Ingredients to Avoid

Ingredients to Avoid

Not sure what ingredients to avoid when purchasing personal care products. Many are toxic to the environment. Use this handy guide when reading labels & buy with confidence.


Coal Tar Dyes – mixture of many chemicals, derived from petroleum 

  • Look for p-phenylenediamine in hair dyes and in other products listed with colours. Listed as ‘CL’ followed by 5 digits or ‘FD&C Blue No. 1 or Yellow 5’
  • Potential health hazards: recognized as a human carcinogen so potential to cause cancer. These dyes could be contaminated with low levels of heavy metals.


Parabens – prefixes ethyl, methyl, butyl or propyl 

  • Used as a preservative and in fragrance ingredients
  • Potential health hazards: estrogen mimicker, breast cancer, sun aging, DNA damage, allergic reactions and interferes with male reproductive functions


Triclosan – preservative and anti-bacterial agent 

  • Can pass through the skin, also toxic to aquatic organisms
  • Potential health hazards: endocrine disrupter & can contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria


Petrolatum – mineral oil jelly (petroleum product) 

  • Used as a barrier to lock moisture in the skin
  • Clog pores and create a build-up of toxins
  • Other petroleum ingredients to watch out for are mineral oil and paraffin
  • Potential health hazards: carcinogen, endocrine disrupter & skin irritation


Phthalates – solvent and plasticizer 

  • Also found in fragrances and absorbed through the skin
  • Potential health hazards: endocrine disruptor, genetic mutations


Hydroquinone – used to lighten dark patches on skin 

  • Whitens skin by killing skin pigment cells
  • Potential health hazards: mutations, DNA damage, cancer, skin irritations


Parfum (Fragrance) – represents a complex mixture of dozens to hundreds of chemicalspetroleum-based substances

  • Ingredient in perfumes, colognes and other products
  • Many of the ingredients have never been tested for toxicity
  • Not required by the FDA or Health Canada to be listed on a label
  • Potential health hazards: migraines, asthma, allergies, skin irritation, immune system toxican


Toluene – petrochemical 

  • Used as a solvent in paints
  • Found in most synthetic fragrances
  • Potential health hazards: developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies, immunotoxicity, endocrine disruptor, liver or kidney damage, anemia


Heavy Metals – i.e. lead and mercury 

  • Found in cosmetics and hair dyes
  • Potential health hazards: carcinogens, allergies


BHA and BHT – synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives 

  • Potential health hazards: allergies, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, hormone mimickers, cancer, liver & kidney problems


DEA-related ingredients – pH adjuster and makes products creamy or sudsy 

  • Can react with nitrites to form nitrosamines (carcinogen)
  • Cocamide, Lauramide DEA (diethanolamine) is readily absorbed through the skin
  • Potential health hazards: skin and eye irritations, cancer


Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives – used as preservatives 

  • Slowly and continuously release small amounts of formaldehyde & can be absorbed through the skin
  • Potential health hazards: carcinogen, skin and eye irritations


PEG compounds – polyethylene glycols (petroleum-based compounds) 

  • Used as thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisturizers
  • Potential health hazards: can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane (carcinogen), skin irritation, developmental toxicant


Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS or SLES) – used as a detergent and to make products bubble and foam 

  • Break down your skin's moisture barrier, leading to dry skin and premature aging
  • Sodium Lauryl or Laureth Sulfate is used in engine degreasers, floor cleaners, and car wash soap
  • Potential health hazards: can be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane (carcinogens), harm nervous system, developmental toxicant


Siloxanes – silicone-based compounds used to smooth, soften and moisten products 

  • Cyclomethicone and ingredients ending in ‘siloxane’
  • Extremely harmful to the environment
  • Cyclotetrasiloxane and cyclopentasiloxane are toxic, persistent and have potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms
  • Potential health hazards: endocrine disruptors, cancer, nervous system


A few other ingredients to watch out for are dioxane, propylene glycol, animal by-products and benzene. 


Dioxane can be hidden in personal care products. Its carcinogenicity was first reported in 1965, and later confirmed in studies including one from the National Cancer Institute in 1978.


Propylene glycol is a common cosmetic moisturizer and carrier for fragrance oils. It has been linked to kidney and liver problems, dermatitis, damage cell membranes and skin irritation. Did you know that the industrial world uses propylene glycol in antifreeze, brake fluid, paint, and airplane de-icer.


Benzene causes cancer in both animals and humans. It targets liver, kidney, lung, heart and the brain.


Animal by-products – have you ever heard of rendering plants? Slaughtered animals, euthanized pets and roadkill are dumped into giant grinders at rendering plants. This gruesome mix is ground and steam-cooked, the lighter, fatty material floating to the top gets refined for use in products such as cosmetics, lubricants, soaps, candles and waxes. Who knows where these animals have been and if they were carrying a disease?


DID YOU KNOW……there are many legal synonyms for many of these ingredients? Propylene glycol has over 14 legal synonyms. Sodium lauryl sulfate has over 90. WHY???


Not sure if the product and its ingredients are natural, organic or synthetic? Check out my video below and on YouTube explaining the difference.