Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in your Skin Care Products

Human health and well-being are important for everyone, regardless of your age. From supplements to providing vitamin C to eating nutritious, organic meals, these are all ways we can increase our longevity and lead a healthy lifestyle preventing diseases. However, chemicals and contaminants linked to cancer can be found in unlikely places like makeup and skincare products. Since 2009, 595 cosmetics manufacturers have reported using 88 chemicals, in more than 73,000 products, that have been linked to cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm. Over the past two decades, the European Union (EU) has banned more than 1,300 chemicals in the product formulas of personal care products and restricted the levels of over 250 more in such products. On the other hand, Canada has followed suit with 600.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in charge of ensuring the safety of personal care products. With this responsibility, the FDA tests personal care products and determines their safety by noting the levels of certain chemicals meaning there is a level of harmful chemicals the FDA deems safe as long as they are in low amounts. . However, even in small amounts, these chemicals are polluting your body and the environment. It is essential to understand the impact that the products you use will have on your body as they can have a long-term impact. These chemicals can be found in many products and can be categorized from low-risk to high-risk.

Chemicals with Low-Risks

  • Nickel: While this mineral is harmless in small amounts, Significant contact with nickel can pose a health risk as it is a possible carcinogen. This is often found in mascaras or eyeliners.
  • Petrolatum: This substance is often found in hair products to help produce a shiny finish. It is referenced as mineral oil jelly and contains PAHs, which are found to be carcinogenic. The PAHs, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, can also cause an allergic reaction or rashes.

Chemicals with High-Risks

  • Lead: This carcinogen is found in lipstick and hair dye but is extremely harmful to the human body and health.
  • Formaldehyde: This chemical, which is banned in the EU, is found in nail products (often chemical-based nail polishes or nail glues), hair dyes, fake eyelash adhesives, and shampoos. It can cause a burning sensation in the eyes, nose, and throat as well as coughing, wheezing, nausea, and skin irritation.
  • Fragrance or Parfum: This hidden toxin is packed with dangerous, synthetic chemicals, such as phthalates, which are powerful hormone disruptors linked to pre-term births, birth defects, and a worsening of allergy and asthma symptoms. However, the term is meant to hide hundreds of these ingredients.

There are other high-risk toxins as well as depicted in the diagram below courtesy of New Trition New You website:


A common alternative that most people consider when reading about the negative ingredients in skincare and makeup products, is to switch to organic products instead. A word such as “natural” can be used by anyone to mean anything; including “organic” which can be misleading because if a product’s ingredients are at least 70% organic, it can be labeled as made with organic ingredients.

The best way to overcome this conundrum and choose natural products that will also keep you healthy is to educate yourself about the risks of the most harmful ingredients, and read the ingredient labels on every product you buy (although this is time-consuming, it will be beneficial in the long run and choose products that do not contain harmful chemicals. You can also use EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to help you find alternative options to makeup products you already use and plug-in products you use on a daily basis on the database site which will rank the products and ingredients on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being the safest and 10 the most harmful. Consulting a dermatologist is an additional step to help invest in skin care products that will not be doing you more harm than good.

Taking steps to properly care for your skin helps to ensure your skin is healthy without affecting your overall health and can be done with a few skincare/makeup swaps and research.

Blog Image Credit: Canva

Written by Sarah Syed


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