5 Harmful Ingredients Lurking In Your Favorite Products


Parabens are synthetic preservatives used in cosmetics, foods, and pharmaceuticals. Their use is to allow skincare products to remain stable and stop the growth of harmful bacteria, fungus, and mold. Their use is to prolong the shelf life of a product.  

Cornell University (2011) reports that ongoing exposure to parabens can increase the risk of breast cancer as they have been shown to accumulate in fat cells, including breast tissue.

Ingredients to look for: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben


Phenoxyethanol is a common personal care preservative. It is an effective bactericide and has recently been widely used to replace parabens, especially in natural products. Phenoxyethanol has been found to be toxic to the body even in small doses.  In order to create it, the known skin carcinogen, ethylene oxide is combined with a phenol (a chemical compound which is also considered a carcinogen).  Found in haircare, bodycare, cosmetics, skincare, and cleaning products

The process of creating phenoxyethanol may (depending on each manufacturer’s production methods) produce the dangerous by- product called 1,4 dioxane. The EPA has established 1,4 dioxane is 'likely to be carcingonic to humans".  The product’s Material Safety Data Sheet says that it is harmful if inhaled or swallowed or absorbed through the skin and that it can cause reproductive damage.  Japan has banned the use of it in all cosmetics.


Siloxanes are a group of chemicals that are derived from silicone are typically used in cosmetics and hair products to soften the skin, smooth out imperfections and moisturize an otherwise dry canvas.  Found in many makeup, skincare and haircare products.

Environment Canada assessments concluded that cyclotetrasiloxane and cylcopentasiloxane — also known as D4 and D5 — are toxic, persistent, and have the potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms. Also, the European Union classifies D4 as a endocrine disruptor, based on evidence that it interferes with human hormone function, and a possible reproductive toxicant that may impair human fertility. In laboratory experiments, exposure to high doses of D5 has been shown to cause uterine tumours and harm to the reproductive and immune systems. D5 can also influence neurotransmitters in the nervous system.  

Ingredients to look for:  cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane, and cyclomethicone


Petroleum-based compounds used as product thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture carriers. They maybe contaminated with measureable amounts of a chemical called ethelene oxide (a known skin carcinogen) and 1,4 dioxane a by-product of a petrochemical process called ethyoxylation.  Found in haircare, bodycare, cosmetics and skincare products.  

While this ingredient has been described as having highly moisturizing properties, studies show the opposite. They show that propylene glycol partially dissolves the intercelluar cement of the stratum corneum , resulting in completely drying out the skin, making it more vulnerable to damage. Because propylene glycol is also used to enhance ingredient penetration, it can allow harmful ingredients to be absorbed more readily. This potentially increases the likelihood of allergic reactions and skin irritation.

Ingredients to look for:  Propylene glycol, butylene glycol, polyethelene glycol

Fragrance / Parfum  

A term that is allowed to be used to disguise sometimes hundreds of constituents that make up a particular fragrance, none of which is required by law to be listed.  Found in almost every homecare, laundry, bodycare, cosmetic, perfume, and bath product.

Many of the ingredients used to maintain the scent and color of perfume, lip balm and nail polish include phthalates, which have been banned in the EU and in children’s toys in California (phthalates are also used to plasticize products). Phthalates have been linked to reproductive disorders in both males and females, endocrine disruption, allergies and breast cancer, and a study conducted by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health showed that children subject to high levels of phthalates in utero were 70 percent more likely to develop asthma between the ages of 5 and 12.