The 5 Most Toxic Ingredients Found in Commercial Skincare and Cosmetics

5 Toxic Ingredients Found in Commercial Skincare and Cosmetics

Bright flourescent lights. Mirrors reflecting more imperfections than I remember leaving home with. “I wonder if they do that on purpose”. The overwhelming rows of bright colored lipsticks, eyeshadows, and blushes. So perfectly aligned and color coordinated. It’s like they’re calling my name. And if my wallet had a name, they’d be calling it too. “That lipstick shade would look gorgeous on me… but 42 dollars? I guess it’s between the lipstick or the mascara I ran out of and came here for… I can’t decide”.

Anyone else feel this way when stepping into a Sephora?

I remember this one time back in summer of 2008. I was getting over a silly heartbreak from a crush that wasn’t even right for me in the first place. The guy was not a catch at all I’m sorry to say. But I did what any girl with a clouded judgement would do. I spent two weeks of earnings on Pinkberry, Blockbuster (yep it was still around), and Sephora. In my defense, they got me in the chair and worked their magic. I mean, who doesn’t want to feel like a prettier and better version of themselves? C’mon gal, you know you’ve been there. So the last thing that comes to mind when walking out 200 dollars short is how many toxins are in some of those products.

You’ll Be Surprised

You may notice the words in the above picture are almost transparent.  That’s because some of the ingredients that are on product labels are misleading and in a sense hidden. After 12 hours of research on dozens upon dozens of toxic chemicals, I personally consider the below to be the top 5 most dangerous.

In case you didn’t know, the FDA does not regulate what goes into cosmetics. Many of the ingredients used in the U.S are actually banned or restricted in Europe. Sure the FDA claims there is no substantial evidence to deem them harmful enough to restrict their use here. But there isn’t really any evidence repudiating these claims either. Chemicals are chemicals. And they’re leeching directly into our bloodstream- not just sitting on top of our face. Ever notice when you wipe off your makeup at night, it’s noticeably less makeup than you remember putting on? That’s because our body can absorb as much as 5 lbs of chemicals from cosmetics per year. And the chemicals below are not chemicals you would want your body to absorb.

Seemingly Non-Toxic Product

Here is the front label of a product that is “seemingly” safe.

 Synthetic Fragrance

If a product had 5 ingredients or less and included fragrance, I always assumed it was safe. WRONG. Extremely wrong. This is the MOST DANGEROUS ingredient and therefore at the top of my list. Under that small and seemingly insignificant word could lie hundreds upon hundreds of toxic chemicals (remember that not so transparent ingredient?). Yes you read that right, HUNDREDS. Some of these chemicals are: petrochemicals (included in hazardous waste, making up about 95% of fragrance), neurotoxic chemicals, and carcinogens. It’s crazy how this is legal. Potential side effects include headaches, dizziness, nausea, allergies, dermatitis, respiratory issues, and damage to the reproductive system.


We see this word a lot nowadays on product’s “not included” list. But what are parabens exactly? To put it simply: preservatives used in skincare, toothpaste, shampoos, and deodorant. Parabens are considered to be xenoestrogens- meaning they mimic estrogen by binding to it’s receptors. Overtime, this synthetic estrogen can accumulate in our fat cells and disrupt hormone function- thereby linking it to breast cancer. In 2004, British professor Philippa Darbre, Ph,D detected parabens present in 18 out of 20 tissue samples from breast tumors. If that doesn’t scare you enough, a study done on rats observed significant changes in the ovaries including: weight changes and increased cystic follicles. While the evidence may not be substantial to some, it should be enough to limit our exposure.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Back Label of "Seemingly" Safe Product

This is the back label of the above product. As you can see, this product contains a few toxic ingredients including: “Fragrance” and “Sodium Sulfate” which is a skin irritant… did I mention this was my body wash?

Literally in almost every shampoo, it’s an additive used as a foaming agent. Hazardous because it’s linked to the following: cancer, endocrine disruption, hair loss, allergies and skin irritation. It’s also often laced with 1,4 dioxane. Long term exposure in rats caused cancer, tumors, liver, and kidney damage. Because our liver cannot metabolize Dioxane, it accumulates overtime- lasting much longer in our body. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is also used in labs to compare skin irritation with other chemicals. So if you experience dry skin and scalp followed by overproductive oil glands, this could be the culprit.


It’s extremely hard to avoid this chemical altogether as it is all around us. Commonly found in personal care products (lotions, fragrances, cosmetics, deodorants, etc), it’s known as a plasticizer and assists products with penetrating the skin. Effects include breast cancer, infertility, asthma, and obesity.

Synthetic Colors

Cause makeup needs color right? Linked to cancer, thyroid tumors, kidney tumors, hyperactive adrenaline glands, blocked pores, and breakouts. A product made with “color” can include 50 or so chemicals to make up that color. Even “natural” colors can contain carcinogens, mercury, copper, arsenic, coal, tar, etc. Look out for Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Green 3, Red 40, and FD&C.

Ingredients in a High End Conditioner

This is an expensive high end conditioner that I will now no longer be using. As you can see it has quite a few toxic ingredients including fragrance and Yellow 5.

Why would companies do this to us?

Because these ingredients are cheap. However, as consumers become more aware of what goes into their products, more companies are incorporating safer ingredients to meet demands. If we’re so aware of the food we eat, we should be just as aware about what we’re putting on our skin. Period. I hope you’ll make better choices and incorporate simple ingredients into your skincare routine. The reasons to flaunt a naturally dewy glow should be more clear than ever. What are your thoughts? Share below in the comments!

With love and wishing you a happy toxic-free life,

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