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Is Your Skin Care Toxic?

Are your beauty products toxic? Find out which toxins to avoid and how they could be harming you.

It’s not uncommon for us to go about our day, performing our daily routine, without realizing how much damage we may be doing to our health!

Who knew something as simple as our toothpaste could be causing so much damage?!

Our skin absorbs up to 60% of the chemicals in these products directly into our bloodstream. So basically, if you can’t eat it, it shouldn’t be going on your skin.

Many of the toxins found in our beauty products can cause serious health and hormonal issues.


Fragrance is probably the most common toxin in beauty products. Fragrance, also called parfum, is a key ingredient in perfumes and colognes. It is put in a wide range of products from detergents, soaps, and cleaners to diapers, candles, medications, cosmetics, and sunscreen. While some fragrances are added to give a pleasant aroma, others are used to mask the harsh chemical smells of the other ingredients, so even an ‘unscented’ product contains fragrance in order to create that non-scent.

You want to avoid all fragrance unless it’s natural, such as from pure essential oils, as it can cause allergic reactions or hormone disruption.


Nearly one in five cosmetic products contains a substance that generates formaldehyde, which is linked to causing cancer.

Formaldehyde can be found in nail polishes, nail hardeners, eyelash glues, hair gels, soaps, makeup, shampoos, lotions, and deodorants, among other products

Parabens (Methyl, Butyl, Ethyl, Propyl)

Parabens are a class of chemicals that are used as preservatives in many personal care products, including lotions, shampoos, toothpastes, makeup, and more.

While it’s certainly important to keep bacteria at bay, and parabens accomplish that, there’s concern that they can also do some real harm — borne out of the fact that the chemicals (particularly the “long-chain” parabens like butyl-, isobutyl-, propyl-, and isopropylparabens) are considered potential endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disruption is basically the disruption of the normal function of the hormone system, and our hormone system drives all of the functions of our body.

Mineral Oil and Petroleum

Mineral oils and petroleum are in many products—face moisturizers, body lotions, sunscreens, lipsticks, baby oil and of course, petroleum jelly. Some of the ways they might appear on ingredients labels include:

  • Mineral oil
  • Petrolatum
  • Liquid paraffin
  • Paraffin oil

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a whopping 80 percent of all beauty products may be contaminated with one or more of the two dozen recognized cosmetic impurities that are linked to cancer and other health concerns.

The scariest of these possible contaminants is called 1,4 dioxane, an impurity found in 22 percent of all petroleum-based cosmetics that is a possible human carcinogen and known animal carcinogen. How much you’re exposed to depends on the product you’re using: it’s in 82 percent of hair dyes, 45 percent of self-tanners and 36 percent of face moisturizers, for starters.

Oxybenzone (Benzophenone), Octinoxate, and Homosalate

Found in many sunscreens, lip balms, and other products with SPF, these chemicals may mimic hormones, cause endometriosis and can pose a risk to reproductive systems.

Oxybenzone has been increasingly linked to early puberty in girls, low sperm count and male infertility, and an increase in hormone-related cancers in men and women.

I wrote a whole article about the dangers of sunscreen.

Ethanolamines (diethanolamine [DEA], monoethanolamine [MEA], and triethanolamine [TEA])

Ethanolamine compounds are found in soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners and dyes, lotions, shaving creams, paraffin and waxes, household cleaning products, pharmaceutical ointments, eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, blush, make-up bases, foundations, fragrances and sunscreens.

Numerous studies have classified them as respiratory and organ toxicants and they have also been linked to liver tumours.

Hydroquinone (tocopheryl acetate)

Hydroquinone is a compound used in a variety of skin products, usually targeted at customers that are looking to reduce the appearance of dark spots, freckles, acne scars and other problem spots on the body.

Regular use of hydroquinone can cause serious irritation of the skin, especially for people that already have sensitive skin or allergies. Hydroquinone also makes your skin more susceptible to sun damage, much the same way topical treatments like salicylic acid do.

A variety of different medical studies have stated that hydroquinone is a possible carcinogen, meaning that it’s a compound that may have cancer-causing properties.


This antibiotic product is increasingly being used in more and more products, such as antibacterial soaps. The problem with tricoslan is that it is a powerful antibiotic — too powerful. For example it is also used to clean eating utensils and surfaces. When we use it on our bodies, we are effectively permeating ourselves with a chemical without knowing the long term effects.

The chemical was also seen to disrupt gut bacteria in mice and make them more susceptible to the autoimmune disease colitis.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl Peroxide, or simply BP, is probably the most famous acne treatment there is. Tons of different face washes contain it; even if you’re not knowingly using it then you’ve probably put BP on your face at some point.

Bacteria is a very important part of the acne formation process. Benzoyl Peroxide works by destroying this bacteria; when you apply it to your skin, it breaks down and forms oxygen, and this floods into your skin pores.

Some report that BP causes their skin to get red and irritated, which is quite opposite to the desired result of getting your skin to look better. Some people even report that Benzoyl Peroxide can cause premature aging. Apparently people noticed that using Benzoyl Peroxide for a long time caused their face to gain the kind of wrinkles they expected would be decades away.


This toxin won’t appear in the ingredients list of your beauty products. It’s often found in antibacterial ingredients such as emulsifiers, triclosan, PEG’s, and cleansers like Sodium Laureth Sulfate.

Dioxins are environmental pollutants. They belong to the so-called “dirty dozen” – a group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Dioxins are of concern because of their highly toxic potential. Experiments have shown they affect a number of organs and systems.

FD&C Colour and Pigments

FD&C Colour Pigments are synthetically produced colours found in many cleansing and beauty products, as well as foods. They are made from coal tar, which contain toxic heavy metal salts.

When FD&C colour pigments are applied to the skin, toxic heavy metal salts found in coal tar may cause external irritation or sensitivity. But that only scratches the surface on why FD&C colour pigments are dangerous. As these colour pigments absorb into skin, they can deplete the body of oxygen. Without oxygen fueling our cells, we have less energy and our bodies don’t function properly.

PEG (Polyethelyne Glycol)

PEG, which is the abbreviation of polyethylene glycol, is not a definitive chemical entity in itself, but rather a mixture of compounds, of polymers that have been bonded together. Polyethylene is the most common form of plastic, and when combined with glycol, it becomes a thick and sticky liquid.

In cosmetics, PEGs function in three ways: as emollients (which help soften and lubricate the skin), as emulsifiers (which help water-based and oil-based ingredients mix properly), and as vehicles that help deliver other ingredients deeper into the skin.

PEG compounds often contain small amounts of ethylene oxide. According to experimental results reported on in the National Toxicology Program’s Eighth Annual Report on Carcinogens, ethylene oxide increases the incidences of uterine and breast cancers and of leukemia and brain cancer.


Phthalates used in everything from household cleaners to food packaging to fragrance, cosmetics, and personal-care products.

In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

If you have the suspicion that washing your face is making your skin dry, or that shampooing is giving you an itchy scalp or making your eyes sting, or that cleaning your teeth is giving you mouth ulcers, sodium lauryl sulfate is the likely culprit.

It’s found in 90% of personal care products that foam.

It’s been known to cause eye damage, depression, breathing problems, skin irritation, and cancer.

Of course, this is just a small list of toxins that can be found in your every day beauty products.

One way to know how your beauty product rates is to use the ThinkDirty or EWG app.

Here are some products that I use in my home:

I also use Batty’s Bath for all my skin care and makeup.

What toxin-free products do you use and love?

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