INGREDIENTS TO AVOID
It would be impossible to create a handy graphic with all the ingredients to look out for, but these are the most dangerous and most commonly used. Save this graphic on your phone for easy access.
If you’re new to toxin free living you might be feeling a little scared or overwhelmed at first. I think it’s SO important to remember that NOBODY is perfect! I doubt there is anyone on this planet who makes completely toxin free choices 100% of the time! I know it can seem overwhelming at first, but it’s totally possible to have high ingredient standards and still take baby steps! Every small swap is a huge win in terms of toxic body burden!
WHY ARE ALL THESE INGREDIENTS HARMFUL?! SCROLL ON FOR AN IN-DEPTH EXPLANATION.
This is not an ingredient that you'll ever see on an ingredient label, but it's one of the most important ingredients to avoid. It's a by-product of the ethoxylation process in which carcinogenic ethylene oxide is reacted with other ingredients to make them less harsh on the skin. the epa has classified 1,4-dioxane as likely to be carcinogenic to humans.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: CI 77002)
Used as a colorant in many types of cosmetics and personal care products. "Aluminum production" has been classified as carcinogenic to humans by the the international agency for research on cancer.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: ALKYLDIMETHYLBENZYLAMMONIUM CHLORIDE)
Used as a foaming and cleansing agent or as an antimicrobial preservative. It is a well known irritant, and there is evidence that it may cause a contact allergy at concentrations as low as 0.1%. When used to clean the cages of mice, both sexes had decreased fertility.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: BENZOPHENONE-1, BENZOPHENONE-2, BENZOPHENONE-3 AKA OXYBENZONE, BENZOPHENONE-4, BENZOPHENONE-5, BENZOPHENONE-6 BENZOPHENONE-8, BENZOPHENONE-9, BENZOPHENONE-11, BENZOPHENONE-12)
Used as photostabilizers in cosmetics. Photostabilizers have a photoprotective effect on the skin. Added as a carcinogen to the california EPA’s proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity in 2012. Different benzophenones may have different hormone disrupting effects. They were declared the contact allergen of the year for 2014 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society (ACDS).
(COMMONLY KNOWN AS: BHT & BHA)
BHA is used as an antioxidant in cosmetic products, especially lipstick and eyeshadow. The U.S. National Toxicology Program has classified BHA as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen," and it has been added as a carcinogen to the California EPA's proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. BHA also exhibits some endocrine disrupting effects, and the European Union has listed it as an endocrine disruptor. BHT is a toluene-based ingredient used as a preservative. BHT is suspected to be potentially endocrine disrupting and have carcinogenic effects.
Used to give a shiny effect in makeup. Synthetically manufactured from bismuth, oxygen, and chlorine. It causes many people to break out or itch.
BISPHENOL A (BPA)
Used in the plastic packaging of products. BPA may leach from the plastic into the product we apply on our skin. The FDA has banned BPA in a few products based on some evidence of its effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children. BPA has been added to the California EPA’s proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: BORIC ACID, SODIUM BORATE, SODIUM TETRABORATE OR DISODIUM TETRABORATE)
Used as a preservative, emulsifier, and ph adjuster in cosmetics and personal care products. Can also be used as a pesticide that poisons insects, fungus, and weeds. At high doses, boric acid causes testicular atrophy, impaired fetal skeletal development, and decreased birth weight in animals.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: 2-BUTOXYETHANOL)
Used as a solvent in hair dyes, nail polishes, lacquers, vanishes, and inks. In one study, people exposed to high levels of 2-butoxyethanol for several hours reported irritation of the nose and eyes, headache, a metallic taste in their mouths, and vomiting. Animal studies show destruction of red blood cells and damage to organs from exposure to butoxyethanol.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: CI 77266, BLACK 2, D&C BLACK NO. 2, ACETYLENE BLACK, CHANNEL BLACK FURNACE BLACK, LAMP BLACK, THERMAL BLACK)
Used as a pigment in cosmetics. It is manufactured by the combustion of aromatic petroleum oil feedstock and consists essentially of pure carbon. The international agency for research on cancer has classified it as possibly carcinogenic to humans. It may contain carcinogenic PAHS (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) as a contaminant.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: MEA/DEA/TEA)
Clear, colorless, thick liquids with ammonia like odors. At higher concentrations, ethanolamines may increase the risk of asthma and skin irritation. They may break down in the product and form nitrosamines that are linked to cancer.
