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The 10 Household and Cosmetic Chemicals To Avoid

Updated on June 6, 2011

The Cosmetics Database

Check out the EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetic database for more information at

The ingredient list is worth reading

It turns out that reading the labels on the products you use at home is important, because much of the stuff we are using is not officially regulated.

I've made a habit of avoiding some things in particular, and I've put together a list of chemicals that I specifically avoid. Plus, most of these chemicals have alternatives that are readily available.

The list below includes stuff you’ll find in shampoo, sunscreen, eye shadows and mascara, skin bleaching lotions, and anti-microbial soaps and cleaners.

1. Coal Byproducts: This includes coal tar hair dyes and other coal tar ingredients that also go by the names of Aminophenol, Diaminobenzene, Phenylenediamine. Big words, but worth noting. These have been identified by the National Toxicology Program as a carcinogen, so I don’t use it. Hair stylists come in contact with this stuff daily. You’ll find it in psoriasis shampoos which the Food and Drug Administration sanctions, and for those who have no alternative, it might be the lesser of evils. But I skip it.

2. Benzalkonium chloride: This is a biocide or preservative that can lead to severe skin, eye, and respiratory irritation and allergies. It shouldn’t be used for people with asthma or skin conditions like eczema. You can find it around the house as a disinfectant or in cleaning supplies. Experts warn that use of products containing antimicrobials such as benzalkonium chloride could lead to development of resistant bacteria.

3. BHA: Beta-Hydroxy Acids are commonly found in anti-acne products but it’s one of those things on the list of possible cancer-causing agents. If you can avoid it – do.

4. Hydroquinone: You’ll find this in potions that fade freckles and spots. It bleaches skin, but can cause a nasty skin disease called ochronosis, with blue-black lesions that in the worst cases become permanent black caviar-size bumps. While it hasn’t been definitively show to cause cancer, there are other more acceptable ways to get rid of pigmentation – the spots and dots caused by age and sun.

5. Oxybenzone: This is a sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber, found in nearly all Americans , according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In human epidemiological studies, oxybenzone has been linked to irritation, sensitization and allergies. Studies on cells and laboratory animals indicate that it may disrupt the hormone system.

6. Parabens (Propyl, Isopropyl, Butyl, and Isobutylparabens): Parabens are estrogen-mimicking preservatives, found in breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied. The CDC has detected parabens in virtually all Americans surveyed. The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, says parabens may disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders.

7. Petroleum distillates: I particularly try to stay away from this chemical group because eye cosmetics with petroleum distillates in it make my eyes water and lids rashy. This is commonly found in mascara. This stuff is produced in oil refineries and I don’t want it on my face.

8. Triclosan & Triclocarban: Antimicrobial pesticides in liquid soap (triclosan) or soap bars (triclocarban), are very toxic to sea life. Triclosan and Triclocarban are often found as contaminants in people due to widespread use of antimicrobial cleaning products. Triclosan disrupts thyroid function and reproductive hormones. Just use soap instead, since overuse may promote the development of bacterial resistance.

9. Resorcinol: This is a common ingredient in hair color and bleaching products. Its downside is that it can be a skin irritant, toxic to the immune system and can be the cause of hair dye allergy. In animal studies, resorcinol can disrupt normal thyroid function. Interestingly, the federal government regulates exposures to resorcinol in the workplace, but does not restrict it in personal care products. That means politics are at work here, so I just try to stay away from it.

10. Toluene: This chemical is a “volatile petrochemical solvent” and paint thinner which acts as an irritant, impairs breathing and causes nausea. Don’t breathe toluene if you can help it. Some studies suggest A pregnant woman’s exposure to toluene vapors during pregnancy may impair fetal development. It has also been associated with toxicity to the immune system and a potential link to malignant lymphoma.


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    • Felina Margetty profile image

      Felina Margetty 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Wow again, my goodness you are the clever one. I really love your well written and informative hubs. Cheers F.

    • SJKSJK profile image

      SJKSJK 6 years ago from delray beach, florida

      I will keep an eye out for these toxic products. Thanks

    • profile image

      PWalker281 6 years ago

      Cool! I'll definitely check out your website.

    • GracieLake profile image

      GracieLake 6 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks PWalker281 - I've just started a website - where I'm going to take this idea further and post some of my recipes for safer home-made potions. I'll put them up on hubpages too.

    • profile image

      PWalker281 6 years ago

      Wow! I'm amazed at the stuff manufacturers get away with putting in products we use every day. Thanks for this important hub. Rated up and useful (and will definitely share with my networks).

    • blueorpurple profile image

      blueorpurple 6 years ago

      its really nice and useful

    • GracieLake profile image

      GracieLake 6 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate the feedback!!

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 6 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      I'm checking my house now for any of these items. I enjoyed this very much. You have this laid out beautifully and it is easy to understand. Keep up the great HUBS. Up one and Useful. Hey! I'm now your fan! RJ