The “Dirty Dozen” Of Common Cosmetic and Skin Care Ingredients


The skin is our largest organ so we should take good care of it. Up to 60 percent of what comes into contact with our skin can be absorbed into our blood stream. While avoiding all chemicals is impossible – think of air polluting chemicals – being mindful about what you apply on your skin can dramatically reduce the amount of chemicals and toxins that end up in your body.

Making your own cosmetics is the safest way to protect your skin for harsh, toxic chemicals, but unfortunately not all of us can find the time or resources to do so. Buying organic brands is your safest bet, but even these can contain some not-so-natural, questionable ingredients.

Here’s a quick list to help you scan the labels and decide whether you should put it back on the selves rather than applying it onto your skin.

1.      Parabens

If you pick up a cream or lotion from the grocery store, chances are you will find this commonly used preservative as one of its many ingredients. It prevents bacteria, mold, fungus, and parasites to thrive in your cosmetics. Parabens are easily absorbed by the skin and associated with breast and prostate cancer. They have been found in biopsy samples of breast tumors.

2.      Phthalates

Phthalates, a group of chemicals, known to act as endocrine disruptors, linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects in males and females.

It is found in many cosmetic products and plastics to increase the flexibility and softness. However, the sneaky part, it is not always listed and often disguised under the term “fragrance”. So opt for unscented products or the ones with pure essential oils instead.

3.      Triclosan

Widely used for its antibacterial properties in tooth paste, antibacterial soaps and deodorants. Tricloson is a skin irritant associated with disrupting the function of thyroid and reproductive hormones.

Also read: Is Your Toothpaste Giving You Cancer?

4.      Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).

Found in over 90 percent of personal care products, especially foamy products. SLS and SLES are not a major concern on its own, but they easily interact with other chemicals found in our cosmetics and form nitrosamine, a known carcinogen.

5.      Benzoyl peroxide

If your lotion or cream states acne clearing, chances are benzoyl peroxide is one of its ingredients. While it will help zap your pimples, it is linked to promoting tumor growth as well.

6.      Formaldehyde

Another bacteria fighting preservative used in many cosmetics, listed as a carginogen by The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC). It is also linked to allergic skin reactions and disrupting the immune system.

7.      Petroleum or coal tar derivates

These derivates can cause birth defects and are also linked to immune system toxicity. The World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency has listed them as probable carcinogens.

Often listed as petrolatum, xylene, toluene, mineral oil, liquid paraffin, benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, and methylbenzene. So make sure to watch out for all of these.

8.      Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)

A common antibacterial preservative with neurotoxic properties. It can cause severe damage to our brain cells and increases the risk of seizures.

9.      Propylene glycol (PEG)

Often used as a skin-conditioning/moisturizing agent in body lotions, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners, and shampoos. PEG is classified as a skin irritant and associated with dermatitis and hives.

10.  Artificial dyes and dynthetic dolors

Many artificial colorings are made from coal tar. They can cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, and many studies show they are carcinogenic as well. So next time you buy a lipstick, make sure the color comes from organic, safe substances. If you see anything listed beginning with FD&C or D&C, better put it back on the shelves.

11.  Sunscreen chemicals

While it is important to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays to avoid skin issues and cancer, the one product that must protect you against these rays may not be your best bet. Most commercially available sunscreens are loaded with synthetic compounds – such as benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate and ethoxycinnmate – which are all linked to cell damage and cancer.

12.  Imidazolidinyl urea

Added to most water-based cosmetics as a preservative. It releases formaldehyde and has been linked to skin irritation and cancer. Other formaldehyde releasing substances to watch out for: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, methenamine, and quarternium-15.


Sources: Huffington Post, EWG, and Mind Body Green


Looking for a way to detox your lifestyle while eating delicious, colorful meals and losing or maintaining weight the healthy way, click here

Don’t forget to download my FREE Book “Amy’s Home Kitchen”, packed with my family’s favorite healthy, clean and delicious recipes. Or connect with me on Facebook or Google+

Amy Goodrich
Amy is a life and food lover, certified biologist, and holistic health coach. She is the founder of the healthy lifestyle website and creator of the online program, After successfully changing her family’s health and happiness, she’s on a mission to help other people achieve the life and body they want. You can find here on Facebook or Google+ or get her free clean, whole food recipe eBook here: