“I want to make fitness simple and attainable for busy women”

-Allison Lambert

The Fit Tutor

The Top 10 Toxic Chemicals In Your Beauty Products

Detox Your Life In A Year: August

Did you know there are harmful chemicals in your #beauty #products? Our skin absorbs 60+% of what we put on it. Check out this #blog to #detox your beauty routine today! (via @thefittutor)

Toxic Chemicals In Your Beauty Products Could Be Harming Your Health

Did you know that there are known carcinogens, animal placenta, and endocrine disruptors in your cosmetics, lotions, and hair products?

Before you subscribe to the notion ignorance is bliss, hear me out. Detoxing your personal care products can be daunting, but I guarantee it will be worth it. Carcinogens cause cancer and endocrine disruptors could be making you gain weight, and we’re only at the tip of the iceberg. The cosmetics industry is self-regulated, and is using our bodies as guinea pigs. Since our skin absorbs 60+% of what we put on it, this is huge deal.

I’ve done the hard work for you. I’ve researched chemicals, brands, and tools to make this detox SUPER simple. I’ve even included ideas on the easiest way for YOU to detox this part of your life!

I won’t be offended if you skip down to the part where I make this easy for you. Just click here, but read a little more on the corrupt cosmetics industry first.

The Problem With The Cosmetics Industry

The FDA has banned only 10 chemicals for use in our beauty products, while the European Union has banned 1400. The cosmetics industry is also not required to list all their ingredients on the label. A fragrance is considered a trade secret, so companies aren’t required to disclose what they’ve used. This means hundreds of ingredients (allergens and carcinogens) aren’t on the label. There’s also no regulation for terms like “herbal,” “natural,” “hypoallergenic,” “non-toxic,” and “organic” (non-certified). Unfortunately, fragrance-free products may still have fragrance in them.

They are also guilty of “pink-washing” personal care products. This is where companies say their proceeds go to find a cure for breast cancer, but the chemicals in the product promote breast cancer. People think they’re buying a good, safe product and fighting cancer, all the while increasing their own risk.

The Red Cross and Environmental Working Group conducted a study and found 287 synthetic chemicals in the cord blood of newborns. 180 of these chemicals were carcinogens, 217 were toxic, and 208 were linked with possible birth defects. This is beyond outrageous. Although there are organizations fighting for increased government regulation, it’s a slow, uphill battle. I hope you are beginning to see the importance of detoxing your personal care products.

If you have an extra 8 minutes, I encourage you to watch this powerful video called The Story Of Cosmetics.

Shocking, huh?

The Top 10 Toxic Chemicals In Your Beauty Products:

I compiled this list by going through 15+ others between 7-40 chemicals, and spotlighting the ones that appeared the most. It is of general consensus that these chemicals should be avoided. The honorable mention list is compiled of other ingredients that were commonly mentioned. You can check out some of the source links for more information.

1. Parabens:

Any word with the prefixes Ethyl, Methyl, Butyl, Isobutyl, and Propyl

Found in: makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos, facial cleansers, food, and pharmaceutical products. Also used as fragrance. These are the most widely used chemicals, estimated to be in 75-90% of cosmetics. Women are exposed to 50mg of parabens per day from cosmetics alone. Health Risks: linked to breast cancer, skin irritation, contact dermatitis, rosacea, and fertility problems. A known endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen. The EU restricts concentration of parabens in cosmetics.

2. Fragrance/Parfum

DEHP, DEP, DHP, DBP5, Dibutyl Phthalate

Found in: face washes, moisturizers, soaps, body washes, lotions, hair care products, deodorants, cleaning and laundry products, perfume, and cologne. Because they are considered “trade secrets” the chemicals aren’t usually on product labels. 3,000+ chemicals are used as fragrance. Health Risks: linked to hormone disruption, possible birth defects, infertility, breast and liver cancer, allergies, and asthma. Phthalates are regularly labeled “fragrance” and are considered endocrine disruptors. These chemicals are also harmful to aquatic life and our water supply.

