The Toxic?Wait?How Many? Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the Toxic 12 and the Dirty Dozen chemical ingredients to avoid in cosmetics (skin care, hair care, makeup, body care products, etc.). I have written about some of these ingredients in past posts and have referenced the Toxic 12 list on several occasions. I’ve never posted an actual list of these chemicals though?and that is for a reason. That reason is that I keep seeing different ingredients popping up on different Toxic 12 lists. And then today I came across a recent blog post called ?Nine Poisons Found In Beauty Products? on a blog I follow and really like called Detox?the devil in the details. Wait?only nine ingredients? What about the other three (ish) that make up the Toxic 12 lists? This poster from Green America shows these nine ingredients to avoid. Some of them are on the other lists, others are not but should be.

These nine ingredients certainly should be avoided at all costs when purchasing and consuming cosmetic products and services. However, there are others the other lists that should be avoided as well. So I decided to make an all inclusive list. Now this is not written in stone, simply because more and more chemicals are being recognized and identified as harmful or toxic every day?and I do feel that most chemicals should be avoided regardless of what the scientific studies may or may not have proven; especially since there are safe, natural, organic, and very effective alternative options available. But these 21 (yikes!) are the ones I see the most frequent warnings about. So here you have it?

The Holistically Haute? List of Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics

If I’ve already written about them, click on the name to read about why they should be avoided. If not, I will give a brief reason.

1. Parabens

Make sure your oils are free of mineral oil

2. Petroleum and other petrochemicals: These are very common ingredients that are found in many products that are supposed to add shine or gloss (hair pomades, lip glosses and other makeup products), as well as occlusive emollient moisturizers (used to create a barrier on the surface of the skin to trap in moisture and prevent transepidermal water loss (lip balms, salves, ointments, moisturizers, baby oils, petroleum jelly, etc) and some known cleansers (cold cream, eye makeup remover). Petroleum-based ingredients include mineral oil, PVP/VA copolymer, paraffin, white petrolatum, petroleum distillates, hydrocarbon, PEGs, etc. Not only do these ingredients hinder the skin?s ability to breathe and aid in detoxification, but they are have also suspected to cause cancer after long-term exposure. The European Union has classified petrolatum as a carcinogen and strictly regulates its use in cosmetics.

3. Synthetic Fragrances

4. Sulfates (sodium and ammonium laureth/lauryl sulfates): These are surfactants that cause the lather and foaming action we all love in our shampoos, body washes, facial cleansers, etc. These ingredients are likely to become contaminated with 1,4 dioxane which is considered by the American Cancer Society (ACS) to be “Reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens“. Additionally, they strip the skin?s natural lipid barrier and which can cause dehydration, and are well-known skin irritants which are ?rapidly absorbed and retained in the eyes, brain, heart and liver, which may result in harmful long-term effects. They can slow healing, cause cataracts in adults, and prevent children’s eyes from developing properly, corrode hair follicles and impair ability to grow hair.?

5. Phthalates AKA dibutyl phthalate (DBP), 2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) diethyl phthalate (DEP), butyl benzyl phthalate: These serve several purposes in cosmetic products. They are known hormone disruptors that cause reproductive defects and disorders. They are found in many products in and out of the realm of cosmetics, but have been most talked about in nail polishes, synthetic fragrances, containers made of PVC plastic, and hair styling and coloring products.

6. Lead (lead acetate): found in many lipsticks, cleansers, and hair dyes; known neurotoxin, toxic to the human reproductive system, and considered ?Probably Carcinogenic to Humans? by the ACS.

7. Mercury (thimerosol or Merthiolate)

8. Hydroquinone

9. Triclosan: Are you obsessed with antibacterial sanitizers and soaps? Then you have likely overexposed yourself to this dioxin-releasing endocrine disruptor and potential carcinogen. Also found in deodorants/antiperspirants, dental hygiene products, and many products labeled as ?antibacterial?. May appear on labels as 5-cholor2 (2,4 dichlorophenoxy)-phenol.

10. Toluene AKA toluol, methylbenzene: One of the chemicals that many nail polish manufacturers have had to take out of their products due to several health concerns such as respiratory irritation, toxicity to the central nervous system as well as several vital organs, may cause reproductive issues such as miscarriages or stillbirths.

11. Xylene AKA xylol or dimethylbenzene: Another common nail polish ingredient. Also irritant to the skin and respiratory system, may cause liver damage, and produces a narcotic effect in high concentrations or after prolonged exposure.

12. BHA and BHT (Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene, respectively): These are preservatives used in cosmetic products as well as food products. They are allergenic, are suspected to be endocrine disruptors, and are suspected to be carcinogenic.

