Do your skincare products contain these toxic ingredients?

Make sure you read your ingredients before you use some skincare and cosmetics products. This is just an example of what is out there.

Phenoxyethanol. Used as an anti-bacterial in cosmetics and stabilizer in perfumes, phenoxyethanol is actually very harmful. It is harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin, especially to nursing mothers or infants. Phenoxyethanol can have an effect on the brain and the central nervous system.

Abietic Acid:  Used to create a pleasant texture in cosmetics and soaps.  Has been shown to cause paralysis in laboratory animals.  Known to be irritating to human skin and may cause allergic reactions.

Acetamide Mea:  A chemical solvent used in skin creams. Has been shown to cause cancer when given orally to laboratory animals.

Acrylic Acid:  A synthetic polymer used as a binder and film-former in dyes, adhesives, permanent-press fabrics and now, skin creams.  Toxic by skin absorption.

Aluminum Acetate:  Used in skin creams as an astringent. This chemical was originally developed for waterproofing fabrics.  Ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding.  Prolonged use topically can produce severe sloughing of the skin.

Arachidonic Acid: Used by the cosmetic industry to emulsify cream and to sooth skin, this fatty acid is extracted from animal liver and in one study, has been shown to alter the skin’s natural immune response.

Behenyl Alcohol: Used for manufacturing synthetic fabrics, insecticides and lubricants, and now, used by cosmetic companies in skin cream as a thickener and emulsifier.

Beta-Naphthol: Used in skin-peeling preparations.  Derived from coal tar.  Ingestion may cause kidney damage, eye injury, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, anemia, and death. Fatal poisoning from topical applications have been reported.

Benzalkonium Chloride (BAK):  A widely used germicide known to cause allergic conjunctivitis.  Lethal to frogs. Highly toxic.  In 1992, the FDA proposed a ban on the use of this item for treating insect bites and stings.  Has not been shown to be safe in concentrations over 0.1%, but it is allowed to be used in cosmetics in concentrations up to 5%.

Benzocaine (Ethyl Aminobenzoate): Used in creams and lotions to help soothe the skin, however, there are reports of babies suffering from methemoglobinemia (lack of oxygen in the blood) and systemic central nervous system excitation in adults, when absorbed through the skin.

Benzophenone-2: Used to retain fragrance scents, may produce hives and contact sensitivity.

Bithionol: Used as a germicide in skin creams.  This germicide is closely related to hexachlorophene, which has already been banned by the FDA.  Can cause sensitivity to light, skin rashes and skin swelling.

Borates:  In spite of repeated warnings from the medical community, the cosmetic industry continues to use borates as a cosmetic preservative.  Acute poisonings have followed ingestion and lavage of body cavities and application to abraded skin.  Borates affects the central nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, liver and skin.

Butyl Oleate:  Derived from butyl alcohol and oleic acid, this chemical is used for manufacturing industrial solvents and lubricants and now, used as a skin conditioning ingredient in skin creams.

Butylparaben:  See Parabens

Butylene Glycol: Used in cosmetics to resist humidity, to retain scents and as a preservative.  Has a similar toxicity as ethylene glycol, which when ingested may cause depression, vomiting, drowsiness, coma, respiratory failure, convulsions, renal damage, kidney failure and death.

Calcium Chloride: Main use is in fire extinguishers, as a wood preservative, and to melt snow and ice.  Now used in cosmetics as an emulsifier and texturizer.  Ingestion can cause stomach and heart disturbances.

Calcium Hydroxide: Used for manufacturing mortar, plaster, cement and pesticides.  Also used by the cosmetic industry in cream and lotion depilatories.  Accidental ingestion can cause burns of the throat and esophagus. Death may occur from shock and asphyxia due to swelling of the glottis.

Calcium Sulfate: Also known as Plaster of Paris.  Generally used in cements and wall plasters.  Calcium Sulfate is now being used by the cosmetic industry as a skin firming ingredient.  Accidental ingestion may result in intestinal obstruction.   When mixed with flour, Calcium Sulfate can be used to kill rodents.

Calcium Thioglycolate: Customarily used for tanning leather, Calcium Thioglycolate is now also being used in cream depilatories.  Has been shown to cause thyroid problems in experiments on animals and some people develop hemorrhaging under the skin when used topically.

Carbolic Acid:  Also known as Phenol.  Used in creams and lotions for its disinfectant and anesthetic properties. Derived from coal tar.  Ingestion of even small amounts may cause nausea, vomiting, and circulatory collapse, paralysis, convulsions, coma, and greenish urine as well as necrosis of the mouth and the gastrointestinal tract. Death results from respiratory failure.  Fatalities have been reported from ingestion of as little as 1.5 grams. 

Carboxypolymethylene:   Also known as Carbomer -934, -940, -941, and as Carbopol.  This synthetic chemical is widely used in the cosmetic industry as a thickening agent and emulsifying ingredient.

Carboxymethyl Cellulose: A synthetic gum used in creams and lotions as an emulsifier and stabilizer.  It has been shown to cause cancer in animals when ingested.  Its toxicity in topical applications is unknown.

