Cosmetic Ingredients Guide: A FREE Guide to The Most Toxic Offenders

Cosmetic Ingredients: A Guide to the Worst Offenders

Cosmetic Ingredients: A Guide to the Worst Offenders

Are there toxic ingredients in your personal care products? Indeed! Learn some of the worst cosmetic ingredients found in your everyday products.

Ever looked at the ingredient label on your shampoo or lotion? If you have, and if you’re one of the 99.99999% of the world without a Ph.D in chemical engineering, you might have been confused. Or at least concerned. Cosmetic ingredients can be dizzying unless you know what all of those chemicals are.

Maybe you just shrugged and assumed that the FDA is vetting those cosmetic ingredients. I won’t beat around the bush on this. Unfortunately, they are NOT.

The FDA is the agency that works on regulatory oversight for the personal care industry, and it’s made up of representatives from the companies themselves. A conflict of interest, perhaps? The truth is that there’s very little testing on cosmetic ingredients.

From DMDM Hydantoin to Polysorbate Acetone to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, there’s a whole pile of petrochemical derived stuff in products we use on our bodies every day. The FDA has allowed this to happen. For more information about the ineffectiveness of the FDA, check these articles:

+ FDA testing on chemical ingredients: are we safe?

+ Personal Care Ingredients to Avoi

You an also watch the super informative video Story of Cosmetics with Annie Leonard, which explains the lack of regulation in a cute little cartoon.

Here at Vibrant Wellness Journal we’ve spent a lot of time researching the toxic cosmetic ingredients. We created this guide to share that information with you in a digestible way. The following guide will help you quickly find the worst of the worst ingredients and chemical offenders. If you’re shopping for deodorant, for example, you can quickly scan for the worst chemical ingredients .

We hope you find this useful! Please share on Facebook or your other favorite social media! Your friends and family will thank you… and so will we! We’ve also added a downloadable version of this guide, so you can bring it with you everywhere.

>> Click here to download our printable Cosmetic Ingredients Guide.

Personal Care Product

Ingredient of Concern

Health Concerns



Probable carcinogen
Read more on Triclosan here


Thyroid and endocrine disruption

Read more on Triclocarban here

1-4 dioxane

Probable carcinogen


Thyroid disruption

Deodorant & Antiperspirant

Aluminum ______



Who knows?! “Fragrance” is a catchall for >2000 types of chemicals
Read more on fragrance here

Lip balm

Retinyl palmitate

Facilitates cancer cell growth when exposed to sun


Facilitates cancer cell growth when exposed to sun

“Vitamin A”

Facilitates cancer cell growth when exposed to sun



Probable carcinogen

Aerosol spray of any kind

Chemical inhalation hazard for yourself and others around you

Benzalkonium or Benzethonium chloride

Endocrine and immune system disruption

Retinyl palmitate, retinol, “Vitamin A”

see Lip balm, above



see Soap, above


PEG, Ceteareth, or polyethylene

Read more on PEGs here


Brain/nervous system. Also probably carcinogenic
Read more on parabens here

DMDM Hydantoin

Allergy and immunotoxicology

Dandruff shampoo

Selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, salicylic acid, coal tar

Known carcinogens


Brain/nervous system damage


Probable carcinogen

Hair spray


Probable carcinogen



Brain & Nervous system damage, carcinogenic

SLS (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate)

Opens pores to allow greater absorption of other chemicals
Read more on sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate here

DEA, as cocamide or lauramide

Become carcinogenic if mixed with nitrosating agents. Which are….??
Read more on DEA here


Banned in the EU

Quaternium 15, Imidazolidinyl Urea, MEA, TEA

Form nitrosamines!


Benzalkonium or benzethonium chlorides

Endocrine and immune disruption

1,4 Dioxane

Probable carcinogen


Banned in the EU.


Endocrine & Immune disruption

Nail stuff

Formaldehyde, formalin, toluene

Possible carcinogens
Read more on formaldehyde in personal care here

Anti-aging stuff

Bronopol, SLS, propylene glycol, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, glycolic acid

Endocrine and immune disruption, among others

Diaper cream

BHA, Boric acid, sodium borate, DMDM hydantoin, fragrance, Bronopol

All sorts of bad outcomes!

Acne treatments

Parabens, triclosan

Probable carcinogens

PEG, Ceteareth, Polyethylene



Who knows?? See deodorants, above

diethyl phthalate, oxybenzone

Probable carcinogens
Read more on phthalates here



Probable carcinogen

PEG, ceteareth, polyethylene, parabens


Shaving cream


Probable carcinogen

DMD hydantoin, PEG, Ceteareth, polyethylene

Allergy and other symptoms

Dental floss


Bioaccumulate, likely human carcinogens



Brain & nervous system, probable carcinogens

Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate

Found in Advil

PEGs, artificial colors

Found in Motrin

photo credit: LaVladina via photopin cc

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About Scott Cooney 7 Articles
Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on