Top 10 Toxic Chemicals Found in Skincare

December 5, 2013By 11 Comments

toxic chemicals

We all know that eating cleanly is one of the many not-so-secret secrets to longevity, but did you know that what we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in our bodies? Skin—the body’s largest organ—absorbs 60% of everything we put on it! When I first started beauty blogging, I was pretty much oblivious to this – now I make much wiser purchasing decisions. I HIGHLY recommend looking up the toxicity of your current beauty products in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. If you come to discover your beloved x-y-z is tainted with nasty, fret not! There are plenty of natural non-toxic cosmetics and skincare brands, and there’s always the handy-dandy DIY beauty route, too! M’kay, let’s uncover these nasty betches!

  1. Sodium Laurel/Laureth Sulfate  – Super common foaming agent that is considered a skin irritant and carcinogen, which is also known to cause skin irritation. SLS also a nasty culprit of PMS, decreased fertility in men and an increase in breast cancer in women. Sometimes “natural” companies will disguise this ick chemical by saying it’s “derived from coconut” but don’t buy that B.S.!
  2. Parabens (including Propyl-, Isopropyl-, Butyl-, and Isobutyl- parabens) – Parabens are estrogen-mimicking preservatives. They are used to prolong product shelf life by hindering bacterial growth. Unfortunately, these can be found in most conventional cosmetics and skincare products. 🙁 Parabens have been known to disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders and may cause cancer. 
  3. Phthalates – This is a class of chemicals used to help lotions penetrate skin. Phthalates are also commonly found in perfumes and labels listing “fragrance.”Phthalates have been known to lower testosterone levels in men and decreased sperm counts and quality. Exposure to phthalates during development can also cause malformations of the male reproductive tract and testicular cancer.
  4. Petroleum By-Products – This includes ingredients like mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffin, dipropylene, glycol, butylene glycol, disodium EDTA, tetrasodium EDTA, trisodium EDTA, polybutene, triclosan, polyethylene Petroleum by-products interfere with the skin’s natural functions, clog pores (read: ZITS), and are likely to be contaminated with carcinogens linked to breast cancer.
  5. Propylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) – These are made from the same chemical that is used to create anti-freeze – BARF! This is linked to liver, kidney and brain damage.
  6. Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA) – These chemicals can react with other ingredients in cosmetics to form potent carcinogenic chemicals called nitrosamines, which have been linked to liver, stomach, bladder, and esophagus cancers.
  7. Formaldehyde – Commonly found in nail polish, this chemical is a known carcinogen, allergen and irritant. And it stanks, yo!
  8. Fragrance – Federal law doesn’t require companies to list any of the chemicals in their fragrance mixture – LAME, right? Fragrances can contain hormone disruptors and are among the top 5 allergens in the world. Buy fragrance-free or essential oil scented products!
  9. Hydroquinone – This is a skin bleaching chemical used in many whitening creams under eye treatments. It’s used for fading hyperpigmentation, acne scars, sun spots, etc. It can cause a skin disease called ochronosis, with blue-black lesions that in the worst cases become permanent black caviar-size bumps. In animal studies, hydroquinone has caused tumor development.
  10. Methylisothiazolinone (MI) – This is often considered a “safe” preservative alternative to parabens, but it’s a known skin irritant and allergen. It’s also a neurotoxin that has been linked to brain cell damage and nerve damage.

I just wanna quickly say that there’s no need to chuck your entire stash of beauty goods if they’re all starting to look kind of scary. I posted this list to simply bring awareness so that we all can be more conscious consumers. Feel free to ping me if y’all have any questions about any of these ingredients or if you’d like suggestions for non-toxic beauty products/brands. xo

About Sunny ()

Longtime vegan, hardcore compassionate beauty junkie, serious cake aficionado, and lover of all things floofy and sparkly! If there's something in particular you'd like me to review, drop me a line at You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Google +.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Beth says:

    Can you please explain more why the SLS derived coconut is BS?

  2. Do you know of any skin care or beauty brands that for sure don’t have these in their products?

    • Sunny says:

      I’ll try to write up a post with super pure vegan beauty brands (there are so many). Thanks so much for the idea! 🙂

    • Julie says:

      Rachel Kathryn – I really like S.W. Basics, Booda Organics and Hurraw!, all of which make wholesome, few ingredient products. Organic coconut oil also makes an affordable, multipurpose moisturizer and you can’t beat 1 ingredient, no chemicals and no preservatives.

      Sunny – I’m looking forward to your post about super pure vegan beauty brands!

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