Yesterday I was browsing through the make-up range in a wonderful health food store that I love, when I was reminded of just how insidious most cosmetic and skin care products are.  Many that are marketed as having nourishing, hydrating, anti-aging and rejuvenating benefits contain a multitude of ingredients that are toxic for your skin, hair and general health.  In fact, many of these actually CAUSE dehydration and premature aging, to say nothing of serious illness and health problems to mind and body like depression, hormonal disruption, chronic disease and even cancer.  However, it’s difficult to realise this is the long-term effect of most of our favourite products when they feel so good going on!

In this article I’ll share with you the problems with most skin care products and a list of the 10 most toxic skin care ingredients you need to know and avoid.


Many skin-care products marketed to nourish, rehydrate and prevent ageing,
actually CAUSE dehydration and premature aging, as well as serious illness
and health problems to mind and body. 



 The Problem


Think about ALL the products you use on your skin and hair, if not every day, on most days.  When you add them all up it comes to quite a collection, and unless you have carefully selected non-toxic products each one contains many harmful ingredients.  While these may be in very small amounts in each item, in the accumulated quantities of all of them they become a very real problem.

The average woman wears nearly 515 chemicals a day!  Not all are highly dangerous, but many are.

Cosmetics are a real problem as they sit on your skin all day, so you absorb the toxins they contain for a really long period!  Skin care products share the same problem.  Plus, if you wear cream at night, you’ll also absorb more chemicals as you sleep. This means you’re absorbing toxins twenty-four hours of every day.  Hair products are also dangerous, perhaps even more so, because your skin absorbs MORE toxins through areas that are covered with hair.


It’s important to remember that although there may be only small of amounts of
each of the harmful ingredients in a product, these chemicals are cumulative,
and they are present in virtually every product you are using.


You use many of these products every day, as well as many other products around the home that also contain these toxic additives.  The small amount in each product adds up to create quite a significant toxic, damaging load overall.  And this may result in disease now, or later on in life.

You wouldn’t choose to sit somewhere covered in toxic chemicals such as a freshly sprayed lawn, so why choose to leave it on your skin in the products you use?



Health Effects Of Skin Care Chemicals


The negative effect of the chemicals in these products does not stop with just your skin and hair.  They negatively affect every system in the body, creating breathing issues, hormonal disruption, auto-immune disorders, depression, allergies, ADHD, liver and kidney problems and much more including cancer.

Luckily for some people simply switching their toxic skin, hair and cleaning products to ones that DO NOT contain the toxic chemical cocktail creates immediate improvement in their health issues.



Ingredients To Avoid


It’s vital to know which products to avoid first.  The first few ingredients on the product’s label are the most important.  Ingredients are listed by quantity with the ingredient there’s most of listed first, and the one there’s least of listed last.  Toxic ingredients appearing at the top of the list have the most impact.


Some of the most dangerous ingredients in skin care, hair care and cosmetics that you MUST AVOID are:


Petroleum Products:  (Mineral oil, paraffin, petrolatum)

  • These seriously harm the skin by coating the skin like plastic which clogs the pores and interferes with the absorption of nutrients and elimination of toxins, leading to premature ageing, acne and dermatitis.
  • They can cause breathing problems leading to pneumonia, hormonal imbalances, infertility, autoimmune problems, allergies and sleep problems.
  • They slow skin cell development which results in premature ageing.
  • They are often used in lip products to protect chapping and sun damage, but as these ingredients promote skin photosensitivity (sun damage) and interfere with the body’s own moisturisation, they actually lead to dry and chapped skin.

Toluene: (benzoic, benzyl)

  • A well-known poison affecting many organs, it is fatal if swallowed, harmful if inhaled potentially causing severe neurological harm, and harmful when absorbed through the skin.
  • It is a known allergen.
  • A petroleum by-product, it is found in nail polish removers and permanent hair colours.
  • It has been banned as unsafe in some countries.

Parabens: (Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethyl paraben):

  • Widely used and known to be highly toxic, parabens are a preservative used to inhibit microbial growth and extend shelf life.
  • They cause many allergic skin reactions and skin rashes, irritate eyes and respiratory tract, and are connected to cancer, particularly breast cancer.
  • They also disrupt hormonal processes in the endocrine system as they mimic oestrogen.
  • These synthetic preservatives are used in many products including cosmetics, personal care products, and even baby lotion.

Sodium Lauryl/ Laureth Sulphate (SLS or SLES), Ammonium Laurel Sulphate:

  • The synthetic substance that builds the ‘foaminess’ in shampoos, liquid soap and toothpaste, they dehydrate skin and inflame and separate the skin layers.
  • They cause eye irritation, skin rashes, hair loss, scurf-like scalp dandruff and allergic reactions.
  • They break down the moisture barrier in the skin, and they turn into a carcinogen in the body.
  • They are found in over 90% of personal care products that foam including shampoos, skin care and even toothpastes as well as engine degreasers and garage floor cleaners.
  • Don’t be deceived into thinking it is ok if it says, ‘comes from coconut’, it’s not!

Triethanolamine (TEA), Diethanolamine (DEA) – (it will often have a number added):

  • It is a synthetic emulsifier which is severely irritating to body tissues and can cause allergic reactions, eye problems, dry skin and hair, and can be toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.
  • Over 40% of cosmetics containing it have been found contaminated with nitrosamines (potent carcinogens).

