17 Harmful Ingredients to Avoid and Why

Although many products may be labeled as “organic” or “all-natural” hidden chemicals are still prevalent in a huge number of our everyday, household products. Discover some of the most harmful chemicals that can be found in these products and the damage they can cause.

Read to the end to find some helpful hints on how to be more aware of what chemicals are in your products!

1.TALC

talc.jpg

Ingredient Label Listing:

Talcum Powder, Cosmetic Talc

Commonly Found In:

Baby powder, body and shower products, lotions, feminine hygiene products, eyeshadow, foundation, lipstick, deodorants, face masks, some food products (like rice and chewing gum) and used in the some pharmaceutical tablets.

What is Talc?

Talc is a mineral made up of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. As a powder, it helps absorb moisture and prevent friction. The concern surrounding Talc is the common presence of asbestos; a known carcinogen.

Health Threats:

Respiratory Irritation - several studies have shown that when inhaled, talc can cause severe lung irritation.

Cancer - Talc has been linked to lung, ovarian and endometrial cancers.

Organ Malfunction - Talc can cause labored breathing and coughing; inflammation and infection in the female genital system.


2. MEA, DEA, TEA

Image: xoedie.com

Image: xoedie.com

Ingredient Label Listing:

Triethanolamine, diethanolamine, DEA, TEA, cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, lauramide DEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA, stearamide MEA, TEA-lauryl sulfate

Commonly Found In:

Hair products, cosmetic products, household cleaning products, sunscreens, lotions, fragrances, dyes, shaving creams, pharmaceutical ointments

What are MEA, DEA, TEA?

Ethanolamines are a chemical group that are composed of alcohols and amino acids. Diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) are part of this chemical group. DEA is used in shampoos, conditioners and soaps as an emulsifier. TEA is also an emulsifying agent and helps adjust PH. When these ethanolamines are mixed with other preservatives they produce several carcinogenic chemicals.

Health Threats:

Cancer - specifically of the liver and nasal cavities

Toxin Build-Up - Up to 68% of DEA from personal care and cosmetic products can remain on the upper layers of skin for several weeks after initial exposure.

Organ Malfunction - DEA can alter sperm structure and cause reproductive/fertility issues; DEA build-up can happen in the liver and kidneys causing malfunctions.


3. MIT & CMIT

Image: lettera35.it

Image: lettera35.it

Ingredient Label Listing:

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT): 2-methyl-4-isothiazoline-3-one, Neolone 950 preservative, MI, OriStar MIT and Microcare MT. Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT): 5-Chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one and MCI

Commonly Found In:

Liquid products like foundations, shampoos and soaps

What are MIT & CMIT?

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT) are preservatives that inhibit bacteria growth.

Health Threats:

Allergies - Clinical studies have shown that most cases of skin irritation were caused by products including CMIT and MIT was labeled “Allergen of the Year” in 2013 due to its skin sensitizing effects.

Organ Malfunction - Weight gain, reddened and inflamed lungs, swollen intestines.


4. TOLUENE

Image: nailsmag.com

Image: nailsmag.com

Ingredient Label Listing:

Toluene

Commonly Found In:

Hair dyes, nail polish and other nail treatment products, paint thinners, adhesives, rubbers, plastics

What is Toluene?

Toluene can be found in the Tolu tree as well as in crude oil most commonly used as a solvent in products.

Health Threats:

Organ Malfunction - High exposure or repeated low-exposure to Toluene can cause tiredness, confusion, weakness, nausea and memory loss; hearing and color vision damage; respiratory tract irritation; lowered immune system and potentially linked to some blood cancers.

Inhibited Reproduction and Development - Exposure to Toluene during pregnancy can cause developmental issues in the fetus.

Allergies - Commonly known to cause irritation to the skin.


5. TRICLOSAN

Image: familyhealthchiropractic.com

Image: familyhealthchiropractic.com

Ingredient Label Listing:

Triclosan (TSC), Triclocarban (TCC), Biofresh, Irgasan, Lexo, Ster-Zac, Microban

Commonly Found In:

Toothpastes and whitening products, antibacterial soaps, detergents, wipes, deodorants, shaving products

What are TSC & TCC?

Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent used is a wide variety of common household products to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus and prevent bad odors.

Health Threats:

Endocrine Malfunction - Disrupts thyroid function and homeostasis; lowers the production of the thyroid hormone; can cause enhanced expression of androgen, estrogen, testosterone and estradiol.

Bacteria Resistance - Studies are showing that Triclosan creates an environment that allows drug-resistant bacteria to grow; Triclosan-resistant strains of E. Coli and Salmonella have been found.

Bioaccumulation - Triclosan accumulates in fatty tissue; it is present in the breast milk or every 3 out of 5 women, has even been found in the umbilical cord of newborn babies.

Environmental Pollution - Triclosan has been known to kill algae, crustaceans and fish causing a disruption in the eco-system. It can also accumulate in aquatic animals and as well as the soil causing disruptions in plant growth.


6. PARAFFINS

Image: naturemadecures.com

Image: naturemadecures.com

Ingredient Label Listing:

Paraffin wax, liquid paraffin, alkane, kerosene, petroleum jelly, petrolatum, xylene, toluene, mineral oil

Commonly Found In:

Candles, cosmetics, waterproofing products

What are Paraffins?

Paraffin is a waxy substance made up of saturated hydrocarbons and comes from the distillation of petroleum or shale. Several dangerous compounds have been found in paraffin including: lead, toluene, acetone, benzene, etc.

Health Threats:

Skin Irritation - Can cause heat rash when applied to the skin; inflammation in the skin; break outs on acne prone areas

Respiratory Issues - Asthma and lung cancer can be caused due to the strong toxins released when paraffin wax is burned or melted.

Headaches - The build up of toxins in the air can result in headaches, nausea and/or vomiting.


7. SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE

sls.jpg

Ingredient Label Listing:

Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, sodium salt sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex me or aquarex methyl

Commonly Found In:

Cosmetic products like foundations, lipstick; other grooming products like shampoos, hand soaps, cleansers, toothpastes, mouthwash, creams and lotions

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a chemical compound usually used as a thickener and/or emulsifier in cosmetic products, cleaning products and some food products.

Health Threats:
Skin/Eye Irritation - Regular exposure to SLS can cause increased skin sensitivity, irritation, inflammation and rashes; when applied around the eyes itching, burning and redness can occur.

Cancer - SLS is often contaminated with dioxane during the production process which is a known carcinogen.

Respiratory Issues - When inhaled coughing, inflammation and sore throat can occur.

Ingestion - Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.


8. PROPYLENE GLYCOL

prop glycol.jpg

Ingredient Label Listing:

Propylene glycol, 1,2-propanediol, 1,2-dihydroxypropan, methyl ethyl glycol, trimethyl glycol, propylene glycol mono and diester

  • E1520 or 1520

Commonly Found In:

Paint, antifreeze, e-cigarettes, some cosmetic products, injectable medications, ointments and creams like corticosteroids, other hygiene and cosmetic products.

What is Propylene Glycol?

Propylene glycol is a synthetic additive used in many food products and cosmetic products. It belongs to the same chemical class as alcohol and is generally used to improve texture, flavor and shelf life.

Health Threats:

Kidney Malfunction - When consumed in large doses can cause acidosis and kidney failure.

Heart attack/Palpations - Exposure to high doses can cause a significant drop in blood pressure and heart rhythm disruption and in some cases causes the heart to stop.

Neurological Symptoms - Nausea, vertigo, convulsions and/or seizures

Allergies - The American Contact Dermatitis Society has named propylene glycol as the 2018 Allergen of the Year. Eating foods, taking drugs or using products with propylene glycol can cause rashes on the face and/or scattered around the body.

Skin Irritation - Skin irritation, rashes and redness can occur; those with sensitive skin are particularly vulnerable to contact dermatitis.


9. COLLAGEN

Image: draxe.com

Image: draxe.com

Ingredient Label Listing:

Collagen, collagen 1, 2 or 3 (the most common)

Commonly Found In:

Collagen supplements, cosmetic products and skincare treatments (most commonly anti-aging products)

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein found int he human body, animals and dark leafy greens. It plays a critical role providing elasticity to the skin and maintaining healthy hair and nails. Collagen as a supplement is usually composed of the ground-up parts of animals (skin, intestines, hooves, etc).

Health Threats:

Animal Diseases - Doctors are increasingly concerned that collagen supplements can carry diseases that were present in the animals that are now part of the product (like Mad Cow Disease).

Heavy Metals - Animals can absorb a huge amount of toxins, including heavy metals. As most supplements are not tested very rigorously, there is concern regarding the amounts of heavy metals in collagen supplements.

Hypercalcemia - The ground-up animal parts can be exceptionally high in calcium. Hypercalcemia can lead to constipation, bone pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abnormal heart rhythms.

Allergic Reactions - For those with allergies to shellfish or other animal products, collagen supplements can be risky because the specific animals used in the supplements are rarely listed.

Skin Sensitivities - Skin irritation can occur when applied topically including redness, inflammation, and rash.


10. PLACENTA EXTRACT

Image: deepbluehealth.co.nz

Image: deepbluehealth.co.nz

Ingredient Label Listing:

Placenta Extract

Commonly Found In:

Hair and skincare products, some cosmetics

What is Placenta Extract?

Placenta Extract is extractions from either a human or animal placenta. Beauty companies claim that the nutrients can help fight wrinkles and tighten skin.

Health Threats:

Diseases - There is concern that any disease the animal may have can be passed on to humans. The same is a concern for placentas taken from humans, any diseases they may have (like HIV) may be carried in the placenta extract used in beauty and hygiene products.

High Estrogen - The estrogenic properties in placenta extract seem to cause hormonal disturbances and are increasingly worrisome for women with breast cancer.


11. FORMALDEHYDE AND FORMALDEHYDE-RELEASING PRESERVATIVES

ronandlisa.com

ronandlisa.com

Ingredient Label Listing:

Formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal

Commonly Found In:

Nail polish, eyelash glue, hair products, building materials

What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a gas used in the production of many different building materials and household products. The formaldehyde fumes can be released into the air and absorbed through the skin.

Health Threats:

Cancer - Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and both initiates and promotes tumor growth.

Irritation - Exposure can cause redness, inflammation, and rash and is worse for those with sensitive skin.

Respiratory Issues - Can cause throat and nose pain, chest pain, shortness of breath and asthma.


12. LANOLIN

Image: medela.com

Image: medela.com

Ingredient Label Listing:

Lanolin, Adeps lanae anhydrous, Aloholes lanae, Amerchol, Anhydrous lanolin, Wool fat, Wool grease, Wool wax.

Commonly Found In:

Cosmetic products, lip balm, nipple creme, eczema treatments

What is Lanolin?

Lanolin is a waxy substance found on the fur of sheeps helping to keep their skin hydrated and protected. Lanolin can contain sebum, dirt, sweat, dust, pollen, fecal matter, etc collected on the coat of the sheep.

Health Threats:

Pesticides - Sheep are physically sprayed with pesticides to prevent lice and other pests from inhabiting the animals. Furthermore, after the fur has been extracted, it is sprayed again with heavy pesticides. Legally, lanolin can contain up to 40ppm.

Breastfeeding - Because lanolin is most commonly used in nipple creams, babies can physically ingest it when feeding. Their immature immune systems do not have the strength to fight off pesticides and a range of developmental issues can occur.

Allergies - Allergies to lanolin are becoming more frequent mainly due to the presence of woll alcohol. Swelling, redness, and rash can occur.


13. BEESWAX

Image: Bustle.com

Image: Bustle.com

Ingredient Label Listing:

Beeswax, Apic cerana, Apis Mel, Apis mellifera, Apis Mellifica, Bees Wax, Bleached Beeswax, White Beeswax, White Wax, Yellow Beeswax, Yellow Wax.

Commonly Found In:

Lotions, candles, lipsticks and balms, skincare products and some cosmetics.

What is Beeswax?

Beeswax is made from the honeycomb of bees.

Health Threats:

Pesticides - Most beeswax is treated with pesticides and can be absorbed through inhalation and/or absorption through the skin.