3. DYES

Blue 1, Green 3, Yellow 5&6, Red 33, FD&C, D&C, Aminophenol, diaminobenzene, p-phenylenediamine, CI followed by 5 digits

Found in: Hair dye, shampoo, and used as a colorant in cosmetics. Health Risks: suspected human carcinogens, skin irritants, linked to ADHD in children, may be contaminated with heavy metals, and linked to tumor growth. They are derived from coal tar sources and banned in the EU as a carcinogen.

4. Triclosan

Chloro, phenol, irgasan

Found in: toothpastes, cleansers, antiperspirants, cleansers, hand sanitizers, anti-bacterial products, facial tissues, mouthwash, and cosmetics. Health Risks: suspected endocrine disruptor, may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria, harmful to fish and wildlife,  skin irritant, and linked with liver toxicity. Doesn’t readily degrade and was found in urine of 75% of people tested by US center for disease control and prevention.

5. Petroleum Byproducts

Polyethylene glycol (PEG, PPG, Cocoate), Propylene glycol, Butylene glycol, poyoxyethylene, polyethoxyethylene, polyethoxyethylene mineral oil, 1,2-dihydroxypropane; 2-hydroxypropanol; methylethyl glycol, 1,2-prpanediol, propane-1,2-diol (and other ingredients with the letters “eth”)

Found in: lotions, moisturizers, deodorants, toothpastes, sunscreens, makeup, conditioners, shampoo, hair sprays, baby wipes, and also used in laxatives. Health Risks: considered carcinogens, linked to liver and kidney effects, allergic reactions, hives, skin irritation, heart damage, and considered a neurotoxin. Petroleum byproducts enhance skin absorption- which may help other harmful chemicals reach blood stream more quickly. Propylene Glycol is used in anti-freeze, brake & hydraulic fluids, de-icers, and solvents. The EPA considers it toxic and requires gloves, clothing, and goggles, and disposal by burying.

6. Formaldehyde

Dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM), imidazolidinyl urea, and diazolidynyl urea being the biggest perpetrators, along with methanamine, quarternium-15, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol), glyoxal and oxaldehyde

Found in: cosmetics to prevent bacteria growth, nail polish, body wash, conditioners, shampoos, cleansers, eye shadows, eyelash glue, as well as toilet bowl cleaners and plastics. Health Risks: considered a human carcinogen, and may be harmful to the immune system. Linked to hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia, asthma, allergic skin reactions, and is banned for use in cosmetics in Sweden and Japan.

7. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

Found in: shampoos, cleansers, bubble bath, dish soap and household cleaners, toothpastes, acne treatments, mascara, and most things that foam. Health Risks: dryness, skin irritation, lung and eye irritant, and is rapidly absorbed and retained in eyes, brain, heart, and liver. They slow healing, cause cataracts in adults, and corrode hair follicles/impair ability to grow hair. Also used as an engine degreaser. SLS has the potential to interact with other chemicals to form nitrosamines (a carcinogen). The process to turn SLS into SLES creates byproduct 1,4-dioxane (known animal carcinogen), which may be toxic to kidneys and respiratory system.

8. DEA, TEA, MEA, and Nitrosamines

Found in: almost every type of personal care product; baby shampoo, shaving cream, moisturizers, mascara, foundation, fragrances, sunscreens, shampoo, soaps, and cleansers. Health Risks: skin and eye irritant, endocrine disruptor, asthma, sore throat, possible birth defects, high doses shown to cause liver cancers and precancerous changes in skin and thyroid, and can become nitrosamines which can damage your liver and kidneys with repeated exposure and may cause cancer. These are easily absorbed through skin and can accumulate in body organs and brain, and are banned in Canada and the EU.