(COMMON ETHOXYLATED INGREDIENTS: PEGS (ANY INGREDIENT LISTED AS POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL OR WITH A PEG- PREFIX), PHENOXYETHANOL, POLYSORBATE, ANY INGREDIENT WITH AN -ETH)
Made by the process of ethoxylation in which carcinogenic ethylene oxide is reacted with other ingredients to make them less harsh on the skin. As a result of the ethoxylation process, 1,4-dioxane is created and can be left behind in the product. see1,4-dioxane for more.
ETHYLENEDIAMINETETRAACETIC ACID (EDTA)
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA, DIAMMONIUM EDTA, DIPOTASSIUM EDTA, DISODIUM EDTA, TETRASODIUM EDTA, TRIPOTASSIUM EDTA, AND TRISODIUM EDTA)
This ingredient is not harmful in itself, but they enhance the dermal penetration of other ingredients contained in a product, so they can be very harmful when paired with toxic ingredients.
(COMMON FORMALDEHYDE-RELEASERS: DMDM HYDANTOIN, DIAZOLIDINYL UREA, IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA, QUATERNIUM-15, 2-BROMO-2-NITROPROPANE-1,3-DIOL, METHENAMINE, AND SODIUM HYDROXYMETHYLGLYCINATE)
These ingredients release a small amount of formaldehyde into a product over time. The International Agency for Research on carcinogens has classified formaldehyde as carcinogenic to humans. The American Society of Contact Dermatitis lists it as one of the core allergens, even in concentrations as low as 1%. Temperature and storage time can increase the amount of formaldehyde released.
The FDA does not require the disclosure of individual ingredients used to create fragrances. There are over 3,000 ingredients that can make up for the term "fragrance", and many of them are toxic.
GRAPEFRUIT SEED EXTRACT
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: CITRUS PARADISI (GRAPEFRUIT) SEED OR CITRUS GRANDIS (GRAPEFRUIT) SEED EXTRACT OR GSE)
Used as an antimicrobial preservative in cosmetic products. Numerous tests by independent researchers have shown that its antimicrobial properties are due to synthetic preservatives contained in it, not the extract itself. The synthetic preservatives found in GSE include benzalkonium chloride, triclosan, and/or methylparaben.
Used as a UV filter in sunscreens and skincare with SPF to protect from short-wave UVB rays. It penetrates the skin and has been found in mother’s milk. Studies have shown that it may be a weak hormone disruptor.
Used in skin lightening cosmetic products. It is also an impurity of synthetic tocopheryl acetate. While it has been classified as a carcinogen, in vitro and in vivo studies show that it exhibits some mutagenic properties. Hydroquinone is banned in the European Union.
IODOPROPYNYL BUTYLCARBAMATE (IPBC)
Used as a preservative in cosmetic, personal care, and industrial products. It may cause dermal irritation or contact allergy. The American Society of Contact Dermatitis lists it as one of the core allergens, even in concentrations as low as 0.1%. When inhaled, it is toxic to the lungs.
JAPANESE HONEYSUCKLE EXTRACT
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: LONICERA JAPONICA EXTRACT)
Used as an antimicrobial preservative in cosmetics. The Japanese honeysuckle plant naturally contains para-hydroxy benzoic acid (PHBA), which might behave in a very similar way to synthetic parabens. See parabens for more.
