The Toxic 12 Ingredients of Skincare

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Photo Credit | Creative Commons

Photo Credit | Creative Commons


Even if you consider yourself low maintenance, you probably still use at least one beauty product a day. Lotion, hair wax, even toothpaste fall into the skincare category and depending on who makes them, they can contain numerous chemicals and toxins, none of which you want on your body.

Becoming a savvy skincare shopper is a lot like shopping for healthy food. Most of the time, it’s matter of checking labels and knowing what ingredients don’t make it in your cart. If you’re clueless about which ones are worth avoiding, see our list of the top 12 toxic ingredients to nix from your beauty arsenal now. Your skin will thank you for it.


Benzoyl Peroxide

A skin, eye, and respiratory agent, you’ll find this mostly in acne fighting products. Experts believe it can act as a mutagen, as it has been shown to produce damage to human cells.


This agent is linked to cancer, nervous system disorders and lowered immune system. Commonly found in antibacterial products like soap.


The dangerous trio, also known as diethanolamine, monoethanolamine, and triethanolamine are foam boosting agents and found in shower gels, facial washes, and bubble bath. When combined with other chemicals they can form hormone disruption. They’re also skin irritants.

DMDM Hydantoin & Urea

Known as formaldehyde releasers, you can find these chemical preservatives in hair and skincare products.  They are skin irritants and can cause cancer and respiratory issues.

PG & Butylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol and Butylene Glycol are used in moisturizing agents. And antifreeze. And smoke machines. Nuff said.


With a chemical structure that mirrors estrogen to the body, parabens have been linked to breast cancer. While most products won’t list them, it’s smart to look for products with a label that reads, Paraben Free or No Parabens.


Used to make plastics, phthalates can be found in perfume, skin moisturizers, shampoos and conditioners. Damaging to our eco-system, they have also been linked to liver and kidney damage.


Also known as Polyethylene Glycol, this chemical is often added to cleansing agents and skin conditioners. It contains a number of compounds shown to be toxic to skin and even cancer forming.

FD & C Color and Pigments

Coming from coal tar, these heavy metal containing salts can absorb into skin and cause irritation.


SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) are both used in cleansing agents. SLS is commonly found in toothpaste, shampoo and laundry detergent. It’s a skin irritant and has been shown to be harmful to aquatic life. SLES is a carcinogen, as well as a skin irritant.


This antibacterial agent is considered a pesticide by the EPA (Environmental Protective Agency). It’s classified as a chlorophenol, which are chemicals known to cause cancer in people.

Sunscreen Chemicals

Retinyl Palmitate, Oxybenzone, and mineral based sunscreens (Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) are believed to cause free radical and  cancer.



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