Chemicals to Avoid

When it comes to cosmetics and personal care products, my personal rule of thumb is that I try to avoid anything with:

*Fragrance (fragrance or parfum on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.)

*Dyes (FD&C and D&C colors are coaltar [bituminous coal] derivatives that are continuously tested on animals due to their carcinogenic properties)

*Parabens (preservatives used by the food, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries. Parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential hormone [endocrine] system disruptors)

*Triclosan (an antibacterial agent and preservative used in personal care [antibacterial soaps and body wash, toothpaste, cosmetics] and home-cleaning products; persistent in the environment and may be associated with endocrine toxicity.)

*Talc (a powdered native, hydrous magnesium silicate sometimes containing a small portion of aluminum silicate. Talc can be contaminated with asbestos fibers, posing risks for respiratory toxicity and cancer. Studies by the National Toxicology Panel demonstrated that cosmetic-grade talc free of asbestos is a form of magnesium silicate that also can be toxic and carcinogenic)

*Mineral Oil (a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum)

*Petrolatum (a semisolid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum)

*Descriptions from EWG's Skin Deep



Below is a limited list of potentially harmful ingredients 
in cosmetics and personal care items, 
including their function 
and their potential health concerns:



  • BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE (BHT)/ BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE (BHA)
Function: Anti-Oxidant; slows down the rate at which product ingredients change in color.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Banned by EU.
Health Concerns: Immune system toxicant; endocrine disruptor; probable human carcinogen; animal studies show brain, liver, neurotoxin, reproductive and respiratory toxicant.
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  • DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA)
Function: pH adjuster.
Present in: Sunscreen, moisturizer, foundation, hair color.
Health concerns: Skin and immune system toxicant; possible carcinogen; irritant; animal studies show endocrine disruption and neuro developmental, brain and nervous system effects; may trigger asthma.
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  • FORMALDEHYDE-RELEASING PRESERVATIVES (QUATERNIUM-15, DMDM HYDANTOIN, DIAZOLIDINYL UREA AND IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA, DEA, MEA, TEA)
Function: Anti-microbial preservative.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: Forms nitrosamines when in the presence of amines such as MEA, DEA and TEA; probable immune system, blood, cardiovascular and skin toxicant; possible carcinogen; animal studies show endocrine disruption, nervous system and organ system effects; may contain harmful impurities.
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  • FRAGRANCE (PARFUM)
Function: Deodorant, masking, perfuming
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; possible neurotoxin; can contain between 10 and 300 different chemicals, many of which have never been tested for safety; see phthalates. Labeling can be confusing. If uncertain, check with manufacture.
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  • HYDROQUINONE
Function: Antioxidant, fragrance ingredient, skin bleaching agent, hair colorant.
Present in: Skin fading/lightener, facial moisturizer, anti-aging, sunscreen, hair color, facial cleanser and moisturizer. Restricted in Canada.
Health concerns: Immune system and respiratory toxicant; probable neurotoxin; possible carcinogen; irritant; animal studies show endocrine disruption.
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  • METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE (MI/MCI) and METHYLCHLOROISOTHAIZOLINONE
Function: Preservative.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels. Restricted in Canada and Japan.
Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; animal studies show restricted growth of the axons and dendrites of immature nerves, neurotoxicity and positive mutation results; can lead to a malfunction in the way neurons communicate with each other; especially detrimental to a developing nervous system.
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  • PARABENS (METHYL, ETHYL, PROPYL AND BUTYL)
Function: Preservative and anti-bacterial agent.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: May alter hormone levels, possibly increasing risk for certain types of cancer, impaired fertility, or alteration of the development of a fetus or young child; studies have found parabens in breast tumors; probable skin toxicant; animal studies show brain and nervous system effects.
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  • PETROLATUM (PETROLEUM)
Function: Forms barrier on skin; makes lipsticks shine and creams smoother; inexpensive skin softener.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels. Banned by EU.
Health concerns: May be contaminated with impurities, linked to cancer or other significant health problems.
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  • PROPYLENE GLYCOL
Function: Solvent, penetration enhancer, conditions skin, controls viscosity and keeps products from melting in high or freezing when it is cold.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: Alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deep into the skin and increasing the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream; animal studies show reproductive effects, positive mutation results, brain and nervous system effects and endocrine disruption.
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  • SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE
Function: Surfactant, penetration enhancer.
Present in: Many cosmetics and personal care products, read labels.
Health concerns: Alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deep into the skin, increasing the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream; Irritant; animal studies show sense organ effects.
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  • TALC
Function: Absorbs moisture, anti-caking agent, bulking agent.
Present in: Blush, powder, eye shadow, baby powder, deodorant.
Health concerns: Carcinogen; link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer; talc particles are similar to asbestos particles and data suggests that it can cause tumors in the lungs; probable respiratory toxin.
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  • TOLUENE
Function: Antioxidant, solvent to improve adhesion and gloss.
Present in: Nail polish and hair dye.
Health concerns: Liver toxin; probable developmental, nervous system and respiratory toxin; possible cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, renal and sense organ toxin; possible carcinogen and reproductive toxin; irritant; highly flammable.
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  • TRICLOSAN
Function: Anti-bacterial agent, deodorant, preservative, biocide. Reduces and controls bacterial contamination on the hands and on treated products.
Present in: Antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, mouthwashes, face wash and cleaning supplies. Restricted in Japan and Canada.
Health concerns: Probable endocrine disrupter and carcinogen; easily bio-accumulates to dangerous levels; irritant; animal studies show reproductive and other broad systematic effects; potentially contaminated with impurities linked to cancer and other significant health problems; studies have shown it can actually induce cell death when used in mouth washes.
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  • TREITHANOLAMINE (TEA)
Function: Fragrance ingredient, pH adjuster, surfactant.
Present in: Hand & body lotion, shaving creams, soap, shampoo, bath powders and moisturizer.
Health concerns: Immune system toxicant; possible carcinogen; animal studies show endocrine disruption; may trigger asthma; forms carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds if mixed with nitrosating agents.
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*Source: Search for the Cause

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