Skip to content

Toxic Ingredients in cosmetics


Nowadays, there are so many toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. When I discovered this a few years ago, I was horrified. This lead me to get researching. And the more I researched the ingredients, the more concerning it became. Leading me to question, how is this even allowed? I then discovered that the everyday products I had, from the products I used on my hair, my make-up, bath and shower products even my toothpaste, all contained harmful ingredients. Some of these ingredients can be harmful to us, and some have even been proven to be carcinogenic, cause birth defects and be endocrine disruptors.

Many of these cosmetic and personal care products we use on a daily basis, so we’re absorbing these toxins into our body repeatedly. When we put toxins and heavy metals onto the skin, they are absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you)

what can we do to avoid toxic ingredients in cosmetics?

We can buy natural products that contain naturally derived ingredients. The more we buy natural products and make it known that we don’t want harmful toxins in our everyday products, the more brands will want to make an effort to produce safer products. We are seeing it gradually now. Hair dyes stating they’re ammonium free and shampoos and shower gels stating they’re paraben and sulfate free.

Overall, It can be a burden reading the ingredients lists on the products before you buy, but the more you do it, the easier it will be to recognise the ingredients you want to avoid.

toxic ingredients in cosmetics

Below are some of the most common toxins to avoid in our everyday products.

sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / SOdium laureth sulfate (sles)

FOUND IN : Body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, face wash, mouthwash, cleansing products, bath foam

SLS is an inexpensive detergent used in many cleansing products that allows a product to foam. Scientific research links SLS to cancer, organ toxicity, neurotoxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption. It has also been known to disrupt the skin’s natural barrier function and oil balance.

SLS is also used in industrial cleaners and engine degreasers. It’s very corrosive and is strong enough to attack greasy surfaces. Does that sound like something that should be being absorbed into our body daily?

SLES is similar to SLS only it has a higher foaming ability and is slightly less of an irritant.


FOUND IN : Make-up, moisturisers, shampoo, shower + bath care products, lubricants, tanning products, deodorant

Parabens are preservatives, they allow products to sit on our shelves for months on end. However, studies have shown that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function and are linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity.

common parabens to avoid

  • Butylparaben
  • Benzylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Isopropylparaben
  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben


FOUND IN : Nail varnish, hairspray, lipstick and skincare products

Phthalates are used to make products more flexible. They are soft and malleable, which makes them stick to surfaces and spread with ease. They have been linked to reproductive issues, hormonal disruption, diabetes amongst other illnesses.

Often you will notice ‘fragrance’ listed among the ingredients. Beware as many hidden toxins can be hidden within ‘fragrance’. And many will most likely contain phthalates.

heavy metals

FOUND IN : Nail varnish, sunscreen, foundation, eyeliner, toothpaste, lipstick, deodorant

Numerous heavy metals can be found in cosmetic products. They can have a detrimental effect on our health. For instance aluminum is found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Aluminum is thought to contribute to brain dysfunction, neurological disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Heavy metals even at lower level exposure can cause organ damage. They are also classified as carcinogenic.

Heavy metals found in cosmetics

  • Aluminum
  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Mercury
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium


FOUND IN : Nail varnish, nail varnish remover products, perfume, body wash, shampoo and conditioners, eyeshadow

Formaldehyde is used in products to prevent bacteria growth. Not only is it a carcinogen, it’s also harmful to the immune system and can cause skin irritations.

Formaldehyde is one of the most toxic ingredients in tobacco, it’s also used when embalming bodies. Certainly not something I want absorbing into my bloodstream on a daily basis.


FOUND IN : Nail varnish, nail varnish remover, hair dye and bleaching products, make up remover

Toluene is derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. It’s a potent solvent able to dissolve paint. Toluene has been linked to immune system toxicity, respiratory disorders and causing birth defects. It’s also known to be a skin irritant and can cause nausea.

Toluene can also be know as:

  • Benzene
  • Phenylmethane
  • Methylbenzene
  • Toluol


FOUND IN : Toothpaste, deodorant, antibacterial soaps, mouthwash

Triclosan is an antimicrobial and can kill bacteria. However, there is no evidence to support that washing with soaps containing triclosan is any better at killing bacteria than washing with soap and water. Triclosan is a known endocrine disruptor, especially effecting the thyroid and reproductive hormones. It’s also a skin irritant and is able to weaken the immune system.

propylene glycol

FOUND IN : Make-up products, moisturisers, hair sprays, shampoo and conditioners, sunscreens

Propylene glycol is an alcohol used as a skin conditioning agent. It’s a known skin irritant and has been associated with causing skin conditions such as dermatitis and hives.

avobenzone / oxybenzone

FOUND IN : Sunscreen

Avobenzone and oxybenzone are UVA filters and function to absorb ultraviolet light. Oxybenzone is one of the highest risk chemicals found in sunscreen. The sunscreen chemicals are linked to endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, and allergies.

Oxybenzone is also harmful to aquatic life. It’s so high risk that in 2018 Hawaii banned the ingredient to protect coral reefs.

Browse natural toxin free make-up brands here

Browse 10-free toxin free nail polishes here

Browse organic toxin free sunscreen creams here

Browse organic toxin free deodorants here

we’re giving you 30 days of Amazon Prime for £8.99 FREE

Free delivery, award-winning TV shows, exclusive deals, and more

Only £8.99/month after free trial. Cancel anytime.

You may also like:

The Ultimate Guide to Natural Sunscreen Protectors

Learn about safe, natural sunscreen products and where to buy them.

natural make-up

Discover the benefits for your skin by using toxin free make-up products.