Harmful skin care ingredients to avoid

harmful skin care ingredients

Today it seems like every skin care brand is trying to convince you that their products are just what you need, yet no one talks about the harmful skin care ingredients involved.

Luckily, the David Suzuki Foundation for Environmental Protection conducted a study of the most harmful cosmetic and skin care ingredients. A list of 12 most dangerous chemical compounds are presented below. These “Dirty Dozen ingredients” are toxic, carcinogenic, allergenic, and can provoke other health issues.

Read up and check your beauty products at home to be sure that they don’t contain any of these harmful ingredients.


1. BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene)

Purpose: Preservative
Found In: Lipsticks, moisturizing creams, other cosmetic products and skin care ingredients.
Health Risks: BHA and BHT may cause allergic skin reactions. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies BHA as a potential human carcinogen. The European Commission states that BHA also disturbs the hormonal functions.

2. Coal tar dyes – p-phenylenediamine

Purpose: Coloring Agent
Found In: Hair Dyes, Cosmetics
Health Risks: Coal tar is a mixture of various chemicals extracted from oil. Tar is a recognized carcinogen for humans and the dyes derived from it can lead to cancer. These colorants can be contaminated with low levels of heavy metals and some of them are mixed with an aluminum substrate. Aluminum compounds and many heavy metals are extremely toxic to the brain.

Coal tar-based dyes are widely used in cosmetics and are usually identified by the letters “Cl” and a five-digit number. P-phenylenediamine is a special coloring agent of coal tar used in many hair dyes. Dark paints contain more p-phenylenediamine compared to lighter ones.


3. DEA (diethanolamine), Cocamide DEA and Lauramide DEA

Purpose: Provides a creamy or sparkling effect
Found In: Soaps and Shampoos
Health Risks: Laboratory tests have found that exposure to large doses of DEA-derived compounds causes liver cancer and precancerous changes in the skin and thyroid gland. These chemicals can additionally cause skin and eye irritation.



4. Dibutyl phthalate

Purpose: Prevents the cracking of the nail polish
Found In: Nail Products
Health Risks: DBP enters into the body through the skin. This compound may enhance the ability of other chemicals to induce genetic mutations.

DBP is classified as harmful to the endocrine system with a proven negative effect on hormonal functions. It is also toxic to the reproductive system, as it can harm the fetus or cause difficulties in conceiving.



5. Preservatives releasing formaldehyde: DMDM ​​hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15 and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

Purpose: Preservative
Found In: Various cosmetic products and skin care ingredients
Health Risks: These ingredients slowly and continuously release small amounts of formaldehyde. The International Agency for Cancer Research classifies formaldehyde as a substance with a carcinogenic effect. Some of the substances that release formaldehyde can cause skin and eye irritation and lead to allergies.



6. Paraben: methylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben

Purpose: Preservative
Found In: Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in skin care ingredients and cosmetics. They contain on average 75-90% of all cosmetic products.
Health Risks:  Parabens resemble the female sex hormone estrogen. In one study parabens were found to promote the development of breast cancer. They can also disrupt male reproductive functions. Other studies have found methylparaben to interact with UVB radiation and lead to premature aging of the skin and damage to the DNA molecule. Women were found to be exposed to a daily dose of 50 mg paraben due to the use of cosmetics.



7. Fragrance

Purpose: Mask/Enhance smells
Found In: Cosmetic products
Health Risks: The term “fragrance/perfume” as a cosmetic ingredient is usually a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. About 3,000 are all chemicals that can be used for flavoring. There is almost no cosmetic product that does not contain any combination of artificial flavoring agents. Most of the flavoring ingredients are allergens, they can lead to asthma or migraine. A survey among asthmatics found that products such as colognes and perfumes lead to skin reactions in every third of four respondents. There is also evidence that persistent exposure to strong perfume odors worsens asthma and contributes to the development of this disease in children. Some flavorings also have a carcinogenic and neurotoxic effect.



8. PEG (polyethylene glycol)

Purpose: Wetting agents, Softeners, Thickeners
Found In: Cosmetic products
Health Risks: PEGs are petroleum derivatives that are widely used in cosmetics such as wetting agents, softeners, thickeners and other functions in creamy products. Depending on the manufacturing process, they may be contaminated with the carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane. PEG substances themselves may be genotoxic, and if they are in contact with injured skin can cause irritation or toxicity.



9. Petroleum (mineral oil jelly)

Purpose: Retain moisture in the skin
Found In: Moisturizing Creams, Shaving Products
Health Risks: The European Union classifies this ingredient as a carcinogen and restricts its use for cosmetic purposes. There is also a risk of mixing petroleum with varieties of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) that is associated with tumor diseases and allergies.



10. Siloxane: cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane and cyclomethicone

Purpose: Soften, Smooth, and Moisturize Skin
Found In: Hair products, Deodorants, Hydrating Creams, Face Products
Health Risks: The European Union classifies cyclotetrasiloxane as an endocrine disrupting hormone-damaging system and fertility. Laboratory studies have shown that exposure to large doses of cylcopentasiloxane results in uterine cancer and damage to the reproductive and immune systems. Cyclohexasiloxane damage mainly affects the environment due to its difficult degradation. The last ingredient in this group – cyclomethicone – is a mixture of the other three types of siloxane.



11. Sodium laureth sulfate

Purpose: Cleansing Agent
Found In: Shampoos, Shower Gels, Soaps, and other Cleaning Products
Health Risks: Just like PEG substances, this ingredient can be mixed with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane. It also causes skin and eye irritation.



12. Triclosan

Purpose: Preservative and Antibacterial Agent
Found In: Roll-On Deodorants and Antibacterials Soaps
Health Risks: This ingredient easily penetrates the skin and is believed to disturb the hormonal function. Triclosan is proven to cause skin and eye irritation. The prolonged application of products containing triclosan leads to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These ingredients may actually aggravate the symptoms of various skin conditions + provoke skin reactions, inclucing itching, burning, scaling, and blistering of the skin.


Solscense is one of the many all-natural brands that prides itself on the transparency and safety of its ingredients.

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