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Updated on May 5, 2011

Poisonous Ingredients in Skin Care, Hair Care and Make-Up

The ingredients lists on skin care and cosmetic containers and bottles can read like a foreign language and it is difficult to decipher which ingredients are safe for us to use on our bodies, and which are to be avoided.  

Most commercially made creams, moisturisers and lotions contain numerous dangerous and toxic ingredients.  Unfortunately, the majority of these ingredients are completely legal for companies to add to their skin and body care products, regardless of whether they are toxic for us or not.

The skin is our body’s largest organ, and anything we put onto our skin soaks through the layers of the skin and enters the bloodstream. Our health and wellbeing is our own responsibility, therefore it is up to us as individual consumers to check the labels on what we purchase and make informed choices about what we are, and are not, willing to put on our skins and into our bodies.

There are many common toxic cosmetic ingredients in skin care and cosmetics to avoid, such as Dioxane, Parabens, Toluene, Triclosan and Sulphates, Propylene Glycol, Phenol Carbolic acid and Paraffin  to name a few.


Dioxane is a by-product of many ingredients such as laureth, polysorbates, PEG and ethoxylated alcohols.  Dixane is a synthetic derivative of coconut, which has been linked to certain cancers.  The liver and nasal passages are most vulnerable to the affects of Dioxane.

Unfortunately, Dioxane is most often not mentioned on most labels and is a hidden ingredient in many so-called ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ products which state ‘comes from coconut’ or ‘coconut derived’ on their labels.


Parabens come in the form of  Etyl, Methyl, Butyl and Propyl.  Parabens are most often used as preservatives, and due to their low cost they are used extensively in many skin care, cosmetics and ‘beauty’ products.  As they mimic human estrogen, these products have been linked to breast cancer, although there has been no conclusive proof to date.  It is advisable to avoid products that include these ingredients.


Paraffin (also known as Mineral Oil) is a clear liquid oil that has no scent and does not spoil.

Petrolatum is a common toxic ingredient in skin care products and cosmetics, and is a semi-solid mixture that is either colorless or pale yellow.  They are a by-product of the distillation of gasoline from crude oil, and are the core ingredients in Bio-oil, Petroleum Jelly (eg. Vaseline),  Sorbolene, some lip balms and many ‘baby care’ products.

These petroleum based products coat the skin and clog the pores and create a build-up of toxins which can slow and distort cellular development and create premature signs of ageing.  Petroleum based products have been implicated as a major cause of eczema and similar skin conditions, and are a suspected cause of some cancers.  These toxic ingredients in skin care products can also disrupt normal hormonal activity.


Phenol Carbolic Acid is found in many skin creams and lotions, hair dyes and sunscreens.  It is a product made from the distillation of coal tar, and can be made synthetically also.

Phenol Carbolic acid may cause  convulsions, paralysis, circulatory collapse, coma and possibly even death due to respiratory failure.


Propylene Glycol are used as humectants in many skin care and cosmetic products as a means of helping the skin retain moisture.  It is also said to enhance the assimilation of some of the other compounds and ingredients of the product into the skin.

Propylene Glycol, a common toxic ingredient in skin care and cosmetics, is included in anti-aging creams and is also used in brake fluid, anti-freeze and photographic chemicals.

Propylene Glycol, when used on the skin, is a potential skin irritant and cancer-causing agent that has been linked to kidney and liver problems and may even inhibit cell growth within the body.


Common toxic ingredients in skin care and cosmetics to avoid are Sulphates such as Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES).  These are foaming agents most commonly used in shampoos, soaps and bubble baths and products that produce a foam or lather.  

These ingredients are derived from the ‘sulphuric acid’ family and have been developed as oil-stripping agents.  They strip and deplete the natural oils from the skin and hair and may cause skin irritations such as rashes, dryness, roughness and flaking of the skin.

Sulphates are absorbed through the skin and are stored in the body and build up within the heart, liver and brain.  Sulphates can mimic the human estrogen hormones and are linked to cancer (particularly breast cancer) as well as other health issues.


Toluene is a colourless, flammable liquid solvent derived from coal tar and/or petroleum.

Toluene has been shown to be extremely poisonous and is well known to cause damage to the central nervous system.  It can also cause a lowered blood cell count, anaemia and damage to the liver and kidneys.  Studies have shown that pregnant women who have been exposed to toluene have given birth to babies with various abnormalities and deformities.

When used on the skin Toluene breaks down the skin’s natural protective layers, resulting in dry, itchy skin and rashes.

Toluene is a common toxic ingredient in skin care and cosmetics to avoid, and is in almost all synthetic perfumes, fragranced oils and other fragranced products.  It is used in nail polishes, cosmetics and most skin care products.


Triclosan is used as an ‘antibacterial’ agent in many commercially made soaps, detergents, deodorants, acne treatments, toothpastes and mouth washes, amongst other personal body care products and cosmetics.   Unfortunately, Triclosan not only kills bad bacteria, but also good bacteria.

Triclosan has the potential to disrupt the normal function of the endocrine system and thyroid-effecting hormone levels.  Toxic Triclosan accumulates in the body and is then stored in the body fat of humans.  Triclosan reacts with the chlorine found in drinking water, and forms into dioxins, which have been shown to be a probable cause of many cancers.

When buying skin care, body products and cosmetics, always check and re-check the ingredients labels.  Parabens, Toluene, Dioxane, Phenol Carbolic acid, Paraffin, Propylene Glycol, Triclosans and Sulphates are common toxic ingredients in skin care and cosmetic to avoid.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Органайзер включает в себя будильник, календарь и калькулятор. Конвертер физических величин, который, казалось бы, должен соседствовать с будильником и календарем, помещен в Приложения вместе с Игрой.

    • profile image


      7 years ago



    • profile image


      8 years ago

      can you show witch products are good to use because my hair is falling like crazy i don't know what to do,iam in my 20's and i have really thin hair on the very top of my head.iam afraid it will go to being bold,people are telling me your loosing your hair,iam so ashamed,:(

    • profile image

      Violet Starz 

      9 years ago

      So does this mean that "Green Works" products are toxic?? They say their magic ingredient is - alkyl polyglucoside - Coconuts! This coconut-based cleaning agent is great at dissolving and removing dirt, oil and grease. Other ingredients are: colorant, ethanol, fragrance with essential oils(synthetic), potassium carbonate, potassium citrate and preservative. Please any information would be very helpful as I clean houses for a living and I use this product daily! Thanks so much!

    • Tree Change profile imageAUTHOR

      Tree Change 

      9 years ago from AUSTRALIA

      Thanks for your positive comment Rebekah. It's pretty amazing what they'll put into products that are supposed to care, enhance and pamper us. Quite a contradiction really.

    • Rebekah  Nydam profile image

      Rebekah Nydam 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you so much for posting this. I knew there were toxins in everyday cosmetics and lotions but this was a very thorough breakdown of each kind and what they are found in. I'm going to definitely reference this the next time I have to buy some kind of product. Awesome hub!!


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