12 ingredients not to put on your skin

in Ingredients .

Before you drop those hair or skin care products into your shopping basket why not take a few moment to actually check what is in them. Academics put a figure of around 82,000 ingredients that are used in personal care products so it’s highly likely some of them may not be as good for you as the marketing blurb would have you believe.

Here, we’re going to highlight 12 of the most harmful ingredients that you should look out for, and be aware of. We of course, understand that it’s difficult to avoid some of these but it helps if we know what they are and some of the possible effects they might have.

Used in estimated 75%-90% of personal care products, it occurs naturally at low levels in certain foods which can easily be digested through the metabolism process. However, when applied to skin it avoids that process and has been shown to affect oestrogen levels.

PEG compounds.
Is a petroleum based substance which is commonly used in creams as either a softener or to help  moisture levels. This can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer.

As the name suggests these are the fragrant ingredients in a product and can be made up from thousands of individual ingredients, many of which haven’t been tested individually and which a manufacturer doesn’t have to declare.

Used mainly in antiperspirants and hygiene products such as hand wash it has anti bacterial properties which is good, but it can pass through the skin and some argue that it can impact on hormone levels.

Used as a preservative in make-up removers and food stuffs amongst other things. It has been known to cause allergic reactions in the skin and if exposed to high levels of this it can cause some longer term health problems.

DEA related ingredients.
These can be used to create the foam in your shampoos and hand cleansers and when used in high doses in laboratory testing can cause skin irritations, changes in thyroid behaviour or liver cancer.

P-phenylenediamine and colours listed as “CI”.
These are colouring agents used predominantly in hair dye. Some have been found to be carcinogens and others contain heavy metal toxins which can penetrate through the skin.

Helps to maintain moisture levels in skin and give hair a shiny look. It can be contaminated with PAHs which if exposed to over a long period of time can be associated with cancer which is why the EU classifies it as carcinogen.

These are ingredients that end in “...siloxane” or “...methicone” and are used as softeners and moisturisers. Variants of this, D4, have been shown to interfere with the hormone function.

Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.
DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15 are the ones of concern to us. Used in a wide range of products they slowly release formaldehyde which is classified as a carcinogen.

Sodium laureth sulfate.
Another ingredient that acts as a foaming agent. It can be contaminated with ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane which is a possible carcinogen.

Dibutyle phthalate.
Used mainly in nail products but can also be used as a fragrance ingredient in other products. When it’s absorbed through the skin it can help other chemicals to cause genetic mutations, although it doesn’t mutate itself.


None of this is our own research and there are many great sources of information out there giving more in depth analysis. One of our favourites is David Suzuki’s Dirty Dozen article  and his Sustainable Shopper’s Guide

Another good site is EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database where you can check products, ingredients and the safety of them.

This blog is purely to highlight some of the chemicals that are in the everyday products that we use and act as a starting point for you so that you can do your own research and make your own decisions.

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