Jan 232014

Cosmetic products can and do promise a lot of things. Get rid of acne in three days. Look younger in one week. No more wrinkles after a month. Great moisturizer.
It catches your attention, doesn’t it?

Instead of buying cosmetic products based on what they claim to be and do, the most important thing you should do before buying the product, is to read the ingredients in the product. It doesn’t matter if the product claims to help you get rid of acne in three days, if it contains ingredients which will only clog your pores even more. It doesn’t matter if the product claims to be natural, eco, bio and what not, if it contains a few natural ingredients among many toxic, synthetic ingredients, which are harmful for your skin, your health. One time use of a conventional cosmetic product might very well not amount to any damage, however, the buildup of toxic ingredients over time, is what is alarming. Read the ingredients labels and act accordingly. The best and simplest way to avoid these toxic synthetic ingredients in your cosmetic products is to use only organic cosmetic products.

Here’s a list of the basic toxic ingredients to avoid in your cosmetic products, regardless of what they claim to be, claim to do. The list contains just the most basic synthetic ingredients, found in most conventional cosmetic products; there’s over 25,000 synthetic ingredients used in conventional cosmetic products!

Click on the ingredient for more information. Click on links within descriptions of each toxic ingredient for more information as provided by EWG (Environmental Working Group).

EWG score agenda: 0-2 = low hazard; 3-6 = moderate hazard; 7-10 = high hazard


  • Used as: preservative, inhibitor of microbial growth, extends shelf life of a product
  • Harmful effects: allergies, skin rashes, premature aging. It is absorbed through skin, mimics estrogen. Can cause breast cancer, infertility. While found in small amounts in cosmetic products, it is used in over 20,000 cosmetic products used daily, thus the cumulative toxicity.
  • Used in products: Skin care, body care, hair care, make up, deodorant, toothpaste, soap
  • Names on a label: alkyl parahydroxybenzoate, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparabens, methylparaben, propylparaben
  • EWG score: 4, 7


  • Used as: ingredients used in nail polish and as synthetic fragrance carrier and stabilizer; industrial chemicals used to make PVC
  • Harmful effects: disrupt endocrine system, disrupt hormones, infertility (reduced sperm count, testicular atrophy), linked to liver cancer
  • Used in products: nail polish, hair spray, shampoo, lubricants, detergents, make up, fragrance/perfume
  • Names on a label: dibutyl phthalate (DBP), benzylbutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate (DEP), Fragrance/Perfume
  • EWG score: 3, 8, 10


  • Used as: cleaning agents (detergents), emollient agents, emulsifying agents, thickening agents
  • Harmful effects: PEGs are penetration enhancers (PEG-2, PEG-90 stearate), making other ingredients in a product easily penetrate into the skin, which is most worrisome when these other ingredients are toxic. PEGs can contain toxic impurities, which are linked to cancer, such as lead (found in lipsticks), arsenic, ethylene oxide (PEG-4, PEG-7, PEG4-dilaurate, and PEG 100 – is highly toxic even in small doses) and 1,4-dioxane (PEG-6, PEG-8, PEG-32, PEG-75, PEG-150, PEG-14M, PEG-20M – a carcinogen). They can upset natural skin’s moisture balance, cause allergies.
  • Used in products: skin care, body care, hair care, make up, baby care
  • Names on a label: propylene glycol (in natural cosmetics, this is vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, but a natural compound is more expensive than a synthetic one), proptylene glycol, polypropylene glycol (PPG), PEG-xx (PEG-6, PEG-8, etc)
  • EWG score: 1, 3, 5


  • Used as: released by certain synthetic preservatives; if present with DEA, MEA and/or TEA it can form skin penetrating carcinogens. Usually hidden in other synthetic ingredients.
  • Harmful effects: irritates skin, irritates lungs, irritates throat, irritates eyes, irritates nose, carcinogen, neurotoxin, can cause asthma
  • Used in products: deodorant, hair styling products, lubricants/spermicides, nail polish, shampoo, skin care, bath products
  • Names on a label: formaldehyde, formalin, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate, urea
  • EWG score: 6, 7, 9, 10

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)

  • Used as: foaming agent, cleaning agent, penetration enhancing agent
  • Harmful effects: irritates skin, irritates eyes, irritates lungs, organ system toxin. It penetrates the skin thus making way for potential toxic impurities; may be itself contaminated with toxic impurities (1,4-dioxane, ethylene oxide)
  • Used in products: bath bombs, body wash, facial cleanser, liquid soap, mascara, shampoo, toothpaste
  • Names on a label: sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, lauryl ether sulfate, sodium lauryl ether sulfate
  • EWG score: 1 – 2, 3, 10 (when contaminated with, for example, ethylene oxide)



  • Used as: emulsifier, foaming agent, pH adjuster, fragrance ingredient
  • Harmful effects: allergen, possible carcinogen when creating nitrosamines
  • Used in products: skin care (moisturizer, anti-aging, sunscreen), make up (mascara, eye shadows, blushes, foundations), hair care, frangrance
  • Names on a label: TEA, triethanolamine, daltogen, sterolamide
  • EWG score: 5


  • Used as: preservative
  • Harmful effects: allergen, possible neurotoxin
  • Used in products: skin care, body wash, hair care (shampoo, conditioner, hair color)
  • Names on a label: MIT, methylisothiazolinone
  • EWG score: 5