Ceresin:  Typically used for making wax paper, polish, and in dentistry for taking wax impressions, and is now used in skin creams as an emulsifier.  May cause allergic reactions. 

Cocamide DEA:  Used in cosmetics as an emulsifying agent. Considered to be highly toxic. This is a DEA derivative.  See DEA.

Cyclomethicone: Silicone

Dehydroacetic Acid DHA: Also known as Sodium Dehydroacetate.  Used as a preservative in cosmetics. Not irritating to the skin or allergy-causing, but if ingested, is a kidney-blocking ingredient and can cause impaired kidney function.  Large doses can cause vomiting, imbalance and convulsions.

Desoxycholic Acid:  Used as an emulsifying ingredient in cosmetics.  Generally regarded as safe by the FDA, but is known to cause tumors in laboratory animals.

Dibenzothiophene:  Also known as Thioxanthene and Diphenylene Sulfide.  Used in cosmetics to add a green fluorescence.  No known toxicity when applied to the skin, but when ingested can affect the central nervous system, the blood, and blood pressure.   Also used as a psychopharmaceutical ingredient to treat mental disorders.

DEA:  An abbreviation for Diethanolamine.  See below.

Diethanolamine (DEA): Used in cosmetics as an emulsifying agent.  Considered to be highly toxic when used in industrial applications, and has been proven to cause cancer when applied to the skin of rats.  And yet, this ingredient, and its derivatives, is permitted to be used in cosmetic products at limited levels.  Derivative ingredients may appear as cocamide DEA or lauromide DEA.  DEA can be found in over 600 cosmetic and personal care products.

Diethylene Glycol: This chemical is actually a solvent and is used to enhance the absorption of other ingredients in skin creams.  Not usually irritating to the skin, but can be fatal if swallowed.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES):  Also known as Stilbestrol.  A synthetic estrogen fed to cattle and poultry to ‘fatten them.’   This chemical is now being sold to the cosmetic industry as a synthetic hormone for use in skincare products.  This chemical is a known carcinogen and linked to a rare form of vaginal cancer.

Dimethoxy Methane: Used as a solvent in cosmetics and perfumes.  Toxic by ingestion and inhalation.

Epichlorohydrin: Used as a solvent in cosmetic manufacturing.  Also used for manufacturing varnishes and lacquers.  Chronic exposure is known to cause kidney damage.  Caused paralysis, convulsions and death when fed to laboratory animals (not by us).

Ethoxyethanol:  Used as a stabilizer in cosmetic emulsions. Its toxicity has been shown to be several times greater than polyethylene glycol in laboratory animal tests.  Produces central nervous system depression and kidney damage.

Ethyl Hexanediol: Used as a solvent for manufacturing cosmetics.  Skin application caused birth defects in laboratory animals. 

Ethylene Dichloride (EDC): A solvent used in manufacturing cosmetics.  Also used for manufacturing vinyl chloride, paint, varnish, and as a lead scavenger in antiknock gasolines.  In cancer testing, the National Cancer Institute found this compound caused stomach cancer and vascularized cancers of multiple organs.  It also produced cancers beneath the skin in male rats, and female rats developed mammary cancers. 

Ethylene Glycol:  A chemical solvent used for manufacturing cosmetics.  Also used as antifreeze.  Can absorb twice its weight in water.  Toxic when ingested, causing central nervous system depression, vomiting, drowsiness, coma, respiratory failure, kidney damage, and possibly death.

Ethylenediamine Tetraacetic Acid (EDTA): Widely used by cosmetic manufacturers as a sequestering preservative. It may be irritating to the skin and mucous membranes and can cause allergies such as asthma and skin rashes.

Euxyl K 400:  This is one of the newer, more modern preservatives used in skin creams.  There are increasing reports from physicians regarding patients who are sensitive to it, and physicians are being encouraged to test it with their patients for allergic contact dermatitis.

Fibroin Copolmyer:  A synthetic polymer used as a binder and film-former in dyes, adhesives, permanent-press fabrics and skin creams.  Toxic by skin absorption.

Isopropyl Alcohol:  Also known as Isopropanol.  A solvent used in many cosmetic products.  Derived from propylene, which is obtained from petroleum.  Also used in antifreeze and shellac.  No known toxicity when applied topically to the skin, but one fluid ounce is fatal if ingested.

Lauromide DEA:  Used in cosmetics as an emulsifying agent.  Considered to be highly toxic.  This is a DEA derivative.  See DEA.

Magnesium Aluminum Silicate: Used primarily as a thickener in cosmetics.  In 1976 the FDA declared that it is not harmful at presently used levels, however, The World Health Organization recommended further studies because of kidney damage found in dogs that ingested it.

Learn more about the scientific research done to study the toxicity of many common ingredients used in cosmetics and search information about the most commonly used cosmetic products on 

Final thoughts

It is really on you to make a decision to use products that include these chemicals or not. While they may be helpful in keeping the products safe from bacteria and help other ingredients perform better, some chemicals can also irritate and harm your skin and health. You should look carefully at the labels and use products with the right ingredients for your skin, as everyone’s skin type and sensitivity vary. Be wise, think, and know what’s best for your skin!