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30 synthetic chemicals that could possibly affect you

Have you ever taken a really good look at that long list of ingredients on the well-known cosmetics and beauty products you bought?

Like a REALLY good look?


We believe is important to be aware of just a few of them and we made it simple, we’ve compiled a list of the common potentially harmful chemicals in beauty products, its uses, and how it could possibly affect you.

30 synthetic chemicals it could possibly affect you
30 synthetic chemicals that could possibly affect you

1. Alcohol

*Benzyl, ethyl, isopropyl [SD-40], methyl, SD alcohols

Found in hand sanitizers and alcoholic toners.

  1. Very drying for the skin. Bad for all skin types

  2. Erodes the skin surface and makes you more susceptible to bacteria

  3. Prevents skin from replenishing, renewing and rejuvenating itself

2. Aluminium/Alum

Used in deodorants, antiperspirants and sunscreens

  1. Linked to brain disorders and Alzheimer’s

  2. A possible factor in breast cancer

  3. A neurotoxin that binds and sticks to our red and white blood cells

  4. Aluminum in sunscreen might contribute to oxidative damage in the skin, increasing the risk of cancer

3. Benzalkomium Chloride

Added to products to kill germs

  1. Skin and eye irritant

  2. A suspected respiratory and gastrointestinal toxicant

4. Benzoyl peroxide

Commonly used in acne-removal creams.

  1. Possible tumour promoter, mutagen, produces DNA damage

  2. Causes redness, irritation, itchiness and a burning sensation for some skin types*

*I’ve gotten a massive breakout and skin irritation once when I applied to an ingrown pimple. My skin was red and was burning for a couple of hours, and it spread to my entire cheek area. Different people are different, but I have sensitive skin and I’d never use this to cure my acne.

5. Bisphenol-A (BPA), BPS

Used in hand sanitizers, soaps, sunscreens, lotions – expedites the delivery of active ingredients they contain. Handling receipts (especially after using hand sanitizer) quickens the BPA transfer into the body.

  1. PCOS, infertility, premature delivery, miscarriage, and other reproductive effects in women

  2. Reduced libido and sperm quality, and altered sex hormone concentrations in men

  3. Altered thyroid function

  4. Obesity and diabetes

  5. Cardiovascular disease

  6. Impaired liver and kidney function

  7. Impaired immune function

  8. Inflammation

  9. Neurobehavioral deficits such as aggressiveness, hyperactivity, and impaired learning

6. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), Toluene, BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)

The preservative in many lipsticks and moisturizers

  1. Endocrine disruptor interferes with hormone function

  2. Causes allergies

  3. BHA: possible carcinogen

7. Carbon Black

Found in eyeliners

  1. Linked to cancer and organ toxicity

8. Coal Tar Dye, P-Phenylenediamine

*Colours listed as “CI”, “FD&C,” (Synthetic dyes, colour pigments) or “D&C.”

Gives hair dye its colour

  1. Potentially causes cancer

  2. Contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain

  3. Often used as part of hair dyes. Extensive usage may cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

9. Dibutyl Phthalate, Phthalates, DHP, DBP5, DEHP

Used mainly in nail products to prevent it from becoming brittle

  1. Can enhance the capacity of other chemicals to cause genetic mutations

  2. Endocrine disruptor, toxicant

  3. Affects reproductive systems – harm unborn child, impair fertility

  4. Asthma

  5. Damage immune and nervous systems

  6. Causes liver and kidney failure in young children after long exposure

  7. * Choose pure essential oils instead of fragrances

10. Dioxins

Found in many products, including sprays, tampons and shampoo

  1. Extremely toxic, has a score of 10 on the EWG database

  2. Won’t appear in ingredients. Often in antibacterial things, cleansers etc

  3. Causes cancer reduced immunity, nervous systems disorders, miscarriage, birth deformity

  4. Endocrine disruptor

11. Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives

*DMDM Hydantoin (Quanternium-15), Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Methenamine

Found in many products – lotions, nail polishes, eyelash glue, hair gels, shampoos, deodorants etc.

  1. Weakens immune system

  2. Human carcinogen

  3. Can cause irritation of the eyes and difficulty breathing

12. Gluten, Hydrolized wheat protein, Wheatgerm

*Some gluten ingredients are hidden

Toothpaste, lipstick, facial cleansers and many more.

  1. Causes allergic reactions and even asthma in some cases

13. Heavy Metals (Nickel, Lead, Mercury, Arsenic, Mercury etc)

Used in various cosmetic products – lipstick, mascara, foundation, concealers, eye shadow, eyeliner etc

  1. Builds up in the body over time and produces symptoms that are mistaken for other illnesses (ie: headaches, dizziness, numbness, chronic pain etc)

14. Hydroquinone

Used for skin lightening

  1. Rated the most toxic on EWG’s database

  2. Linked to cancer and reproductive toxicity

15. Octinoxate

Found in foundations

  1. An unstable chemical linked with endocrine disruption and thyroid disorders.

16. Para-Aminobenzoic acid, PABA, Sunscreen chemicals, Benzophenone, Avobenzone, Ethoxycinnamate

Found in all types of cosmetics but most common in sunscreen

  1. Free radical generators -> damage DNA

  2. Causes cancer

17. Parabens (ethyl, butyl, methyl, propyl, isobutyl, methyl)

*Also used as fragrance ingredients

Widely used as a preservative in many cosmetic products.

