15 Dangerous Ingredients Hiding in Your Skin Care Products

Mature woman applying moisturizer to her skin in a mirror

Your beauty products might be doing more harm than good. | studiokovac/iStock/Getty Images

If you think food products are not well regulated, you’ll be shocked to know how little the United States government regulates skin care and beauty products. There are many ingredients that you expose your body to every day that could be seriously harmful to your health. Here are a few chemicals and toxins lurking in your skin care products that you might want to avoid.


Parabens are used as preservatives in many skin care and makeup products. Although parabens prevent bacteria from growing in your product, they can also be dangerous. Studies have shown parabens are potential endocrine disruptors. This means they can disrupt your hormones and alter growth, development, and reproduction. Some experts also believe they can be linked to breast tumors.

Next: The color of your makeup is not natural. 

Synthetic colors

eyeshadow pallet

Some dyes might be carcinogenic. | iStock.com/-oqIpo-

Synthetic colors, known as FD&C colors or D&C colors, are often derived from coal tar dyes. In recent years, these types of synthetic colors have shown to be potentially carcinogenic. These dyes are also skin irritants and have been linked to ADHD in children. The European Union has classified these dyes as carcinogens and banned them.

Next: Your bleaching products could be dangerous. 


women in hair salon

The government has placed limits on its use in salons. | iStock.com/Gemenacom

This ingredient is commonly used as a bleaching product. It has been found to be toxic to the immune system and can also disrupt hormones. The federal government has placed limits on resorcinol use in the work place (such as a salon), but does not regulate it for use in personal products. It has also been linked to cancer, but the evidence is limited.

Next: That fragrant lotion smell can cause lung problems. 


Perfume bottles

It can cause dermatitis and asthma. | Saddako/iStock/Getty Images

The problem with fragrance is that people love it so much. It smells wonderful, but it’s actually a frequent cause of contact dermatitis, which mimics the effects of poison ivy on your skin. Fragrance has also been linked to asthma, which can cause lung problems down the road. Even worse, the FDA doesn’t require an item with “fragrance” to enclose what its fragrant ingredients actually are.

Next: This chemical can be carcinogenic. 


Woman applying moisturizing cream to her skin

It can be carcinogenic. | LuckyBusiness/iStock/Getty Images

In high doses, hydroquinone can be carcinogenic. This skin-lightening ingredients also becomes toxic in high doses and can cause nausea, seizures, and bluish skin. Hydroquinone can be a cause of ochronosis, which is a skin condition that causes a blue-black skin discoloration. Several countries have banned hydroquinone, and the FDA has proposed a ban.

Next: High exposure to this chemical can lead to hormonal issues. 


young man applying cream on his face

They’re in lotions and other skin care products. | iStock/Getty Images

Phthalates are commonly used in plastic — but they’re also found in lotions and skin care products. Studies have linked phthalates to reproductive and hormonal issues in males. According to ecocenter.org, fetal animals exposed to phthalates showed infertility issues and a decreased sperm count.

Next: This well-known ingredient can lead to metabolism trouble. 


Woman sitting on deck chair

It’s common in self-tanners. | iStock.com/jacoblund

The problem with petroleum, and also with its counterpart, mineral oil, is that it can’t be metabolized. This means that once it’s in your body, it doesn’t really leave. Plus, the Environmental Working Group has found that products containing petroleum could be carcinogenic. Petroleum is common in products like self-tanners. If you’re prone to acne, you’ll want to avoid petroleum — it can completely block your pores.

Next: This chemical has been linked to altered hormone regulation and immune system problems. 


Young woman washing body in a shower

The FDA banned it in 2016. | iStock.com/Avesun

In 2016, the FDA issued a rule that stated any consumer antiseptic wash products containing triclosan could no longer be sold to consumers. However, you might still have some products (pre-2016) lying around your house. Triclosan has been linked to altered hormone regulation. It can potentially help you develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria and be harmful to your immune system.

Next: When this chemical was tested on animals, some died. 


man rubbing sunscreen onto his shoulder

It’s common in sunscreens. | iStock.com

Methylisothiazolinone, known as MIT, is commonly found in skin care products like lotions and sunscreens. Lab rats showed serious toxicity problems when exposed to high concentrations of MIT, such as swollen intestines and reddened lungs. Some rats died. Factory workers who are exposed to MIT are the highest concern, but consumers who use products containing MIT are also encouraged to discontinue use. Europe is trying to get MIT-based products banned from shelves.

Next: This chemical can combine with others to cause cancer. 


You might find it in your shampoo. | iStock/Getty Images

SLS, or sodium laureth sulfate, is known to irritate the skin, lungs, and eyes. While SLS itself is not a carcinogen, some studies have showed that it can cause mutations that can lead to cancer, according to Livestrong.com. However, the evidence of whether or not small amounts (such as the amounts in shampoos or skin products) can cause cancer still needs to be further evaluated.

Next: This chemical is linked to melanoma and breast cancer. 


Woman wearing hat applying sunscreen

It actually might increase your risk of melanoma. | LiudmylaSupynska/iStock/Getty Images

Oxybenzone is commonly found in sunscreens. However, it has also been linked to a rise in melanoma. Yes, that sounds counterproductive. According to the Environmental Working Group, oxybenzone has demonstrated an ability to attack DNA cells. Scientists believe it behaves like estrogen and have also linked it to breast cancer.

Next: This chemical has been linked to ALS. 


A guest had their hair styled at the TRESemme Salon at Moynihan Station on February 13, 2016 in New York City.

It’s in some hair care products. | Donald Bowers/Getty Images

Chronic exposure to formaldehyde can cause issues with the nervous system. In high concentrations, it can also affect a person’s likelihood of contracting ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In 2011, the U.S. government classified formaldehyde as a known carcinogen, yet it is still found in many skin care and beauty products.

Next: This chemical can cause problems with the nervous system. 


You’ll find it in nail polish. | iStock/Getty Images

Toluene is a solvent that is used to make nail polish. Overexposure to toluene can create problems with the brain and nerves. Cognitive impairments, vision problems, and hearing loss can become permanent with too much exposure. It can also cause memory loss, nausea, and loss of appetite.

Next: This chemical can cause unwanted skin irritation. 

Propylene glycol

Young woman buying perfume in a shop or store

It’s in scented products. | iStock.com/kzenon

Propylene glycol is a liquid alcohol found in perfumes and scented products you spray on your skin. It is a known skin irritant. It is not as bad as other chemicals, unless you have very sensitive skin. Propylene glycol can cause hives in humans. This chemical has, overall, been deemed safe for use in cosmetics, but if you’re worried about developing dermatitis or a skin rash, it’s best to steer clear.

Next: This chemical can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. 

Benzoyl peroxide

Young woman popping pimple on her cheeck

It might cause more skin issues than it helps. | DragonImages/iStock/Getty Images

Benzoyl peroxide is commonly used to clear up acne. While benzoyl peroxide might not be “poisonous,” it can cause skin unwanted skin issues. The dehydration factor can lead to premature aging. Also, hyperpigmentation is common with benzoyl peroxide. Patches of skin become darker than the rest of your skin. Plus, benzoyl peroxide can cancel out the effects of SPF, increasing your risk of developing skin cancer.

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