9. Mineral Oil/Paraffin/Petroleum/Petrolatum

Found in: baby oil, lip balm, lip stick, lip gloss, hair conditioner, petroleum jelly, eye shadow, concealer, face powder, moisturizers, hair gel, body wash, concealer, and mascara. Health Risks: seals off skin so it cannot breathe, which is necessary for the skin to do. Slows down normal cell development, and prevents release of sweat, oil, and toxins. Is linked with premature aging, contact dermatitis, skin irritation and allergies, promotes acne, is a known endocrine disruptor, and contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are linked to cancer.

10. Heavy Metals

Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Arsenic, Nickel, lead acetate, thimerosal, mercurius solubilis, mercurius sublimates, mercurius corrosives, mercuric chloride

Found in: hair color, artificial tears, wound treatments, lipstick, and mascara. Health Risks: considered a neurotoxin, found in higher levels in women with breast cancer, memory loss, mood swings, nerve, joint, and muscle disorders, headaches, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, lung damage, and hair loss.

Honorable mentions:

These are chemicals that were found on many lists, but were not as consistently agreed upon as the most harmful. Look out for these on the labels of your personal care products!

  • Placenta: Used in hair shampoos and conditioners, and other grooming aids. Contains progesterone, which is a possible carcinogen and is linked with early onset puberty in children, which is a possible predictor of breast cancer later on in life. Also, you’re putting (human or animal) placenta on you…
  • BHA & BHT: Found in moisturizers, makeup, and food preservatives. Possible endocrine disruptors and carcinogen (BHA), possible link to thyroid, kidney and liver problems.
  • Stearalkonium Chloride: Found in hair conditioners, gels, dyes, and hand creams; causes allergic reactions and thought to be toxic.
  • Isopropyl Alchohol: Found in fragrances, skin and hair products, conditioners, and antibacterial hand washes. Promotes brown spots and prematures aging, as well as drying out skin and making us more prone to mold and bacteria. Real harm is in ingestion; also used in antifreeze.
  • Talc: Found in baby powders, cosmetic powders, eye shadows, and blush. Linked to lung tumors and ovarian cancer.
  • Toulene (benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene): Found in nail polish an treatments, hair color and bleaching products. Linked to respiratory problems, nausea, skin irritation, birth defects, and immune toxicity

Other ingredients to watch out for: Isobutene, Nano Zinc Oxide, Retinyl Palmitate, Retinol Vitamin A, Benzoyl Peroxide, Oxybenzone, Paraphenylene diamine (PPD), Silicone-derived emollients, Siloxanes, PVP/VA Copolymer, 1,3 Butadeine, and Aluminum.

And if ethical sourcing is on your heart, stay away from any cosmetic made with Mica (usually anything shimmery). 

The How-To

Remember that there are thousands of chemicals that could be in your personal care products, so this is not an exhaustive list. I know this is a lot, and I’m sure some of you are thinking there’s no way you could ever remember these names! I hear ya! Thankfully, a few companies compiled cheat sheets for us to use to make this process much easier.

EWG’s Skin Deep App: This app has the largest database of all, and if you don’t have a smartphone you can use it on your computer! They have ratings for several categories, and you can search for best and worst in that category or brand. You can scan items you have or items in a store, or search by product or brand.

Think Dirty App: It’s pretty much the same concept as Skin Deep, but they have a smaller database but some different products. My favorite thing about this app is that it shows you “cleaner options” if what you scanned or searched for was considered “dirty” (toxic).

Putting It In Motion

These are three options that I would recommend for detoxing your personal care products. Choose what you think would work best for you this month, or create your own!

1. Replace Items As You Run Out ($)

Replacing items as you run out will seem less overwhelming. The research won’t take as long because you are only looking for one new product on your trust new app! This spreads the research out over a longer period of time and is friendlier to your bank account.

2. Replace Items By Category ($$)

Another way you could detox your personal care products is to replace by category. For example, you could start with makeup, or your anti-aging routine, or everything in the shower. This will get the job done faster, and still won’t destroy your budget.

3. Go Big Or Go Home! ($$$)

If you’re having problems with your health or if this post horrified you, it might be best to just go all out and replace everything at once. This is obviously more expensive and will require more research upfront, but you will definitely be doing your body a favor!


Although I’m not a pro at this yet, I’ll share the brands with you that I’ve used and liked. I use Nature’s Gate shampoo and conditioner, Giovanni hair care products, Reviva Labs Mascara (about $7 at Whole Foods- although I’m still on the search for a good mascara), Everyone Lotion (coconut and lemon- mmmm), Primal Pit Paste for when I’m too lazy to make my deodorant, Jāsön for my toothpaste, Toms for mouthwash, and Coconut Oil for my face wash, and I’ve just started using some essential oils for my skin care. I can’t seem to find anything that works yet! Use the apps I mentioned above- some companies have both toxic and non-toxic products, so it’s helpful to check.

Scroll down to find more recommended brands, articles to check out, DIY personal care recipes, and sources for further research! If you’ve used and loved a product or recipe, let us know in the comments!

I am honored to be on this health and fitness journey with you! Try out The Fit Tutor for at-home workouts that will help you sweat out the toxins and help you lose weight!

Allison Check out thefittutor.com's Detox Your Life in a Year posts! Get healthy with practical tips, strategies, and information- one month at a time :) Recommended Brands  **Check out my Pinterest pages for more links! Non-toxic Makeup & Detox!

Helpful articles on choosing brands from people who have tried them:

DIY Personal Care Products

What would YOU add to these lists? :) Sources/Further Research:

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14 Responses to “The Top 10 Toxic Chemicals In Your Beauty Products”
  1. HOLY COW! AHHHHHHHHHHH! This makes me want to clean out my bathroom closet and start over. Reading the labels- I guess it is a good indicator when you can’t pronounce the ingredients, that they might not be the best for you….. I like your rule of replacing as you run out. I wish I had not bought ahead when I saw deals. D’oh! Thank you for doing all this research. You really could not have made it any easier for us!

    Reply
    • Allison Lambert
      Allison Lambert

      Thanks Liz! That makes all this hard work worth it! ;) And I know what you mean. I’ve always been aware in this area, but didn’t really actively research until recently. I found I had a lot of things posing as “healthy” that weren’t actually so! Sad! I’m approaching this by replacing everything as I run out, too! Seems very realistic! I hope you find some good brands, at good deals! :)

      Reply
  2. Angela hall

    How do you feel about bare minerals makeup? Does it stack up to arbonne?

    Reply
    • Allison Lambert
      Allison Lambert

      Unfortunately no. I researched them to include on my recommended brands list, and they have products here and there that are good/non-toxic, but the company as a whole cannot be recommended. It seems like most companies still use one or two of the “bad” ingredients, but many of them that claim to be natural or non-toxic use a lot of them, and bare minerals is one of them. I would use one of the apps to find out which products from them are good, if you are interested in using some of their products! :)

      Reply
    • Angela, I know this may sound crazy, but I replaced my mineral make up with an arrowroot powder and cinnamon mixture. You just mix the two until you have the right shade. It is also a lot less expensive!

      Reply
    • Allison Lambert
      Allison Lambert

      Thanks Serena! Glad to have great people like you to spread this message! :) I’m excited to look through your site!

      Reply
  3. This post hit very close to home, I’ve had throw most of my products because they were all toxic. Then I was introduced to Beautycounter, just wondering if you have heard of then and has any thoughts about their product line?

    Reply
    • Beth Rose

      Arbonne – check out its ingredient policy. European formulated (see article above as to why this is important), vegan, gluten-free, nonGMO, hypoallergenic, dermatologist TESTED (v. recommended)…

      Reply
  4. Lynsey

    I know this article is a couple of years old now, but I just wanted to let you know that the very first brand I clicked on in your recommended list was LUSH . I picked a make-up product (Color Supplement Light Pink) and checked the ingredients. Methylparaben and Proplyparaben were both ingredients. Seeing as parabens are the first item you have listed to avoid for health reasons, I don’t think LUSH should be recommended. (I haven’t checked any of the other brands on the list.)

    Reply
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