1,4 Dioxane

  • Used as: an unwanted chemical byproduct of an ingredient processing method (ethoxylation: a process in order to make petro-chemical less irritating to the skin). It contaminates over 40% of personal care products. EWG description.
  • Harmful effects: irritates skin, irritates lungs, carcinogen, neurotoxin
  • Used in products: skin care, body care (body wash, liquid soap), shampoo
  • Names on a label: not used on a label itself; a byproduct of other ingredients (PEGs, Polyethylene, Polyoxyethylene, Polyethyleneglycol).
  • EWG score: 8


  • Used as: moisturizer, UV absorber, emollient, lubricant. Used instead of natural ingredients because it is very cheap.
  • Harmful effects: obtained from petroleum (petro-chemicals), may contain carcinogen impurities), photosensitivity, may disrupt and/or interfere with skin’s natural moisturizing process, dries skin
  • Used in products: skin care (moisturizer), sunscreen, suntan products, lip balm, make up
    (lipstick, lipgloss), body care, body wash, hair care (hair conditioner, shampoo), shaving products
  • Names on a label: petrolatum, petroleum, mineral oil (baby oil), paraffin, mineral jelly, petrolatum amber, petrolatum jelly, mineral grease
  • EWG score: 4


  • Used as: preservative, deodorant agent, antibacterial agent
  • Harmful effects: may be endocrine toxin/interrupter, skin irritant, linked to breast cancer
  • Used in products: skin care (facial cleanser, anti-acne products), body care, antiperspirant/deodorant, liquid soap, toothpaste
  • Names on a label: triclosan, -chloro- and -trichloro- variations
  • EWG score: 7


  • Used as: antioxidant, solvent, paint thinner
  • Harmful effects: irritant, neurotoxin, impairs breathing, causes nausea, may cause fetus’ developmental damage, possible immune system toxin, possible link to blood cancer, possible link to malignant lymphoma
  • Used in products: nail polish, nail treatment, cuticle treatment
  • Names on a label: toluene, toluol, benzene, methyl, methylbenzene, phenyl-methane
  • EWG score: 10

Phenylenediamine (PPD)

  • Used as: colorant, hair colorant, hair dyer
  • Harmful effects: allergen, potential carcinogen
  • Used in products: mascara, hair color, hair bleaching, shampoo, hair conditioner
  • Names on a label: p-Phenylenediamine, p-aminoaniline, p-diaminobenzene, -benzenediamine- variations
  • EWG score: 7

Coal Tar

  • Used as: denaturant, anti-dandruff agent, cosmetic biocide
  • Harmful effects: destillation by-product of coal, respiratory toxin, skin toxin, possible carcinogen. Banned in EU
  • Used in products: dandruff/scalp treatment, shampoo, rosacea treatment, eczema treatment
  • Names on a label: tar, coal, coal tar solution, carbo-cort, coal tar solution, crude coal tar, estar, impervotar, picis carbonis
  • EWG score: 10


  • Used as: bulking agent, anti-caking agent, skin protectant, absorbent
  • Harmful effects: it can contain small amounts of aluminum silicate, it can be contaminated with asbestos fibers. Respiratory toxin, carcinogen, even when asbestos-free.
  • Used in products: sunscreen, make up (eye shadow, blush, facial powder, foundation)
  • Names on a label: talc, cosmetic talc, french chalk, beaver white 200
  • EWG score: 3

Aluminum Chlorohydrate

  • Used as: antiperspirant agent, cosmetic astringent, deodorant agent
  • Harmful effects: Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), ecotoxicology. The buildup of AC itself in the body, along with the buildup of the toxins that should leave the body via perspiration which are blocked by the AC (the AC salt prevents wetness – body’s perspiration).
  • Used in products: antiperspirant, deodorant, deodorant spray
  • Names on a label: aluminium hydroxychloride, aluminium chlorhydrate, aluminum chlorhydroxide, aluminum chloride hydroxide, aluminum chloride
  • EWG score: 3

Artificial/Synthetic color (FD&C)

  • Used as: artificial colorants
  • Harmful effects: skin irritants, allergens, possible carcinogens. artificial colors such as blue 1 and blue 2 are derived from coal tar. Derived from and tested on animals. Much cheaper than natural colors derived from plants.
  • Used in products: skin care, body care, hair care, make up (lipstick, lip gloss, eye shadow, foundation, blush)
  • Names on a label: FD&C – (FD&C blue 33, FD&C orange 4, FD&C red 40, FD&C green 5, FD&C violet 7, etc), D&C –
  • EWG score: 15

Synthetic Sunscreen


  • Used as: substance to impart an odor to a cosmetic product. Usually always written at the end of the ingredient list.
  • Harmful effects: respiratory distress, headache, skin irritant, skin rashes, allergies, dermatitis
  • Used in products: skin care, body care, hair care, make up, perfume
  • Names on a label: fragrance, parfum, aroma
    The problem that “fragrance” or “parfum” ingredients listed on a label present is the fact that around 5,000 other ingredients can be hidden under these names due to trade secrets of manufacturers who do not wish to disclose which ingredients they used, so any toxic ingredient can be listed as “fragrance” or “parfum”. It can also denote essential oils (natural fragrance) used as scent sources.
  • EWG score: 8


More toxic ingredients to be added.

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