10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients

Sharing is caring!

Beauty products should be a girls best friend. They’re there for us when we want to look good for date night, hit the town with the girls or just basically boost our self-esteem. Yay for cosmetic products!

However, beauty products have a dark side too, and those hard-to-pronounce ingredients? They’re not cool and can even cause cancer. Gulp.

It sounds crazy to think that something designed to make us look beautiful should include toxic ingredients. But anyone who has researched the FDA even briefly will know that it takes a decidedly, shall we say, lax approach when it comes to regulations. The food supply is rife with rule-bending that would make us all cringe before saying grace if we knew exactly what was really in our food, while the FDA’s equally lax approach to the cosmetic industry might make you wince the next time you apply eye shadow.

True, things have got a lot better since the days when lead was used freely in gasoline. But industries like the cosmetic one are still poorly regulated.

Here is a list of 10 toxic beauty ingredients.



Lead hasn’t totally gone away. However, it isn’t used in the same copious amounts today as it was back when it was causing the needless deaths of American factory workers in the 1920s.

It’s still included in some shampoos and it’s classed as an ingredient and not a contaminant, companies are under no pressure to list it as an ingredient.

Which explains why you’ve never bought shampoo before and thought “Lead? That’s a weird ingredient!!”



Parabens are a widely-used preservative that prevent yeast, fungus and bacteria from growing and thriving in cosmetic products. We’re loving the sound of parabens already.

The problem is that there’s also a flip side. Basically, parabens also mimic oestrogen and can cause breast cancer.

Parabens are in most cosmetic products, from facial cleansers to shampoos, from deodorants to body scrubs. They’re hard to avoid, and you’ll also find them listed on food packaging, too.

Not cool, parabens, not cool.



Ever get annoyed at your brother when he used to complain that your beauty products were giving him a sore throat? So annoying. The thing is, he wasn’t lying just to stop you looking and feeling fabulous. Indeed, fragrances are known to trigger allergies and can cause scratchy throats and even full-blown colds.

The thing is, no one really knows what is in a products fragrance as it’s protected by the umbrella term “fragrance.” What we do know is that, since fragrance triggers an alarming number of allergies, it’s certainly got a few chemicals in its arsenal.


Synthetic Colours

Few people but the sharp-eyed spot artificial colours listed on their beauty products because they’re labelled as D&C or FD&C, which is another way of saying “fake colours.”

Fake colors are bad because they usually come from coal tar or petroleum sources.

In case you’re asking “why is that bad?” just ask yourself “what good could come from using coal tar in makeup?”

Either way, fake colors are connected to ADHD in kids, they’re a known skin irritant, and are also thought to be a carcinogen. The EU dislike artificial colors so much that they went and banned them. However, the FDA still approves.


Antifreeze Agents

Antifreeze agents? What in the funk, FDA?!

Antifreeze can kill us, so why on earth is it in our shampoo bottles?

Pretty simple, actually: Antifreeze keeps the bottles at optimum temperature.

It can, however, irritate our skin and remains a toxic ingredient.


Sodium Lauryl

This is a sulphate that creates all that lather in your shampoo. And who doesn’t love lather?!

Sodium lauryl sounds awesome.

Unfortunately it has a – yes, you guessed it – darker side to it. Sodium lauryl isn’t dangerous enough to trigger the formation of tumours, but it damages hair follicles which can prevent new hair from growing.

To demonstrate how powerful this substance is, if you poured pure sodium lauryl to your mane, your hair would fall out. And since we all love our hair, this is certainly a toxic ingredient to raise an eyebrow to.


Sunscreen Chemicals


Like most of the toxic ingredients on this list, sunscreen chemicals have good intentions but let themselves down by doing very bad things to us.

Sunscreen chemicals’ remit is to protect us from UV light, leaving us free to enjoy some time in the sun without worrying about sunburn, premature ageing or skin cancer.

However, sunscreen chemicals are just that – chemical. Once absorbed into your body, they can damage cells and cause cancer.




One of the totally unpronounceable’s, phthalates is also incredibly dangerous. Remarkably, despite being linked to breast cancer, it’s still approved by the FDA and allowed in beauty products such as moisturisers, hair sprays, perfumes and deodorants.

Worse still, companies don’t even have to list it as an ingredient but can instead hide it behind the umbrella term “fragrance.”

There are actually different types of phthalates, and all are harmful. These include dimethyl phthalates, diethyl phthalates and dibutyl phthalates.




How harmful a toxic ingredient is can usually be determined by how unpronounceable its name is. Formaldehyde is pretty darn unpronounceable – and pretty darn dangerous.

It’s a preservative that is widely used in beauty products to stop bacteria from growing. That sounds like a virtuous mission, but unfortunately formaldehyde has a dark side and has been classed as a carcinogen. More of a devil than an angel, it’s been linked to the onset of nasal cancer. More milder reactions include skin problems, but it can also compromise your immune system.

Formaldehyde is found in shampoos, nail polish treatments, conditioners, cleansers, body scrubs and nail polish.


Thickening Agents

Lastly, thickening agents are found in most shampoos and hair products, despite the fact that they can ruin your hair’s glow, irritate your scalp and trigger other allergic reactions.

These are 10 toxic beauty ingredients that are found in many cosmetic products. They’re hard to avoid if you want to stick to your favourite brands and products, but if you do want to make the switch to natural, chemical-free products, there are now more organic alternatives available than ever.

Thankfully there are non-toxic brands on the market and after researching many brands,  I personally recommend Beautycounter.

Beautycounter is actively working to have the laws updated (which has not happened since 1937 if you can believe it….) so that ALL products have to meet stricter safety standards.


If you need help choosing products to suit your specific needs PLEASE contact me – I would so love to help you! You can tell me more about your current products and your skin type and I can make recommendations for you.

If you want to read more about my reasons for choosing Beautycounter here is my blog post.


  1. Jessica DeMay December 18, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    It’s so crazy what is allowed in beauty products. Scary really! So glad there are safer options now.

  2. Jean December 19, 2017 at 7:35 am

    Ugh, still infuriating what they’ll allow in the products that we use. I switched all my products to safer and toxin free and it’s been the best decision ever!

  3. c December 19, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Going non toxic with beauty products is a must when balancing hormones, so scary there isn’t more regulation on this stuff.

  4. tina December 19, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    so scary to think about! things we put on our face everyday…

  5. Emily @ Recipes to Nourish December 19, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Isn’t is crazy the junk that is allowed in beauty products?! So insane. I’m so glad they’re some safer options available.

  6. Carrie December 20, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    Such good information and scary too! Ugh, it’s so important to read labels.

  7. Taesha Butler (The Natural Nurturer) December 22, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Seriously, so important for people to know about. Until there are stronger regulations, people need to know what ingredients are healthy and which are harmful.

  8. Katja December 23, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    It’s such a drag that we have to be so vigilant with what companies are putting into our products. I love beautycounter!!

  9. ChihYu December 25, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Thank you for this post. I learned a lot !

  10. STACEY CRAWFORD December 25, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    There are so many products I just can’t use. Great list.

  11. Becky Winkler December 26, 2017 at 6:51 am

    So terrifying! More reasons to looooove Beautycounter!!

  12. Lindsey Dietz December 26, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    All the crap in beauty products nowadays is SO scary. I do wear food-based makeup, but most days, I just go without. 🙂


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *