• Prabhleen Kaur

Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Makeup & Skincare

Updated: Jul 6, 2020

TLC may have us saying Yes to the Dress, but what we need to prioritize is saying no to the multitude of harmful chemicals and ingredients within our cosmetics and skincare products.

As our society transitions into becoming more health conscious, whether that be through making healthier eating decisions or being more physically active, we should definitely take into consideration that this includes taking care of our skin as well! To ensure that our skin thrives and is able to continue to carry out its vital functions, it’s essential that we’re mindful of the ingredients that we apply to it, as up to 60% of what we apply to our skin gets absorbed.

The following is a list of ingredients and chemicals that should be avoided within skincare and cosmetic products.


  • Artificial fragrances contain a multitude of chemicals, such as allergens and irritants that can trigger your skin. They can cause hormone disruption which can lead to bigger health issues and should be avoided at all costs.

Parabens: (Eg: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparabens, butylparaben)

  • Parabens are an inexpensive and common type of preservative that are used in products to keep them fresh and prolong their shelf life. This essentially prevents them from harbouring harmful bacteria

  • For this reason, they can be found in every type of product, from face washes, night creams, body washes and shampoos, as well as makeup products

  • Parabens are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they mimic estrogen in the body which can result in hormonal imbalances and can lead to issues in relation to reproductiveness and fertility

  • At one point, parabens were found in breast tumours, however as of now, there is no conclusive evidence that proves that parabens are the cause of tumours


  • Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics within cosmetics and are added to prevent the plastic from becoming brittle. They also allow the product to stick to your skin better.

  • Phthalates can be found in products like nail polishes, moisturizers, shampoos, hair sprays, detergents, and many other types of products

  • They are known endocrine disruptors, and are especially dangerous to children which is why several phthalates have been banned from children's products


  • Can be found in cigarettes, industrial cleaning products, building materials, and beauty products

  • This is a great preservative which is why Formaldehyde was initially added to cosmetics and skincare products to prevent bacterial or fungal infections and to increase their shelf life, however after the overwhelming evidence proving its detriments, many brands (such as Johnson & Johnson) have removed it from their ingredient list.

  • The most common side effect of formaldehyde in cosmetics includes skin irritation, including scalp burns and hair loss.

  • The large concern is regarding the fact that formaldehyde is a carcinogen, essentially meaning that it can cause cancer under conditions with high or prolonged exposure.

  • Realistically, this won’t occur with the low levels that are found in cosmetic products, but this chemical can lead to irritation in the eyes, nose, throat and skin

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

  • PEG compounds are used widely within cosmetics and skincare as thickeners and softeners, however they have been banned in Canada.

  • In themselves, PEGs can be tolerated by the skin, but the issue surrounds their pollution and contamination levels.

  • PEGs involve chemicals called ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which have been classified as human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. They are not only dangerous to our body, but also strong pollutants

  • PEG also functions as an absorption enhancer, so it allows ingredients (both good and bad) to be absorbed faster, and into the deeper parts of your skin. There is a fear of contamination of toxic impurities from the industrial process might leave traces in the PEG compounds, which can later be absorbed into the skin

  • These dangers of PEGs have led to it being banned in Canada


  • It's important to know that there are good alcohols, and bad alcohols:

  • The good: fatty alcohols such as cetyl, staryl, and cetearyl alcohol, are non irritating and beneficial for the skin

  • The bad: SD alcohol/denatured alcohol/isopropyl alcohol, ethanol, alcohol denat

  • Bad alcohols can be extremely drying and irritating, and can cause inflammation to due their ability to strip the skin of its natural protections

  • The skin's barrier is broken down, thus the alcohols destroy the substances that protect your skin in the long term

Overall, it may seem complicated at first glance, but being knowledgeable and aware of the ingredients that you use doesn’t have to be a messy process. It’s simply about being open minded and proactive by taking the step to be aware of the impact that good and bad chemicals can have on your body. This list should get you started on your journey to becoming more educated on the impact that harmful chemicals and ingredients can have on us and the world around us, and the steps we can take to avoid them!

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