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7 Toxic Cosmetic Ingredients To Avoid Putting On Your Skin

Sometimes we are so consumed with finding beauty products that make our skin look instantly gorgeous that we fail to see the real damage caused by some of the toxic cosmetic ingredients used in our everyday products. Here is a list of 7 toxic cosmetic ingredients to avoid putting on your skin.

Siobhan Dean



Sometimes we are so consumed with finding beauty products that make our skin look instantly gorgeous that we fail to see the real damage caused by some of the toxic cosmetic ingredients used in our everyday products.

All over the world, women understand that beautiful skin is a tremendous asset. Even if genetics haven’t given you the type of skin you’d like, excellent beauty products have emerged that work at giving your skin a fresh, smooth appearance.

When selecting beauty products, it is paramount that you read all the fundamental information that is declared on the product and ensure it does not contain any toxic ingredients that can be destructive to your body and can be easily absorbed into your skin, causing cellular harm and cancer in the body.

However, not all components are harmful, so it is crucial that you choose the ones that do not do any damage to your skin and don’t cause any side effects or any adverse reactions.

Below is a list of some toxic cosmetic ingredients that you should avoid when purchasing beauty products:

7 Toxic Cosmetic Ingredients To Avoid Putting On Your Skin

1. Parabens

These are the preservatives that are commonly used for preventing the increase of mold, bacteria, and yeast in cosmetic products. They can play an essential part in instigating breast cancers [1] and other harmful allergic reactions like rashes.

They can be found in diverse forms such as ethyl, methyl, propyl, butyl, and are a common ingredient found in a variety of makeup products, perfumes, shampoos, and deodorants.

2. Phthalates

These are a group of chemicals used in many cosmetics to increase the pliability and of elasticity. The most common phthalates used in daily skin care products and cosmetics are:

  • Diethyl phthalate: found in perfumes and lotions
  • Dibutyl phthalate: found in nail polish
  • Dimethyl phthalate: commonly found in a variety of hairsprays.

Moreover, they can lead to a myriad of health issues which include damage to kidney/liver, breast cancer, congenital disabilities, a decrease in sperm count, and early breast development both in girls and boys. [2]


Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical that is present in many deodorants, soaps, facial tissues, cleansers, antiperspirants, perfumes, and toothpaste. It is well-known as an endocrine disruptor and a skin irritant.[3]

7 Toxic Cosmetic Ingredients To Avoid

4. Diethanolamine (DEA) & Triethanolamine (TEA)

Both these ingredients are foam boosters that are skin/eye irritants and causes contact dermatitis. You may hear them referred to as emulsifiers and are commonly found in shampoos, soaps, lotions, creams, and other cosmetic products.

They are also used as a pH adjuster as they help in neutralizing the acidity of the ingredients. They can cause many problems linked with skin, stomach, liver, and kidney.[4] Also, they may lead to many allergic reactions, eye problems, dryness of hair and skin, skin irritation and much more.

5. Formaldehyde

Surely, this is the same substance used to preserve those rabbits and frogs you had to dissect in Science class? It’s a popular chemical commonly used as a germicide, disinfectant, preservative and a fungicide. Formaldehyde vapors are extremely irritating and can cause asthma.[5]

Skin allergies and reactions after exposure to formaldehyde are very regular because the chemical can be both irritating and allergy producing.

It is an excessively reactive chemical, to the extent that it can corrode with other chemicals to generate carcinogenic and mutagenic effects. The tricky part is, while your skin care products may not list “formaldehyde” as an active ingredient, the following ingredients break down and release formaldehyde:

  • Diazolidinyl urea (or 3-diol Diazolidinyl Urea)
    • 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1 (or Bronopol)
    • DMDM hydantoin
    • imidazolidinyl urea
    • Quaternium-15

Be especially wary if you find them in a hair product and regularly blow dry or straighten your hair since heat can release the formaldehyde.

Toxic Cosmetic Ingredients To Avoid

6. Fragrance

This is probably the most common word found on literally any ingredient list. Fragrance virtually found in everything, including lotions, perfumes, and shampoos.

Skin care products like anti-aging creams need to smell good for customers to buy it. This is why most manufacturers include fragrances to mask the natural unpleasant odors of cosmetic ingredients. Unknown to many, fragrances can cause damage to skin over time [6]. Many kinds of fragrances are even known to be toxic and carcinogenic.

7. Selenium sulfide.

Selenium sulfide is a topical anti-fungal used in anti-dandruff shampoos. Once it gets into your skin cells, it breaks into sulfide and selenium ions, which reduces the turnover rate of skin cells. Some of the minimal side effects from this include skin and eye irritation, oily scalp and hair loss or discoloration (turning green!). Acute symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea as well as loss of fingernails.

Selenium sulfide has also been associated with damage to internal organs. [7] You should consider seeking natural dandruff cures instead.


In a nutshell, to maintain vigorous and good-looking skin, it is important that you keep these toxic cosmetic ingredients in mind and try to opt for natural, less harmful alternatives that are not only safe for your skin but also good for your overall health.


[1] Parabens and Breast Cancer: Breast Cancer UK
[2] How dangerous are Phthalates?: The Guardian
[3] How safe is Triclosan?:
[4] Diethanolamine concerns:
[5] Formaldehyde exposure and childhood asthma: NCBI
[6] Hidden Heath Risks of Fragrance: webMD
[7] Selenium Sulfide: MedlinePlus

Siobhan Dean
'Feel Good' Connoisseur & Writer at OverSavvy
From beauty tips to keep you looking at your best to fashion secrets that make you feel fabulous in your own skin and those all important shopping gems that keep the Dopamine levels topped up, think of Siobhan as the go-to girl that keeps you feeling good.
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