LOOSE POWDER TITANIUM DIOXIDE
Used as a UV filter in sunscreens and as a pigment in makeup. Based on experimental evidence from animal inhalation studies, titanium dioxide nanoparticles are classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans by the international agency for research on cancer.
METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE & METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE (MCI/MI)
Used as a preservative mixture in cosmetic products, household cleaning products, and industrial applications. MI was The American Contact Dermatitis Society contact allergen of the year for 2013. In addition, studies show that prolonged exposure to low levels of MI may have damaging consequences to the developing nervous system.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: PETROLATUM, PETROLEUM JELLY, PARAFFIN)
Used as a skin moisturizer. It's a liquid mixture that is obtained from crude petroleum. It may contain various amounts of carcinogenic PAHS (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and other petroleum contaminants, depending on the level to which it has been refined. There is consistent evidence that untreated or mildly treated mineral oils cause cancer of the skin in humans.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: OCTYL METHOXYCINNAMATE OR ETHYLHEXYL METHOXYCINNAMATE)
A UV filter protecting the skin from UVB rays. It penetrates the skin and has been found in mother’s milk. Studies have shown that it may have some weak hormone mimicking effects.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: BENZOPHENONE-3)
A UV filter to protect against UVB and short UVA rays. The National Health and Nutrition Survey has found it to be present in 96.8% of human urine samples surveyed. See benzophenones for more.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: BENZYLPARABEN, BUTYLPARABEN, ISOBUTYLPARABEN, ISOPROPYLPARABEN, METHYLPARABEN, AND PROPYLPARABEN)
Used as preservatives in food, pharmaceuticals, and beauty products. There is some evidence that parabens can accumulate in human breast tissue. Clinical studies on animals have indicated that parabens may mimic estrogen and act as a endocrine disruptor.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: 2-PHENOXYETHANOL)
Used in cosmetics, skincare, and personal care products. It is a member of the glycol ether family and is the product of the reaction of highly corrosive phenol with carcinogenic ethylene oxide. As a result, it may contain residue amounts of both.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: DIBUTYL PHTHALATE (DBP), DIETHYLHEXYL PHTHALATE (DEHP), DIETHYL PHTHALATE (DEP), DIMETHYL PHTHALATE (DMP), AND BUTYL BENZYL PHTHALATE (BBP)
DBP, DEHP, and BBP, are banned in the European Union from use in cosmetics due to their potential to disrupt the endocrine system and cause birth defects. DEP is commonly used as a fixative in synthetic fragrances.
Used in skin care, cosmetics, and even in some processed food. It’s a main component in anti-freeze products. It is a known skin irritant and is frequently associated with contact dermatitis.
Used in permanent hair dye formulations and in acne treatment products. Studies have shown that it may disrupt thyroid hormone synthesis.
RETINYL PALMITATE / RETINOL
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: RETINOID, RETINOIC ACID)
Forms of vitamin A. Not recommended to use during the day when exposed to the sun. Animal studies have shown that retinyl palmitate speeds up the photo-carcinogenic effects of the sun and the development of skin tumors and lesions.
Used in cosmetic products to create or mask a specific taste that may be ingested, such as lipstick. Like fragrance, the FDA does not require the disclosure of individual ingredients used to create flavors.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: HYDROUS MAGNESIUM SILICATE)
Used in pressed and loose powder makeup and baby powder. It's a naturally occurring mineral, but it can be contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen. There is evidence that even asbestos-free talc can be carcinogenic.
(ADDITIONAL NAMES: 5-CHLORO-2-(2,4-DICHLOROPHENOXY)PHENOL)
used as an antibacterial agent in toothpaste and in hand and body washes, and as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care products. animal studies have shown that exposure to high doses is associated with a decrease in thyroid hormones. triclosan may interfere with the normal function of the endocrine system. triclosan exposure may contribute to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. triclosan imported from india and china may contain dioxins linked to cancer and endocrine-disruption.