Toxic Chemicals Hiding in Your Cosmetics

Are Your Skincare Products Poisoning You?

Did you know that there isn’t really a non-biased organization that monitors the ingredients in your skincare products?

Neither did I until I started researching. I was finding some pretty hinky ingredients in some of the products that we discuss here at Aging Arsenal.

As a matter of fact, I found it so interesting that I dug a little deeper and decided that you probably wanted to know what these ingredients were, too, so that at least you’d be aware of what you’re using.

By the end of this article, you’ll know what toxins to look out for when you buy your cosmetics.


Pronounced “thalates”, these chemicals are used in just about every cosmetic product from shampoo to fingernail polish to stabilize the products or improve the consistency. Though it’s banned in Europe, the US still allows it but public concern has led to several companies, including Essie, OPI and Sally Hansen to stop using dibutyl phthalate (DBP), the form that is used to prevent nail polish from chipping.

Phthalates are linked to reproductive health and fetus and child developmental problems. Though declared safe in small amounts, independent studies by both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives found breakdown chemicals of phthalates (namely diethyl and dibutyl phthalate) in nearly every single person that they tested.

You have to wonder exactly what that means if these toxins that you’re applying topically are being found in your urine. What are the repercussions? The truth is that nobody knows for sure what can happen with long-term, small-dose exposure, but do you really want to live by the theory that small doses of poison are OK?


Commonly used in many cosmetics as a preservative, parabens have 2 characteristics that are cause for concern. The first is that they’ve been found in small amounts in cancerous breast tissue. The second is that they mimic estrogen. This not only may lead to breast cancer but may also cause symptoms related to excess estrogen including depression, weight gain, and birth defects.

The most common forms of paraben in cosmetics are methylparaben, ethylparaben and propylparaben though obviously anything that ends in –paraben is, well, a paraben. They’re rapidly absorbed into your body and can cause skin irritation, rashes, and rosacea in people who are sensitive or allergic to them.


Known by many different names including mineral oil, propylene glycol, PEG, PPG, and petroleum jelly, petrochemicals may have their uses but not on your skin. They interfere with your skin’s natural moisturizing process, clog your pores, and increase your sensitivity to sunlight. Germs also grow like crazy in them. Though technically not a toxin, at least primarily, petrochemicals aren’t something that you should be slathering onto your skin.


Found in many cosmetics including shampoos and soaps, sulfates are used to make soap sudsy and your body squeaky clean. You may recognize them by their commonly used names of sodium laureth or lauryl sulphate. Though not strictly a toxin, they do strip your body of its natural oils and can cause irritation, dryness and rash. Avoid them, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin.


This is one of those “natural” products that isn’t necessarily good for you. You’ll find them in many hair products and moisturizers because they give your hair and skin that silky soft feeling. It doesn’t actually do anything though. Silicone just coats your skin or hair, creating the ILLUSION of improved texture and complexion.

The problem is that regular use can lead to clogged pores, skin irritations including a rash, allergic reactions and acne. It’s best to avoid products with silicone when possible.

Stearalkonium Chloride

Originally developed for use as a fabric softener, this is a cheap substitution for substances such as proteins that really do condition your hair and skin. It is toxic and can cause irritation and allergic reactions.

Triethanolamine (TEA) and Diethanolamine (DEA)

These are foaming agents typically found in soaps, scrubs and shampoos. They are proven to be toxic if absorbed long-term and have also been associated with cancer in lab animals. Lesser illnesses and side effects include allergic reactions, dryness of your skin and hair, and eye irritation. Avoid this one because it’s truly bad for you.


There are many natural skincare products that don’t contain these poisons and irritants so there’s no reason to buy brands that contain them. Now that you know what to look for in your cosmetics, be aware and buy only products that are safe to use. After all, it doesn’t matter how good you look if you’re dead!

If you know of other toxins like these, please list them in the comments section below!

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