Harmful Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid: methylparabens, diazolidinyl urea and other common dangers

An overwhelming majority of personal care products available in the market contain harmful ingredients that are linked to cancer and other health conditions when used over an extended period of time. In fact, over 99% of the personal care products on an average consumer’s bathroom shelf fall in this category. A five-year study conducted by Dr. Adam Maibach from the UC San Diego Academy of Dermatology found that 77% of dermatitis cases were caused by fragrances, preservatives, dyes, propylene glycol and lanolin. Protect yourself and your family by learning more about harmful ingredients that a skin care product should never ever contain, and why.


dries and irritates the skin which causes inflammation.

Animal testing

has left many innocent creatures maimed, diseased, and crippled. We may further discourage the practice by refusing to purchase products from companies that perform animal testing.

1, 4-Dioxane

is a chemical by-product that’s not included on many ingredient lists. Produced by the ethoxylation process in cosmetics manufacturing, it’s a known animal carcinogen and penetrates readily into the skin. More than 56 cosmetic ingredients are associated with this chemical.


is used in cosmetics and personal care products, often as a penetration enhancer, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin, as well as a “chelating” agent that improves the performance of cleansing products. High doses have been shown in some studies to disrupt hormone function and mutate cells.


some FD&C and D&C dyes are considered carcinogens.

Ethyl acetate

is a flammable liquid used as a solvent in many cosmetics and personal care products (It’s also used in paint remover and dishwashing liquid.) Listed on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list, it’s known to be irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract and may potentially depress the nervous system. Avoid at all costs, especially on your face.


is a colorless gas and a known carcinogen. The U.S. National Toxicology Program lists it as “reasonably anticipated to cause cancer.” It can also cause allergic reactions, contact dermatitis, headaches, and chronic fatigue.

Fragrance (synthetic)

may contain as many as 200 undeclared ingredients. Some of them can be phthalates—hormone-altering preservatives. There is often no way of knowing, since companies don’t have to reveal the chemical constituents of a fragrance. They can just list it as “fragrance,” when it may contain hundreds of chemicals. Avoid the use any product with the word “fragrance” in the ingredient list, unless the label indicates it’s derived from essential oils.

Grapefruit Seed Extract

is a chemically altered form of grapefruit seed and the chemical structure is similar to that of paraben.


is a lightening compound that inhibits the production of skin pigmentation. It has been found to be mutagenic in laboratory studies and can cause contact dermatitis as well as degeneration of collagen and elastin fibers. Studies have shown liver effects at low doses, and tests on mammal cells have shown hydroquinone to have mutation (possibly carcinogenic) properties.


derived from sheep, can be an endocrine disrupter because carcinogens such as Dioxan and DDT may be present in the grass that the sheep ingest.

Laureth Sulfate and Polysorbate Free

these cleansing agents Sodium/Ammonium Laureth/Laurel Sulfate and Polysorbate may contain carcinogens such as Ethylene Oxide and Dioxane. Diethanolamine (DEA) Free - Cleansing agents such as DEA and its derivatives like DEA Sodium Laurel Sulfate are considered carcinogens.


present in skincare or food can react with other ingredients to form nitrosamine, a carcinogen.

Parabens (including methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl parabens)

are a group of preservatives used to extend the shelf life of cosmetic products. Estimates say over 90% of all cosmetics contain parabens. Studies have shown them to be estrogenic and capable of being absorbed by the body through the skin.


like parabens are hormonal disrupters and are linked to cancer.


are derived from petroleum and include mineral oil, toluene, and petroleum oil. Petroleum is an economical mineral oil used for its emollient properties in cosmetics. Oddly enough, this ingredient often creates the conditions it claims to alleviate. Petroleum by-products coat the skin like plastic, clogging the pores. They also slow skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging. May be carcinogenic.


are chemicals produced from oil used as solvents in cosmetic products (They help the product cling to the nail, hair, or skin.) These chemicals are readily absorbed by our fingernails, skin, and lungs. Human studies identified developmental abnormalities in male infants correlating to high phthalate levels in their mothers’ bodies. These compounds can lead to liver cancer and birth defects in lab animals. Watch out for ingredients like dibutyl phthalate (DBP), butylbenzylphthalate (BBP), and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP).

Propylene glycol

is a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant—a substance that promotes moisture retention and keeps products from drying out. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives, and eczema. This chemical is also drying to the skin. When you see PEG (polyethylene glycol) or PPG (polypropylene glycol) on labels, beware—these are related synthetics.

Synthetic dyes

are used to make cosmetics look “pretty,” but are often made up of unrevealed, unsafe ingredients. They may be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color or a number (e.g., FD&C yellow No. 5). Most come from coal tar and are known to be carcinogenic. If they are on the ingredient list, do not use the product.


(like sodium lauryl and sodium laureth) are cheap, harsh detergents used in body washes, and face cleansers for cleansing and foam-building properties. They can cause eye irritations, skin rashes, hair loss, dry skin, and allergic reactions. The Journal of the American College of Toxicology concluded that through skin absorption, sulfates enter and maintain residual levels in the heart, lungs, and the brain. It also noted that sodium lauryl sulfate has a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein-denaturing properties. High levels of skin penetration may occur at even low-dose concentration.


are ammonia compounds often used in cosmetics as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents. These chemicals contain ammonia compounds and can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of hair and skin. Any of the three can be toxic if absorbed into the body for a long period of time. If they come in contact with nitrates, they can form harmful nitrosamines, which can be carcinogenic.


is an antibacterial and antifungal agent present in all kinds of personal care, home care, and dental products. Triclosan has a chemical structure similar to dioxin—a class of toxic chemicals formed as by-products of the manufacture of chlorine-containing products. The agent has also been shown to be an endocrine disruptor and is accumulating in our soils and farm fields.


are synthetic ingredients widely used as preservatives as well as water-binding and exfoliating ingredients. (Also known as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, or DMDM hydantoin and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.) The American Academy of Dermatology has found them to be a primary cause for contact dermatitis. Urea has also been shown to release formaldehyde. Non-synthetic forms are derived from animal urine.