Common Toxic Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

If you’ve started to notice that governments aren’t doing that great of a job regulating the ingredients finding their way into our food supply, you’ll be equally appalled about the basically non existent regulation of cosmetic and skin care products. The fact is, skin is our largest organ and absorbs over 60 percent of what we put on it—and if our skincare products have naughty ingredients, then these harmful chemicals go directly into our bloodstream! There are, without a doubt, hazardous and toxic ingredients in skincare products. Please, check your labels for what goes on your skin the same way you check your food labels! I’ve rounded up a list of the worst and most common offenders for toxic skincare ingredients.

Hazardous and Toxic Skincare Ingredients


Used as a preservative, parabens are found in many products. Parabens are estrogen-mimicking, and linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity. (OMG! We’re actually putting this on our skin?!) Traces of paraben have been found repeatedly in breast tumor tissue. The estrogen mimicking can wreck all sorts of havoc on your body,  causing infertility, reproductive, and developmental disorders. Firmly on the stay away list!

What to look for on the label: Keep an eye out for these prefixes ->  Propyl-, Isopropyl-, Butyl-, and Isobutyl-


Many products list “fragrance” on the label, and do not have to say what it is because it is considered a trade secret, so we often do not know the specific ingredients that make up a “fragrance.” This lack of disclosure prevents consumers from knowing the full list of ingredients in their products. We do know that some fragrances are linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies and sensitivities. Unfortunately fragrance can be found in most personal care products including sunscreen, shampoo, soap, body wash, deodorant, body lotion, makeup, facial cream, skin toner, serums, exfoliating scrubs and perfume.  Opt for fragrance free options whenever possible.

What to look for on the label: Fragrance, perfume, parfum, essential oil blend, aroma. (more info)

1,4-Dioxane aka ‘the silent killer’

Research shows that 1,4-dioxane readily penetrates the skin and is considered a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  It is included on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer or birth defects. Ok, so this ingredient is scary, but you won’t find it on ingredient labels. That’s because 1,4-dioxane is a contaminant created when common ingredients react to form the compound when mixed together. Ingredients containing ‘eth’ are names given to hide the use of 1,4-Dioxane; a byproduct of cancer-causing petrochemical ethylene oxide.  So why are companies using these products in their skincare formulations again? Right… it’s a cheap alternative to provide mildness to very harsh ingredients found in their formulas… It’s crazy.

What to look for on the label: Sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate, PEG compounds, Polyethylenechemicals that include the clauses xynol, ceteareth and oleth.  (As a general rule, avoid buying products that contain ‘eth’ in their name, such as myreth, sodium laureth sulfate, polymethyl glycol, oleth because they test positive for 1,4-Dioxane aka ‘the silent killer’.) (more info)


Used as an antioxidant, BHA can be found in lip products, hair products, makeup, sunscreen, antiperspirant/deodorant, fragrance, creams. Why is this one of the scary toxic skincare ingredients? Cancer, birth defects, hormone imbalances, skin irritation…its a bad one.

What to look for on the label: BHA, BHT (more info)

Ok, so now what?

We want you to be safe and healthy, living a vibrant lifestyle! The more you know, the easier that will be 🙂 So, start checking your labels – if you see one of these toxic skincare ingredients on your labels, decide if you want to throw it out right now, or replace it once its run out. Doing a full reset all at once can be overwhelming but can be easier over time if you start to replace your products,  you will have a safe skin care routine before you know it. As overwhelming as this list may be, there are actually more ingredients out there that can cause havoc with your health.

Luckily, there are resources to help us figure out if what we are buying is safe. To check the EWG SkinDeep encyclopedia on ingredients click here.  They have reports on loads of popular products, and if your isn’t listed then you can create one. Awesome!

Want a headstart with some beauty brands that are awesome? Heres a couple recommendations:

  1. SW Basics: this brand only uses natural & organic ingredients. Chances are you will recognize all the ingredients on the label without having to look them up.WIN!
  2. DIY Skin care products. I’ve been slowly swapping out some of my daily skincare products for natural or DIY products and coming from a former Sephora product addict, I cannot believe that my skin is actually looking so much healthier now. I guess when it doesn’t have to detox out toxins it doesn’t have to work as hard at looking good!
  3. Easy swaps, because honestly skin loves simplicity:

Shopping list of my fave natural swaps:

Never assume that the products you buy have passed a safety test. It’s up to you to know what you’re buying and putting on your skin.

What are your favourite natural skincare brands? Tell Us in the Comments!!

Toxic Skincare Ingredients

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5 Responses

  1. Harinie

    Very informative. I’m already conscious but only look for parabens and Sulfates. Now I know what else to look for!!!

  2. Nina

    Yes, I’m a believer! But I love all the data to support. Have you heard of Beautycounter?

  3. Idara

    Lovely post! I just added Acure’s rosewater to my routine a week ago. It can be used as a makeup setting spray, but I like to use it before applying my moisturizer to help it sink into my skin.


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