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Yep, Your Skincare Products are Toxic

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

Have you hear the saying, 'your skin is a mouth'? It means that whatever you put ON your body is absorbed INTO your body. Looking at your skincare products, would you eat them? It's nearly impossible to answer yes to that question. So, the products you put on your body are just as important as the products you put in your body; but it's scary to find out that the skincare industry is far less regulated. As a result, most mainstream cosmetic products are laced with less than healthy ingredients. If the first thing you look for at the grocery store is organic food, ask yourself why you would expect less from a beauty brand. If the organic isle isn't on your normal path, the products you're using on your body are putting you into toxic overload. Since what you put on the skin, goes in the skin, that's a problem if the ingredients are anything but natural. It's hard to know what's good and what's bad when you shop for beauty products. The US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t give the beauty industry the attention it needs to keep consumers informed.

People tend to go on faith when it comes to these external products but unfortunately, that's misguided. We have to be our own advocates when it comes to health products. Incredibly, some companies that sell the same products in the United States as in other countries remove the carcinogenic ingredients for those sold outside the US. Consider some of these toxic ingredients and carcinogens you want to avoid next time you shop for your healthy beauty essentials.


A paraben serves as a preservative in toxic skin care and hair care products. You’ll find them in:

  • Shampoos

  • Moisturizers

  • Shaving gels

  • Spray tanning products

  • Makeup

You might even find some in your favorite toothpaste. Manufacturers turn to parabens because they are easy to get and more effective than natural options despite the fact that they may be toxic. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found parabens in 99 percent of the breast tissue tested. When applied or ingested, it can mimic a critical hormone — estrogen — leading to an imbalance and increased risk of breast cancer.  The paraben category ingredients typically start with words that end in “yl”, like methyl and end with the word paraben, so avoid chemicals such as methylparaben when checking the labels.

Polyethylene Glycols

You’ll find this potential toxin in:

  • Skin creams

  • Toothpaste

  • Hair thickeners

They are a popular choice in the beauty industry because they improve skin absorption. The chemical itself isn’t bad, it’s the impurities that are a problem. Polyethylene glycol can come with ethylene oxide and 1.4-dioxane, both of which are known carcinogens, or cancer-causing elements. They can also irritate the respiratory tract, so you definitely want to avoid products with polyethylene glycol if you have a chronic respiratory issue such as COPD or asthma.


Petroleum is another common choice for manufacturers because it is cheap and lightweight. Like polyethylene glycol, it can contain elements that put you at risk like 1.4-dioxane. You’ll find petroleum in protective products like:

  • Lipstick

  • Baby lotions

  • Hair moisturizer

Anything designed with protection in mind because petroleum leaves a film that waterproofs skin and seals in moisture. When looking at the ingredients, petroleum will probably be listed as:

  • DEA (diethanolamine)

  • MEA (ethanolamine)

  • Butyl

  • Ethyl

  • Propyl

  • Methyl

Those last five words represent just part of the ingredient. For example, you might see methylparaben — that is an ingredient that contains petroleum.


Look for sulfates in:

  • Shampoo

  • Toothpaste

  • Shaving foam

  • Body washes

  • Facial cleansers

Anything designed to foam probably contains sulfates including the stuff you use to wash your car and floors. Sulfates look fresh and clean but they actually rob your skin of moisture. They are potentially carcinogenic and can combine with other chemicals to create a formula that may damage the kidneys and respiratory tract. Sodium lauryl sulfate is an example of a commonly used toxic ingredient in this class.


Phthalates are the key ingredient in plastic production, used to make vinyl flexible and pliable. Studies link this chemical to both breast cancer and birth defects. Phthalates are used to make beauty products like:

  • Hairspray

  • Nail polish

  • Nail polish solvent

  • Perfume

  • Sunscreen


You’ll see the term used in nearly all beauty products and it can mean the company used hundreds or even thousands of chemicals in one “fragrance” but they don’t need to be disclosed, claiming their “trade secret”. Fragrance can include parabens, too. Even products marked “unscented” can have fragrances used to mask the unpleasant smells of other ingredients without giving it a recognizable scent like lavender. And if it's scented with something that doesn't have a natural oil, like 'strawberry', then it's definitely a chemical fragrance! A sure-fire way of knowing the fragrance is made in a lab is if you can still smell it hours after applying.

For more details on this topic, check out the very informative movie, Stink! at

What to Look for in a Healthy Beauty Product

You can avoid toxic products by checking the labels before you buy. Fortunately it's never been easier to find natural products, they're sold in so many places including farmer's markets, health food stores, grocery stores, big box stores, and even select sections of the pharmacy. Look for things that use organic and real ingredients you recognize and are packaged in glass instead of plastic. As a general rule, stick with brands that use ingredients that you recognize as natural like herbs and plant components. The fewer chemicals the better it is for your body.

Some Clean-ingredient Companies

  • Living Libations

  • Aubrey Organics

  • Alba Botanicals

  • Dr. Hauschka

  • Dr. Bronner’s

  • Wild Carrot

  • Weleda

  • Avalon Organic

  • Giovanni


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