The best way to be sure your products are safe? Know what’s in them. Keep this list of harmful cosmetic ingredients handy while you shop. Remember: No full ingredient listing, no buy!

Purpose/Usage: a chemical by-product of ethoxylation, an ingredient processing method used to make petro-ingredients less irritating to skin
Avoid because: carcinogenic, suspected cardiovascular and blood toxicant, gastrointestinal toxicant, immunotoxicant, kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant, respiratory toxicant, skin toxicant
Products found in: shampoo, facial cleansers, body wash, bubble bath, baby bath, liquid soap
How to identify on a label: because 1,4 Dioxane is a contaminant produced during the manufacturing process, FDA does not require it to be listed on a product ingredient listing. recommends looking for common ingredients which may contain the impurity, identifiable by the prefix or designations of ‘PEG,’ ‘–eth–,’ ‘Polyethylene,’ ‘Polyethylene glycol’ ‘Polyoxyethylene,’ or ‘–oxynol–’ (FDA 2007)

Purpose/Usage: foaming agent
Avoid because: skin sensitizer, can form carcinogenic compounds when mixed with certain cosmetic ingredients
Products found in: makeup, body wash, shampoo, skincare
How to identify on a label: DEA or Diethanolimine, TEA or Triethanolamine, Cocamide DEA or Cocamide Diethanolimine, Lauramide DEA or Lauramide Diethanolimine, DEA Lauryl Sulphate or Diethanolimine Sulfate, Linoleaide DEA or Linoleaide Diethanolimine, Oleamide DEA or Oleamide Diethanolimine

Purpose/Usage: an impurity released by some chemical preservatives
Avoid because: carcinogenic, skin and lung irritant, gastrointestinal or liver toxicant and neurotoxin
Products found in: nail polish, deodorant, shampoo
How to identify on a label: Formaldehyde, Formalin, Urea, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, Quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, and Sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate

Purpose/Usage: sweat blocker, colorant, whitener, lightener
Avoid because: possible carcinogen, developmental and reproductive toxicant, organ system toxicant, allergies and immunotoxicant, bioaccumulation
Products found in: Lip products, whitening toothpaste, eyeliner, nail color, foundations, sunscreens, eye shadows, blush, concealer, moisturizers, eye drops
How to identify on a label: Aluminum, Aluminium flake, Aluminum, LB Pigment 5; Pigment metal 1; A 00; A 95; A 995; A 999; AA 1099; AA1199, Lead acetate, Lead flake, Chromium, Thimerosal, Hydrogenated cotton seed oil, Sodium hexametaphosphate

Purpose/Usage: widely used as a preservative
Avoid because: possible neurotoxin, possible health risks to unborn babies, allergic reactions
Products found in: hair care, body wash, sunscreen, skin care
How to identify on a label: > 3 (2h) -Isothiazolone, 2-Methyl-; Methylchloroisothiazolinone225methylisothiazolinone Solution; 2-Methyl-3 (2h) -Isothiazolone; 2-Methyl-4-Isothiazolin-3-One; 2-Methyl- 3 (2h) -Isothiazolone; 2-Methyl-2h-Isothiazol-3-One; 3 (2h) Isothiazolone, 2methyl; 2-Methyl-3 (2h) -Isothiazolone; 2-Methyl-4-Isothiazolin-3-One

Purpose/Usage: preservative
Avoid because: found in breast tissue, acts like estrogen in the body, could lead to impaired fertility or fetal development
Products found in: soap, skincare, body care, hair care, toothpaste, deodorant
How to identify on a label: alkyl parahydroxybenzoate, butylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparabens

Purpose/Usage: used as an emollient or lubricant
Avoid because: commonly contains impurities linked to cancer
Products found in: skincare, body care, lip balm, makeup
How to identify on a label: petrolatum, petroleum jelly, mineral oil

Purpose/Usage: often used as a carrier for synthetic fragrance
Avoid because: can negatively affect fertility and fetal development, considered a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organizaiton
Products found in: hair spray, lipstick, perfume and nail polish
How to identify on a label: Benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP), Di-n-butyl phthalate or Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), Diethyl phthalate (DEP), and sometimes Fragrance

Purpose/Usage: helps a product to retain moisture
Avoid because: penetration enhancer (alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to more easily enter the system)
Products found in: skincare, hair care, body care, makeup, baby care products, contact lens cleaner
How to identify on a label: Propylene Glycol, Proptylene Glycol, 1,2-Propanediol. Related synthetics: PEG (polyethylene glycol) and PPG (polypropylene glycol)

Purpose/Usage: makes a product foamy
Avoid because: penetration enhancer (alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to more easily enter the system)
Products found in: shampoo, facial cleansers, body wash, bubble bath, baby bath, toothpaste
How to identify on a label: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate, Anhydrous Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Irium

Purpose/Usage: coal tar (petroleum) derived and commonly tested on animals due to their carcinogenic properties, used to artificially color a cosmetic product
Avoid because: can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions
Products found in: shampoo, facial cleansers, body wash, skincare, baby care products, hair care, makeup
How to identify on a label: FD&C or D&C followed by a name and number (FD&C RED NO. 40)

Purpose/Usage: combination of chemical ingredients used to artificially scent a cosmetic product
Avoid because: can cause allergic reactions, headache, dizziness, and rash (children tend to be particularly sensitive), respiratory distress, and possible effects to reproductive system
Products found in: hair care, skin care, makeup, body care, perfume
How to identify on a label: fragrance, parfum (It is important to note that the terms “fragrance” or “parfum” sometimes occur on an ingredient listing which contains natural fragrance ingredients and no chemical ingredients. This is most often due to manufacturer trade secret and should be disclosed on the label.)

Purpose/Usage: provide sun protection
Avoid because: have been found to mimic estrogen in the body potentially causing hormonal disruption, can also cause skin irritation and easily absorb in to the skin
Products found in: sunscreens, facial moisturizer, lip protection
How to identify on a label: 4-Methyl-Benzylidencamphor (4-MBC), Oxybenzone Benzophenone-3, Octyl-methoyl-cinnamates (OMC), Octyl-Dimethyl-Para-Amino-Benzoic Acid (OD-PABA), Homosalate(HMS)

Purpose/Usage: strong antibacterial and preservative used in hospitals
Avoid because: potentially contaminated with chloroform and dioxins, linked to hormonal disruption, organ toxicity, allergic reaction, skin, eye, and lung irritation, and bioaccumulation
Products found in: hand soaps, hand sanitizers, makeup, deodorant, shaving gel, after shave, facial cleanser, facial wipes, body wash, and toothpaste
How to identify on a label: look for triclosan and triclocarban, especially in products labeled “germ killing” or “antibacterial”.

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