Beware of These Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics

Most people don’t bother to check the ingredients of their cosmetics and other health and beauty products. Many simply assume they’re safe, as long as they are sold at popular personal care stores.

However, the unfortunate fact is that cosmetic companies are not strictly regulated in terms of harmful and unhealthy chemicals. The FDA classifies most chemicals as “generally recognized as safe” when it isn’t proven that they cause harm to human health. What’s even worse are the labels “natural” and “made with organic”, which can be misleading. A product can be labeled with the latter if it contains at least 70% certified organic ingredients, leaving 30% room for toxic chemicals.

This fact about cosmetics is quite disturbing, as it means that one-third of our products might easily of toxic chemicals. Hence, we as consumers must check the labels of our cosmetic products and be careful about purchasing anything with certain ingredients. Below, we’ll talk a bit about such ingredients and just what makes them so harmful:



Formaldehyde is used in a wide range of products such as moisturizers, hair products, nail products, fake eyelash glue, vinyl flooring, and toilet bowl cleaners. Ingredients containing formaldehyde include quaternium-15, methylene glycol, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, and diazolidinyl urea. It is considered a carcinogen and an irritant, which means it raises the risk of depression, insomnia, ALS and ADHD.

With such an ingredient inside so many everyday products, it’s no wonder that these diseases are becoming so common nowadays. We hence need to be careful of this particular chemical and avoid any product that includes it as much as possible.



Parabens are used frequently as preservatives in most cosmetics, fragrances, and hygiene products such as soap, body wash, shampoo, conditioners, shaving cream, and toothpaste products. When these products are used frequently, as they usually are, this chemical can penetrate the skin to disrupt endocrine and estrogen hormones.

This particular chemical is found in the tumors of almost all breast cancer patients. It’s also been linked to fertility problems in women. Avoid products with this chemical by looking for butylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben, and isopropylparaben. Parabens usually hide behind these difficult-sounding names. Remember, if you can’t pronounce it easily, the ingredient is probably hiding a dangerous and toxic chemical. A bit of research and effort in reading before purchasing could tell us a lot.


Although hard to pronounce, phthalates are commonly used to soften cosmetic products like nail polish. They can also be found in eyeliners, blushers, lip gloss, deodorants, fragrances, lotions, and hair products.

Research has shown that these chemicals disrupt hormones. It’s linked to early puberty in girls, abnormal reproductive development in baby boys and reduced testosterone plus low sperm quality in men. It also increases the risk of endocrine disruption, cancer and organ damage. This goes by variants such as diethylhexyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate, and butyl benzyl phthalate. All of the conditions listed above are not desirable ones by any means. In order to ensure that you and your children remain healthy at all stages of life, read the ingredients on every product before buying and using.



Lead is a harmful ingredient found in lipstick and hair dyes. Lead poisoning is a serious business, with even untreated pottery releasing large amounts of lead which can lead to a slow and painful death.

This particular substance is now classified as a carcinogen that is linked to abnormalities in the female reproductive system development, reduced fertility, and miscarriage. One version of this, the lead acetate, is a neurotoxin that can cause memory problems and high blood pressure in adults.

The same effects are also caused by ingredients going by the name of chromium, thimerosal and sodium hexametaphosphate. when buying cosmetics, we should hence completely eschew any and all products that contain these ingredients. If we don’t, we might face some serious reproductive issues and birth abnormalities in the future.


Used for lightening skin, hydroquinone can be found in many skin whitening products and moisturizers. As these products are very popular in Asian countries, many people are unknowingly exposing themselves to all kinds of harm. It’s high time that skin-whitening products were taking off the market in any case, as they perpetuate a racist and unrealistic standard of ‘beauty’.

This ingredient is related to cancer, respiratory tract irritation, and reproductive toxicity. In fact, it’s classified among banned substances within the US.  Unfortunately, some companies are still allowed to use up to a 4% concentration of it. You will find it in the labels of products, most likely disguised under the names such as hydroquinone or tocopheryl acetate.



Toluene is present in hair dyes and nail polish, helping to sustain their color. As it can be ingested through inhalation, using products with toluene isn’t recommended. We should hence only use such items in well-ventilated areas.

However, toluene can be an irritant to our skin and the respiratory tract if inhaled. Chronic exposure to this chemical is linked to anemia, low blood, organ damage even abnormalities in developing fetuses inside pregnant women.

Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl palmitate is easily absorbed by the skin and is usually found in anti-aging creams, moisturizers and lip products. Studies have shown that this chemical spurs on the development of cancerous lesions on skin that’s exposed to the sun. This thus puts users at very high risk of skin cancer. Look for retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinol and tretinoin in ingredient labels. If there are any of these names there, you want to avoid these products.


Buying the latest new and improved cream, lotions and other beauty products might be tempting, especially with no amount of temporary pleasure can make up for ingesting dangerous toxic ingredients through our skin, mouth, or nose.

Taking care about the kind of products we purchase will force companies to use ingredients responsibly. Reading the labels might get tiresome after a while, so many people are now switching to organic skin care. These products, if we conduct the proper research beforehand, are more effective in the long run and will also make sure our health stays intact in the pursuit of beauty.