
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, fragrance concoction have been associated with: allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.

3. Triclosan

Commonly used antimicrobial agents found in many soaps and detergents. Triclocarban was first introduced in the market in 1957 as an antimicrobial agent. Over the past few decades, consumption of triclocarban has increased in the US and worldwide.

Found In: Antibacterial soaps and detergents, toothpaste and tooth whitening products, antiperspirants/deodorants, shaving products, creams, color cosmetics.

What to Look For: Triclosan (TSC) and triclocarban (TCC)

Why Avoid:The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has identified triclosan in the urine of 75 percent people tested Widespread use with few regulations has led to concerns regarding their effects on humans and the environment, such as endocrine disruption, bioaccumulation, and the emergence of bacteria resistant to antibodies and antibacterial products.

4. Butylene Glycol & Propylene Glycol

Used as filler, emollient and to increase penetration of ingredients into the skin. Derived from petroleum plastics, EPA, considers PG so toxic it requires gloves, clothing goggles & disposal by burying.

What to Look for: Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol

Why avoid: EPA warns against skin contact to prevent brain, liver and kidney abnormalities.


Found In: Skin lighteners, facial and skin cleansers, facial moisturizers, hair conditioners, finger nail coating products.

What to Look for: Hydroquinone or tocopheryl acetate

Why Avoid: Cancer, organ-system toxicity, respiratory tract irritation.

Cancer: Hydroquinone works by decreasing the production and increasing the degradation of melanin pigments in the skin. This increases the skin’s exposure to UVA and UVB rays, increasing the risk of skin cancer.

Organ-system toxicity: Hydroquinone is linked to a skin condition called ochronosis in which the skin (our largest organ) thickens and turns bluish-grey.Exposure of the eye can cause pigmentation and permanent corneal damage.

Respiratory Tract Irritation: Hydroquinone may be harmful if inhaled, causing irritation of the nose, throat and upper respiratory tract. A study on occupational exposure of hydroquinone showed that subjects exposed to hydroquinone had a higher prevalence of a cough and decreased lung capacity compared to their unexposed counterparts.

6. Petrolatum, Petroleum Jelly, Mineral Oil

Petrolatum, or petroleum jelly, derived from petroleum, is often used in personal care products as a moisturizing agent. When properly refined, petrolatum has no known health concerns. However, petrolatum is often not fully refined in the US, which means it can be contaminated with toxic chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Found In: Lotions, Cosmetics

What to Look for: Petrolatum, Petroleum Jelly, Paraffin Oil, Mineral Oil and White Petrolatum (refined and safe for use).

Why avoid: Clog pores, prevents skin breathability, potential contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs due to it being derived from petroleum. PAHs are byproducts of organic material combustion

Cancer risks; the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists 14 PAHs as probable or possible carcinogens and one PAH as a known carcinogen. A study on Long Island, NY, found that those women with high levels of PAH-DNA adducts had a 50 percent greater risk of breast cancer.  The formation of PAH-DNA adducts, an indicator of PAH exposure, is linked to cancer development. 

7. Phenoxyethanol

Phenoxyethanol is used as a preservative in cosmetic products and also as a stabilizer in perfumes and soaps

What to Look For: Phenoxyethanol, 2-Phenoxyethanol, Euxyl K® 400 (mixture of Phenoxyethanol and 1,2-dibromo-2,4-dicyanobutane), PhE

Why Avoid: Exposure to phenoxyethanol has been linked to reactions ranging from eczema[2] to severe, life-threatening allergic reactions. Infant oral exposure to phenoxyethanol can acutely affect nervous system function.

If you are not allergic, phenoxyethanol is a relatively safe preservative in regard to chronic health effects.

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