There are all kinds of toxic ingredients in our skincare products, this guide will help you avoid them by showing you how they appear on the label. 

small collection of skincare products



1. Dibutyl Phthalates

Found in: Nail polish; hair spray; lipstick; Perfume.

Possible endocrine disruptor and reproductive toxicant.

Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

How it appears on the label: Benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP); Di-n-butyl phthalate or Dibutyl phthalate (DBP); Diethyl phthalate (DEP); and sometimes Fragrance.


2. Parfum (also know as synthetic fragrances)

Found in: Perfume; hair products; moisturizers; makeup; body care.

Can cause allergies and asthma. Linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

How it appears on the label: Fragrance; parfum.


RELATED: Toxic Ingredients Hiding In Your Cleaning Closet And How To Spot Them


3. Parabens (preservatives)

Found In: Toothpaste; deodorant; soap; body care; hair products

Possible endocrine disruptors. interferes with male reproductive functions in aquatic life.

How it appears on the label: Aalkyl parahydroxybenzoate; butylparaben; methylparaben; ethylparaben; propylparaben; isobutylparabens.


4. Petrolatum (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Found in: lip balm; makeup; skin; body care products.

Possible link to cancer. Effects eggs of certain aquatic species.

How it appears on the label: mineral oil; petrolatum; petroleum jelly.


5. BHA and BHT (preservatives)

Found In: in lipsticks and moisturizers

Possible human carcinogen. Toxicity to aquatic organisms and potential to bioaccumulate.

How it appears on the label: Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene.

woman holding a lipstick


6. Sodium Laureth sulfate or SLES

Found in: shampoos; cleansers; gels; bubble bath.

May contain 1;4 dioxine, a possible cancer-causing agent. It doesn’t degrade and remains in the environment after it is rinsed down the drain.

How it appears on the label: Sodium Laureth Sulfate; Sodium Lauryl Sulfate; Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate; Anhydrous Sodium Lauryl Sulfate; Irium; PEG;’ ‘–eth–;’ ‘Polyethylene;’ ‘Polyethylene glycol’ ‘Polyoxyethylene;’ or ‘–oxynol–’.


7. Formaldehyde

Releasing preservatives found in nail polish; deodorant; shampoo and many more.

Know human carcinogen; can mess with kidneys; neurotoxin. Adds to poor indoor air quality and can be persistent in the enviro.

How it appears on the label: DMDM hydantoin; Diazolidinyl urea; imidazolidinyl urea; methenamine; quarternium-15 and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate


8. DEA; cocamide DEA and lauramide DEA

Used in some creamy and foaming products;

Found In: such as moisturizers and shampoos; also found in makeup.

Harmful to fish and other wildlife. May cause cancer. 

How it appears on the label: DEA; Diethanolamine; TEA; Triethanolamine.


9. Coal Tar Dyes

Found in: hair dyes

High risk of cancer, very toxic to aquatic organisms; may cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment

How it appears on the label: identified by a five-digit Colour Index (C.I.) number; P-phenylenediamine.


10. Triclosan/triclocarban

Found In: some antibacterial cosmetics; such as toothpaste; cleansers and antiperspirants.

Suspected endocrine disruptor and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria, Harmful to fish and other wildlife

How it appears on the label: Triclosan/triclocarban


11. Lead

Found in: lipstick; nail polish and hair products

Linked to brain damage and fetal issues. Aquatic concerns

How it appears on the label: C.I. 77575; Glover; Ks-4


12. Propylene Glycol and Butylene Glycol

Found in: skincare; hair care; body care; makeup; baby care products; contact lens cleaner; moisturizers; foundations; sunscreens; eye creams; mascara and more.

Toxic to the human brain and organs. Glycerol; a byproduct of biodiesel production is harmful to waterways and aquatic life,

How it appears on the label: Propylene Glycol; Proptylene Glycol; 1;2-Propanediol. Related synthetics: PEG (polyethylene glycol) and PPG (polypropylene glycol)


13. Oxybenzone (BP-3/ benzophenone) and octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate)

Found in: sunscreens and sun care products

May disrupt our hormone system and that can trigger allergic reactions, associated with endometriosis in women, alters sperm production in animals

How it appears on the label: BP-3/ benzophenone) and octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate).





13 Toxic Ingredients To Avoid. How they Can Harm You + How They Appear On A Label



Candice Batista

Candice Batista is an award winning Environmental Journalist and one of Canada’s leading eco advocates. Her career spans national and international media outlets, where she has used her background in environmental studies and media & communications to produce and report on various environmental and climate issues for primarily television and digital audiences including Huffington Post, The Globe & Mail, The Weather Network, CityTV, Rogers Television, The Pet Network, iChannel, and CTV, where she is currently the National Eco Expert for the stations number 1 daytime talk show, The Marilyn Denis Show.
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