10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients To Avoid Like The Plague

Last Updated:

The beauty stuff out there can make our skin look great, but guess what? Some of those things have bad stuff in them that we should stay away from. I’m gonna tell you about ten of those bad ingredients. They can cause irritation, allergic reactions, and, in some cases, serious illness or damage.

When I first started learning about these ingredients, I was totally shocked. I couldn’t actually believe that stuff I was putting on my skin every day could actually be this bad for me!

But once I knew what to look for, I started reading the labels more. Now, I feel a little more confident about the products Im choosing and how they affect my skin. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Phthalates

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Phthalates are compounds known as ‘plasticisers’, and are used in skincare products to enhance their fragrance. They actually improve how they smell on the skin, as well as making them last longer. You’ll know if a product has one of these ingredients if DBP (Dibutyl phthalate), DEHP (Bis(2-ethylhexyl)), or DEP (Diethyl phthalate) are present. 

We avoid these because they can have an impact on our endocrine system and are also very toxic for us in general. They’re also terrible for the environment. While the EU has banned this ingredient, they haven’t yet been banned by the FDA and continue to be used regularly.

2. Parabens

Photo Credit: Alena1919 via Deposit Photos

Parabens are a group of preservatives that help keep products fresher for longer by preventing bacteria and mold from growing. However, like with phthalates, they can badly affect our endocrine system, which can make it more difficult to regulate the natural hormones of our body.

Furthermore, some parabens can behave like allergens and have also been linked to breast cancer. Best to avoid this one completely to be safe. 

3. Formaldehyde Releasers

Photo Credit: M150photo via Deposit Photos

While most consumer products these days don’t contain formaldehyde, they can contain formaldehyde releasers. These are ingredients intended to be used as preservatives. It’s found in skincare products and makeup. There is plenty of research that has shown formaldehyde to be toxic to the brain as well as a known carcinogen. It can also cause developmental problems in children. 

We call these ‘releasers’ because they technically aren’t formaldehyde. Instead, once applied to the skin, these chemicals will release formaldehyde. This is especially bad once they are absorbed into the cells of the skin before they begin releasing.   

4. Triclosan And Triclocarban

Triclosan molecule
Photo Credit: avk97 via Deposit Photos

This one is a controversial one. They’re preservatives, and so help to prevent the growth of mold and types of bacteria in a product. However, they can cause irritation. Furthermore, it’s possible for these chemicals to build up in the body with frequent use. We call this ‘bioaccumulation’. 

Large consumer products manufacturers have shifted away from these ingredients in recent years. While they maintain their safety, they have found effective alternatives. However, many more manufacturers have continued to use them. 

5. Ethanolamines

foam being dispensed
Photo Credit: AntonMatyukha via Deposit Photos

Ethanolamines are a category of chemicals that act as foam boosters and pH modifiers in all kinds of cosmetics. You will find them listed in the ingredients list as MEA (Monoethanolamine), DEA (Diethanolamine), or TEA (Triethanolamine). 

More research needs to be done to verify how toxic these ingredients are, but the studies we do have show them to be harmful. At best, they are potential allergens, and at worst, they can cause brain abnormalities in unborn babies. Avoid this one! 

6. Toluene

Butylated hydroxytoluene
Photo Credit: avk97 via Deposit Photos

Toluene is much less common these days, but we do see it. You’re looking to avoid any products that feature ‘butylated hydroxytoluene’. It’s also known as BHT. It’s awful for your skin, eyes, and lungs and can damage your organs. 

It’s less common nowadays, as it has since been banned in the EU, much of Asia and some states. But because it’s not a blanket ban, you do sometimes see it in nail polish in areas that have less strict regulations. 

7. Lead

lead stop sign
Photo Credit: Francescoscatena via Deposit Photos

This is probably an obvious one. We’ve known that lead is poisonous for many decades now. However, it is still used in some cosmetics. Double check your lipsticks, pallets and your pressed powders. It’s also occasionally found in shampoos and lotions. The side effects are horrifying. 

High levels of lead in our bodies are associated with long-term kidney damage and damage to the nervous system. It’s perhaps the number one skincare ingredient to avoid, but luckily, it’s being phased out. 

8. Mineral Oil & Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly tube
Photo Credit: enriscapes via Deposit Photos

Okay, so technically, both of these are safe, provided you purchase them from a reputable manufacturer. However, the problem is that it’s difficult to know the quality and purity of mineral oil and petroleum jelly. 

If these ingredients aren’t properly refined, harmful hydrocarbons can be left behind, contaminating any product they are used in. Many of these pollutants are known to cause cancer or irritate skin. 

9. Talcum

Talcum powder on two hands
Photo Credit: sewcream via Deposit Photos

Talcum has become a dirty ingredient nowadays. While mothers have used it for centuries to keep sensitive areas dry, it has also been included in powdered makeup products such as pressed powders. However, talcum has now been associated with a number of different cancers. If you like to use talcum regularly on your skin, opt for a cornstarch-based powder to avoid this awful side effect.

10. Synthetic Dyes and Colors

Photo Credit: Cakeio via Deposit Photos

While the status of a synthetic chemical does not necessarily make it dangerous, many synthetic dyes are not great for the skin. Avoid products that include ingredients listed as letters F, D, or C. They will usually be some numbers or a color. 

We avoid these because they suffer many of the problems that mineral oil and petroleum jelly have. Furthermore, some of them are extracted from coal tar, making them bad choices for use in skincare and beauty products. They can cause irritation, block pores, and induce skin sensitivity and inflammation. 

It’s Important To Look After Your Skin Naturally!

Photo Credit: SavvyHomemade

Experts say the global skincare market will be worth $273.3 billion by 2023. But making your skin look and feel fantastic doesn’t have to break the bank! Homemade skincare recipes can deliver the same or better results than big-name brands, often at a fraction of the cost. From natural cleansers and specially formulated face scrubs to eye serums and lip balms, you’ll discover an array of recipes you can make at home to combat the signs of aging or use as gifts for loved ones!
Let’s look at 16 Homemade Skincare Recipes For Glowing Skin

15 Great Skincare Products Without The High Price Tag

shopping for skincare products
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Most of us are struggling with the rising cost of living, so getting skincare we can afford is more important than ever. But skincare doesn’t have to be expensive to be good for you. Let’s be honest here; often, you are paying for the brand, not quality ingredients!
Here’s: 15 Great Skincare Products Without The High Price Tag

This article originally appeared on Savvy Homemade

Author: Angela Wills

Title: Founder and Author - Savvy Homemade

Expertise: Beauty Recipes, Skincare Formulation, Soapmaking, DIY Crafts, Parenting


Angela Wills is an author, founder, and the driving force behind Savvy Homemade. With over fifteen years of experience, she brings a wealth of knowledge and dedication to every post she writes. She is fearlessly dedicated to creating tried and tested beauty recipes, skincare formulations, soap recipes, and many other DIY crafts that will work for everyone. Angela has a Diploma in Skincare Formulation, is a proud member of the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild, and infuses each DIY product with her passion and expertise.

Join the conversation