Synthetic Fragrance:

  • Petrochemical-based oils found in soap, lotion, shampoo, deodorant, conditioner and perfume.
  • They disrupt hormones and cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, rash, headache, dizziness, vomiting, coughing, and hyperpigmentation.
  • They can also affect the central nervous system and cause depression, hyperactivity and irritability.
  • Because synthetic fragrances contain up to 4000 ingredients, many toxic or carcinogenic, there is no way to know exactly what they do contain.
  • They cause problems, especially allergy related like migraine, for people around you as well to you.
  • If you want products with a fragrance look for ones that use essential oils instead.

Propylene Glycol:

  • A synthetic petrochemical, it inhibits skin cell growth, weakens cell structure, causes allergic reactions, dermatitis, skin irritation, conjunctivitis, and kidney/liver abnormalities.
  • It is used as a ‘moisturiser’ and also found in fragrance oils.
  • It is toxic and dangerous, and the EPA requires workers handling it to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles and to dispose of it by burying it in the ground. In spite of this, there is no warning label requirement for products like stick deodorants even though the concentrations are higher than in most industrial applications.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) – (sometimes with a number added):

  • PEGs reduce the skin’s natural moisture factor and leave it vulnerable to bacteria.
  • They also contribute to the appearance of ageing.
  • Very commonly used, they are connected with liver and kidney damage and are a carcinogen.
  • You’ll also find them in caustic spray-on oven cleaners.

Stearalkonium Chloride:

  • Highly toxic, it can cause allergic reactions.
  • Originally developed as a fabric conditioner it is now used in creams and hair conditioners because it is cheaper than herbals or proteins. Over time it causes hair to become dry and brittle.

Diazolidinyl urea:

  • Established as the primary cause of contact dermatitis, it is the most commonly used preservative after parabens.
  • It contains and formaldehyde which is toxic if inhaled.
  • It causes skin nose, eyes and throat irritation, coughing and difficult breathing. It is toxic.


A few more toxins to watch for and avoid (although it’s by no means all)

  • Aluminium: In everything from antiperspirants to nasal spray and shampoo.
  • Oxybenzone – (or benzophenone-3): It’s found in every product offering sun protection.  It inactivates the skins own antioxidant system (which leads to premature ageing), disrupts hormones, and causes cancer.  Ironically, it reacts under UV light (i.e. in the sun) to potentially damage DNA and affect development.
  • Retinal Palmitate – Decomposes under UVA rays into chemicals that cause cell mutations. Being photo-toxic, it causes skin ageing but is often found in anti-ageing products!
  • Formaldehyde – A highly toxic Volatile Organic Compound, it’s used to help prevent microbes developing. It’s easily absorbed through the skin and is linked to allergic skin reactions and even cancer.  Find it in shampoos, baby shampoos, nail polish and hair-smoothing products.


Skin Deep: Avoid Toxic Skin Care



Shopping List: The Chemicals To Avoid


To navigate through the jungle of scientific names and make your shopping easier keep this list handy in your bag or on your phone so you can check ingredients before you buy.


  • PARABEN PRESERVATIVES (Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben)–
  • PETROLEUM PRODUCTS: (Mineral oil, Paraffin, Petrolatum)



A Cautionary Word About Organic Products


In Australia a product labeled ‘organic’ may not be made from organically grown ingredients.  Any carbon ingredient can be identified as organic.  All plant and animal matter contains carbon, so technically, including any vegetable oil or herbal preparation renders the product ‘organic’.

Products containing ingredients grown according to accepted organic farming practices will be labeled ‘Certified Organic’ or ‘Australian Certified Organic’.

Sometimes a product may contain an organic ingredient such as an organic essential oil.  But the presentation may be very misleading if it is then emblazoned with the banner ‘ORGANIC’ across the label and fails to mention that all the other ingredients in the product are dangerous.

If ‘Containing Organic Ingredients’ is emblazoned on the packet be wary!  It may contain an organic ingredient such as an organic essential oil.  However, there may only be a few drops of the organic oil while all the other ingredients are not organic and may be quite nasty. This is a big reminder that we need to be watching out for companies who use misleading greenwashing and deception in marketing their products.


This is a big reminder that we need to be watching out for companies who
use misleading greenwashing and deception in marketing their products.


Governments put companies ‘on trust’, meaning they don’t have to substantiate any of their claims about a product unless they’re challenged through the court system.  Few can afford the legal fees needed to prove that they really will look younger when you use a product. Could you afford to take a multi-national cosmetic company to court? It rarely happens.



What You Must Do


Over the last few difficult years, we have become clued-up about not blindly trusting marketing.  And that absolutely applies to our personal care products.

As research findings point ever more clearly to environmental toxins as a cause of bad health outcomes, it’s becoming clearer that our wellness and the reversal of our declining health lies in our own hands.

Multinational companies have been calling all the shots when it comes to marketing toxic and harmful skin care products.  It’s now up to us to practice extreme self-care when it comes to what we put on our bodies.  As more and more small companies who care for our health and the health of the environment emerge, it is up to us to support them while also supporting our health at the same time.

It’s become imperative to read the label of all the products you use, even if you just know the main things to steer clear of.  You must be prepared to let past brand-loyalty go and remain aware enough not be swayed by clever marketing.


If you want natural, beneficial products that won’t harm you and undermine
your health you need to know what to search for.


Develop the habit of reading ingredient lists and avoid the worst ingredients.

Start by checking out the amazing cosmetic, skin and hair care ranges that avoid using toxic chemicals. The quality and choices are constantly growing.


Personal care products are supposed to enhance our skin, hair
and wellbeing. Make sure that the ones you use are actually food
for your skin and not toxins for your health.


Skin Deep: Avoid Toxic Skin Care