13. Propylene Glycol: This ingredient is commonly used as a humectant (attracts and binds water to the skin) and a solvent in cosmetic formulations. It also has preservative effects at higher concentrations. Propylene glycol is also a common industrial solvent, most often used in several automotive solutions such as anti-freeze, brake fluids, etc. Unfortunately, the stuff you use for your car is the same exact stuff manufacturers put into your cosmetics. It is known to cause allergic and irritant reactions on the skin, and will cause internal nerve and organ damage if it accumulates inside the body due to absorption through the skin.

14. Dyes such as coal tar dyes, p-phenylenediamine (PPD), ?CI? colors: ?Known to be humans carcinogens? by the ACS, also may be contaminated with toxic heavy metals. Found in hair dyes, temporary tattoos, dark hennas, and some eye makeup products.

15. DEA, MEA, TEA (not tea the drink): Also common foaming agents found in cleansers, shampoos, body washes, bubble baths, etc. They ?are linked with kidney, liver, and other organ damage according to several government-funded research studies. They can cause hormone disruption, irritation of the eyes, skin, respiratory tract, sore throat, asthma and allergic contact dermatitis.?

16. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives: After much hoopla surrounding the Brazilian Blowout hair treatment and other hair treatments, formaldehyde has been classified as a Known Human Carcinogen. Several preservatives used in cosmetic formulations release formaldehyde which becomes toxic and carcinogenic after prolonged exposure. Some of these formaldehyde-releasing ingredients are: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, and quarternium-15.

17. PEG (polyethylene glycol) compounds: There are many different PEG compounds and some are worse than others. Some become more toxic when mixed with other chemicals in formulations. They can also become contaminated with carcinogenic ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane. The PEGs are used primarily as bases for creamy cosmetic products and moisturizers, as well as solvents and thickeners. They also are used to enhance ingredient penetration, which is a good thing for safe ingredients but a very bad thing for toxic ingredients. ?PEG compounds themselves show some evidence of genotoxicity, and if used on broken skin can cause irritation and systemic toxicity.?

Make sure your powder is talc-free

18. Siloxanes and other silicones

19. Nano- and micronized particles

20. Talc: What’s so harmful about baby powder? Plenty. It is a very fine, toxic particulate which closely resembles asbestos. It is absorbed into the body by inhalation, through mucus membranes and broken skin, and has been linked to cancers of the ovaries and lungs. It is found in baby powders, cosmetic powders, pesticides, certain prescription and OTC pharmaceuticals, soaps, and many other commonly used household products.

21. Chemical sunscreens: also here.

This list is not meant to cause a panic.

I, and other writers, cosmetics companies, and other like-minded individuals and organizations have been referred to as conspiracy theorists and fanatics, who are simply editing and manipulating studies and other information to instill fear into the general public. I have been told that the amount of fear caused by spreading awareness of these toxic ingredients is more toxic than the chemicals themselves.

Look, I get nothing at all whatsoever out of writing these articles and lists. Although I have some affiliations with cosmetics companies who use safe ingredients, I am not on anybody?s payroll, nor am I selling my own product line (as of yet). I do this because I have done a lot of research, have learned a lot from my educators and mentors, and have observed bad things happening to people as a result of ingredient toxicity with.my.own.eyes. All of these factors sparked a passion in me which led me to the decision that I had to do my part in spreading awareness.

I don’t expect you to carry this list or the ACS list of carcinogens to the store with you when you shop (although the EWG and David Suzuki, in addition to other websites and organizations do have convenient shoppers? guides you can fit in your wallet). And I realize it is hard to find products free of these ingredients. My best advice is to find products that contain as few as these products as possible, and if they do contain them, they should be as close to the end of the ingredient list as possible. There are many products out there that don’t contain any of these ingredients, and I have shared many with you in my Product Spotlights. There are many, many others out there as well. Just do the best you can within your budget, and don’t rule out the idea of making your own products. It?s not as mysterious or difficult as it looks.

And please support the EWG and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

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7 thoughts on “The Toxic?Wait?How Many? Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics”

  1. Hi HH-

    Thanks for the link to my blog!

    You are SO right. The list goes on and on and NEEDS the kind of clear clarification you’ve provided here.

    You’re an inspiration! Love your site!

  2. Pingback: Holistically Haute Nail Polish from Philly Loves Lacquer! | Holistically Haute

  3. Adding the entire class of siloxanes and silicones here seems perhaps overreaching.

    The vast majority of silicone products are not only skin safe, but provide viable alternatives to much riskier ingredients.

    Environmental concerns also tend only to impact a narrow band of silicones.

    1. Hi Bart, thanks for reading and for your comment. I disagree. There are too many concerns with contamination from the manufacturing process, which can affect the overall toxicity of the product, and also contribute to a person’s body burden. While I agree that certain silicones pose significantly more of a risk than others, the sourcing/processing and quality of the ingredient in a cosmetic is not something that is regulated. There are alternatives in cosmetics, and it’s always my policy that when there is any risk at all, it’s best to go with safer alternatives.

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  5. Pingback: Why I use Non-Toxic Products – Fertility Awareness Project

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