  1. Suspected of interfering with hormone functions (endocrine disruption)

  2. Imitates estrogen -> causes breast cancer

  3. Found in many products

  4. Studies indicate that methylparaben applied on skin combines with UVB which leads to skin ageing and DNA damage

18. Paraphenylenediamine (PPD)

Used in hair products and dyes

  1. Toxic to the skin and human immune system

19. PEG (Polyethylene glycol). Dioxane; 1,4 Dioxane

Ingredients ending with eth/oxynol)

Acts as a solvent, thickener, softener, moisture-carrier

  1. PEGs are usually contaminated with Dioxane and 1,4 Dioxane

  2. Possible carcinogen to humans

  3. Development Toxicant. Interferes with humans’ development

  4. Readily absorbed through the skin

  5. Found in hair products, face lotions, hand creams, anti-aging products

  6. All glycols: weaken protein and cellular structures

20. Petroleum, Petrolatum, Mineral oil, Petrochemicals

*Paraffins, Terms ending in “anol”, like isopropyl alcohol or isopropanol, methyl alcohol or methanol, butyl alcohol or butanol, ethyl alcohol or ethanol

Enables products to give your hair/skin/lips shine

  1. Absorbed through the skin; toxic to brain, kidney, respiratory system

  2. May be contaminated with PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAH). Extensive use may cause skin cancer

21. Phenoxyethanol

Used as a preservative in beauty and personal care products

  1. Suspected to be a carcinogen

  2. Causes skin irritation

  3. *Said to be a better preservative than parabens

22. Propylene glycol (PEG), Butylene glycol

Used as a skin-conditioning agent. Found in sunscreen, moisturizer, conditioners, shampoo, hair spray

  1. Skin irritant and penetrant. Causes hives and dermatitis

23. Silicone

Used to smoothen and enables products to spread evenly

  1. They accumulate on the skin and can be hard to clean off

  2. May accumulate on hair and over time lead to reduced volume, greasy hair with a need for more frequent washing

24. Siloxanes

*Cyclomethicone and ingredients ending in “siloxane” (e.g., Cyclotetrasiloxane)

Used to soften, smoothen, moisten

  1. Interferes with hormone function and damage the liver

  2. Also known as D4 and D5 which are endocrine disruptors. High amounts may cause uterine tumours, is harmful to the reproductive and immune systems

25. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

Commonly found in shampoos, cleansers and bubble baths. Make products bubble and foam

  1. It may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane or ethylene oxide, which may cause cancer (human carcinogen)

  2. Extensive exposure to SLS has been linked to eye damage, depression, laboured breathing, diarrhea and severe skin irritation.

  3. Suspected to also damage the skin’s immune system by causing layers to separate and inflame.

  4. The body retains the SLS for up to five days, during which time it may enter and maintain residual levels in the heart, liver, lungs, and brain.

  5. Endocrine disruptor

26. Sunscreens

*(Retinyl Palmitate, Oxybenzone and Octyl Methoxycinnamate)

  1. When exposed to sunlight, reactions occur between the sunscreen’s active and inactive ingredients and the epidermis.

  2. May cause inflammation, dermatological effects, allergic reactions and photogenotoxic (DNA altering) effects.

  3. Has ingredients that cause cancer

  4. Sunscreen doesn’t allow your skin to absorb Vitamin D

  5. Oxybenzone increases the production of harmful free radicals that attacks human DNA. Mimics estrogen, causes breast cancer. Causes melanoma

  6. Octyl methoxycinnamate is ironically particularly toxic when exposed to sunshine. Triggers biochemical changes that cause mutation and cell death upon exposure. Reproductive toxicity. Organ system toxicity, especially in the liver; and enhanced skin absorption

  7. Retinyl Palmitate when exposed to sunlight may cause skin lesions and tumours

  8. Inorganic UV filters: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles. Might be able to penetrate the top layer of skin and reach living cells, though studies are still inconclusive.

27. Synthetic fragrances (Parfum, Fragrance)

Gives products a pleasant fragrance

  1. A complex mixture of chemicals that triggers allergies and asthma

  2. Linked to cancer and neurotoxicity

  3. Most chemicals are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, asthma symptoms

28. Talc

Found in baby powders, face powders and body powders

  1. Ovarian cancer (especially using too much baby powder). Travels through the reproductive system and embeds inlining of the ovary

  2. Very closely related to asbestos, a potent carcinogen

29. TEA, DEA and MEA

*TEA (triethanolamine), DEA (Diethanolamine) and MEA (Monoethanolamine), Cocamide DEA, Diethanolamine (products that state it contains coconut), Lauramide DEA.

Makes cosmetics creamy/sudsy, acts as a pH adjuster

  1. Hormone disruptor

  2. Possible human carcinogen

  3. Causes allergic reactions

  4. In high doses, causes liver and kidney cancer, precancerous changes in skin and thyroid

30. Triclosan

Used in antiperspirants/deodorants, cleansers, hand sanitizers as a preservative and anti-bacterial agent.

  1. Endocrine, thyroid disruptor

  2. Bioaccumulates in body

  3. Suspected to cause cancer too

Steps you can take:

  1. Always read the ingredients in your beauty products before you buy them. Keep a handy list of these synthetic chemicals to avoid

  2. There are apps like the Think Dirty App where you can scan products and get quick info on the ingredients

  3. Try exploring natural beauty products. Certain companies like to claim their products as natural but, they might not actually be.

  4. With over 500 all-natural and organic beauty products Vooqo is able to cover most of your beauty needs with the most advanced 100% clean formulas