12 Harmful Ingredients To Watch Out For In Your Cosmetics

harmful ingredients to avoid in cosmetics skincare

Our skin soaks up about 60% of whatever we apply to it. There are over 84,000 ingredients used in personal care products and women use these products more than men thereby putting them at a higher risk.1 Out of these chemicals only 1% has been tested for safety. The toxic effects of the chemicals range from mere irritation to even cancer.

12 Ingredients To Avoid In Your Cosmetics And Skincare Products

1. Phthalates

A common ingredient in moisturizers and deodorants, it is a very effective preservative. However, it is extremely toxic to the human body and can cause disruptions in the endocrine, reproductive and neurological functioning.2 It’s also an ingredient of PVC, hence it is best to avoid cosmetics packaged in plastic containers too.


2. Lead

The presence of lead in paints and toys had created a huge uproar worldwide, but it’s still present in the various cosmetics we use. Through luscious foundations, lipsticks and whitening toothpastes, we are regularly exposed to lead. Researchers have proven that lead can cause diseases like cognitive and neurological deficits, hypertension, congenital malformations, immunotoxicity, growth and developmental defects.3

Avoid lead by choosing organic lipsticks and cosmetics that have safe and natural ingredients.


3. Benzoyl Peroxide

The combinations of benzoyl peroxide are often used as anti-acne medications. However, recent researchers have identified that it can generate free-radicals and promote tumor growth.4 It’s also known to cause irritation of the eyes and nasal passages too.

4. Parabens

The very popular parabens have been on the radar for toxic chemicals present in cosmetics since ages. A widely used preservative, on application, it can effortlessly penetrate the skin.


They can mimic the effects of estrogen and are also known to interfere with the reproductive, central nervous and immune systems.5

5. Butylated Compounds like BHT And BHA 

BHA and BHT are used as preservatives in most processed goods ranging from chips to beer. In skincare, it can be seen widely used in eye makeup products, moisturizers, and even perfumes. Its toxic effects include allergic reactions, issues with the reproductive system, liver, thyroid and kidney.6


6. PEG Compounds

A common addition to cosmetics with a cream base, PEG compounds are used for their thickening properties. It can cause skin irritation when used alone or when contaminated with carcinogenic substances like ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane.7

7.  Petrolatum

It is a form of petroleum jelly that is used in cosmetics and skincare products to give that added luster to skin and hair. It can be seen commonly in products like lip balms, lipsticks, and moisturizers. When contaminated with carcinogens like PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), it can lead to skin irritation and allergies.8


8.  Siloxanes

Any product that promises to smooth and moisten hair and skin contain siloxanes. These include hair potions and conditioners. Look for ingredients that end in ‘-siloxane; or ‘-methicone’ on the ingredients list and the product is best avoided.9

9.  SLS (Sodium Laureth Sulfate)

SLS is what makes our favorite soaps and shampoos foam. It is not only a skin irritant but is also non-biodegradable.10


10.  Triclosan

One of the main ingredients found in antibacterial skin care products like deodorants, cleansers, and hand sanitizers, triclosan in large amounts can cause skin allergies. It is also harmful to the environment due to its poor biodegradability.11

11. Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives

Look for the complicated names like DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethyl glycinate on the ingredients list. If you find them, it’s best to give the product a miss because these are toxic formaldehyde-releasing preservatives added to increase shelf life. Joint pain, dizziness, insomnia, cancer, and irritation have been noted in people exposed to formaldehyde. 12


12. Coal-Tar Dyes

On ingredients lists, we can often see “P-phenylenediamine” (coal tar dye) or “CI”.  This coal-tar dye and its variants have been used in colored cosmetics like lipsticks. Studies have found that these dyes are carcinogenic and can even lead to brain damage.

It is important to make an informed choice when it comes to using cosmetics and skin care products. Prolonged exposure to harmful chemicals can leave lasting effects on your skin in particular and health in general.