14. PARABENS

Image: familiesagainstchemicaltoxins.org

Image: familiesagainstchemicaltoxins.org

Ingredient Label Listing:

Ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, other ingredients ending in –paraben.

Commonly Found In:

Hair care products, cleansers, soaps, cosmetic products.

What are Parabens?

Parabens are chemicals that are used to prevent the growth of microbes in products.

Health Threats:

Endocrine Issues - Parabens have the ability to mimic estrogen therefore causing hormonal imbalances. They also have the ability to block androgens and inhibit enzymes that metabolize estrogen.

Cancer - Parabens have been found to increase cancer cell growth in breast cancer tissue.

Reproductive Issues - Can reduce sperm production and lead to lower testosterone levels.


15. PHTHALATES

Image: madesafe.org

Image: madesafe.org

Ingredient Label Listing:

Phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP and fragrance.

Commonly Found In:

Soaps, hair products, frangranced products, nail polish, food packaging, plastics, adhesives, medical equipment

What are Phthalates?

Phthalates are a group of chemicals most commonly used to increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl.

Health Threats:

Cancer - Phthalates are carcinogenic and can increase the growth of breast cancer tumor cells. It can also lower the effectiveness of anti-estrogen cancer treatments.

Endocrine Issues - Phthalates can disrupt normal hormone function

Reproductive/Developmental Issues - Altered hormone levels and feminization can be a result of phthalates in baby boys; Lowered sperm motility and male infertility; Reduced production of critical sex hormones


16. PROGESTERONE

Image: drweil.com

Image: drweil.com

Ingredient Label Listing:

Progesterone

Commonly Found In:

Progesterone creams, supplements, certain medications

What is Progesterone?

Progesterone is a hormone released by the ovaries. Changing progesterone levels can contribute to abnormal menstrual periods and menopausal symptoms. Taking progesterone while pregnant can be extremely dangerous and regular use of progesterone creams and supplements can lead to overdose.

Health Threats:

Progesterone Overdose - Can cause blood clots, stress on the liver and kidneys, emotional outbursts, disruption of adrenal hormones like cortisol and testosterone.


17. BENZOPHENONES

Image: safecosmetics.org

Image: safecosmetics.org

Ingredient Label Listing:

Benzophenone, ingredients containing the word benzophenone (for example benzophenone-2), BP# (for example BP2), oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, sulisobenzone sodium.

Commonly Found In:

Cosmetic products, lip balms, nail polish, sunscreens, hair products, moisturizers other household products like sunglasses, food packaging, cleaning products.

What are Benzophenones?

Benzophenones are chemicals used to protect products from UV rays.

Health Threats:

Cancer - Known carcinogen that has been linked to the growth of several different types of tumors.

Endocrine Issues - Can change gene expression.

Organ Toxicity - Benzophenones can build up in the blood, liver and kidneys causing malfunctions.

Developmental/Reproductive Issues - Studies show that the production of eggs and sperm can be reduced.

Irritation - Can cause skin irritation and facial erythema.

Ecotoxicity - Benzophenones are toxic to aquatic animals and can also accumulate in their tissue and then be ingested by humans when consumed.


What Next?

While the seemingly unending list of ingredients can seem daunting, do not lose hope! Simple lifestyle changes can help you begin to eliminate products that may include these harmful ingredients. Begin to get in the habit of reading labels! Reading food ingredient labels has become a common practice for many and reading the labels of cosmetic, hygiene and other products we buy should be no different.

There are also a number of resources available to help you determine which products are safe.

  1. MadeSafe

    • This is America’s first organization to offer certifications for products that are free of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals.

    • You can learn more about their certification process AND browse through lists of certified products in every category!

  2. Think Dirty

    • Think Dirty is a fun online resource where you can browse through “safe” products.

    • The big draw is their mobile app that allows you to scan the barcode of products while you are shopping. Once you scan the app will give you an “easier-to-understand” list of ingredients as well as safer alternatives!

If there are any other informative and reliable resources you may know of we would love to hear about them! Leave a comment below with your tips, thoughts and any questions :)