Your jaw will drop at the number of toxic beauty ingredients that are likely in your bathroom cabinets. The average woman in the U.S. uses 12 personal care products each day, containing nearly 168 different chemicals. While the European Union (EU) has been more proactive in regulating the number of chemicals their consumers are exposed to in cosmetics, and has spent the past two decades banning or restricting more than 1,400 harmful ingredients used in personal care products, the US has only banned 30 to date, as it has been since 1938 that Congress last passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients in cosmetics.

This means that, in the USA, companies are allowed to use known toxins—ingredients that have been linked to allergies, cancer, reproductive issues, hormone disruption—without telling us.

This type of chemical exposure is not insignificant to your health. Especially when these are products you use each day, over the course of your lifetime. In 2000 the Environmental Working Group ( released a study evaluating the contents of 37 nail polishes produced by 22 companies — all which contained dibutyl phthalate (DBP).  This one chemical in one product that shows to contribute to lifelong reproductive impairments in rats, including testicles, prostate gland, penis and seminal vesicles.

In the Environmental Defense report, “Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Makeup” researchers shared results from testing 49 different makeup items, including powders, blushes, mascaras, lipsticks and foundations. The testing revealed serious heavy metal contamination in virtually all the products:

  • 96% contained lead
  • 90% contained beryllium
  • 61% contained thallium
  • 51% contained cadmium
  • 20% contained arsenic

Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid

As a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Nutritionist practicing in St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay area, my clients often hear me say that food is not the enemy. What we do to it, meaning, nutrients that we remove from it and chemicals that spray or add to it, those are the enemies. The same is true for all the personal care products we use on a daily basis, several times a day. In other words, what we put IN our body as well as what we put ON our body, will affect the status of our well-being either positively or negatively.

Until there is some control over the toxic beauty ingredients used in products, safety testing and regulation that protects the consumer, it’s important you read the label on every personal care and cosmetic product you buy. Here’s a list of some of the more toxic beauty ingredients you may find in your products:

1. Parabens

This is a chemical you will find in deodorants, lotion, hair products and cosmetics. They mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen, which can drive the growth of human breast tumors. A study published in 2012 found parabens from antiperspirants and other cosmetics appear to increase your risk of breast cancer.

2. BHA & BHT

These toxic beauty ingredients are used as preservatives in makeup and moisturizers and are suspected endocrine disruptors.

3. Synthetic colors

FD&C or D&C are the labels used to represent artificial colors. The letters are preceded by a color and number, such as D&C Red 27. The colors are from coal tar or petroleum sources. They thought to be carcinogens. These toxic beauty ingredients are also have a link to ADHD in children.

4. Fragrance

This is a large category of chemicals that are protected as proprietary information. Manufacturers do not have to release the concoctions they use to produce the scents in fabric sheets, perfumes, shampoos, body washes as well as anything else that has an ingredient called “fragrance.”

5. Triclosan

You will find this antibacterial ingredient in soaps as well as other products that link to allergies, endocrine disruption, weight gain and inflammatory responses. It may also aggravate the growth of liver and kidney tumors.

6. Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives

While adding formaldehyde is banned as it is a known carcinogen, manufacturers have found other chemicals that act as preservatives and release formaldehyde. Chemicals such as quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, methenamine and hydantoin are used in a variety of cosmetics and slowly release formaldehyde as they age.

7. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate

These toxic beauty ingredients are surfactants that you will find in more than 90 percent of cleaning products and personal care products. These ingredients make the product foam up. Studies show they irritate your eyes, skin and lungs. They may also interact with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen.

8. Propylene Glycol

This small organic alcohol is a “skin conditioning agent”. You will find it in moisturizers, sunscreen, conditioners, shampoo and hairspray. Manufacturers add it to medications to help your body absorb the chemicals more quickly and to electronic cigarettes as well. It is also a skin irritant, is toxic to your liver and kidneys, and may produce neurological symptoms

Ways to Assess the Toxic Beauty Ingredients in Your Products

It is important to track adverse reactions if they relate to any chemical or product you use. Report any adverse reaction you or your family experiences to the FDA on their phone line (1-800-FDA-1088), online or their paper reporting form. The cosmetic industry is has no interest in tighter regulations, which leaves you in charge of what you and your family put on your skin.

Your skin is an excellent drug delivery system; what you put on your body is as important as what you eat. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome helps to protect you from some of the toxins you ingest by filtering them — a protection you don’t get when your skin absorbs them. Find recipes to make your own homemade bath and handwashing products that don’t contain toxic beauty ingredients or additional by-products and preservatives. Coconut oil is a healthy skin moisturizer that has natural antibacterial properties.

Environmental Working Group

The EWG has an extensive database to help you find personal care products free of toxic beauty ingredients. Products bearing the “USDA 100% Organic” seal are among your safest bets if you want to avoid potentially toxic ingredients. Be aware that products labeled “all-natural” may still contain harmful chemicals. It’s wise to check the full list of ingredients.

The Environmental Working Group,, has reviewed over 80,000 personal care products. They also rated them for their safety, or lack thereof, under their “skin deep” tab. So, you will be able to look up the products you are currently using and see if they contain toxic beauty ingredients! You must stop using and replace any items of your current personal care regimen that has a rating of toxicity of 4 or more, which is yellow or red warning.

Your products received a hazard score of 4 or more? Visit our Products page to learn more about the safer skin care line BEAUTYCOUNTER I use personally as well as in my practice. It received the highest safety rating, the EWG Verified seal, which certifies that the company:

  1. does not include any ingredients of concerns;
  2. uses good manufacturing practices; and
  3. is fully transparent on its labels.

Want more information on toxic beauty ingredients and a consultation on what skincare items would best fit your needs? Fill out the form below and we will get back to you within 24 hours.