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My Makeup Has WHAT In It? Top Ingredients to Avoid on Beauty Product Labels

beauty product labels overview, what's hiding

Have you started to become more interested in finding products that have fewer chemicals and toxins and are instead more natural? Trying to understand the ingredients list on some beauty product labels can be like trying to read a foreign language … we know the struggle!

So, we’ve created a guide to help you know what to look for. Because caring for yourself and making better choices for your well-being should not have to be stressful. 

Top 3 Most Common Ingredients to Avoid in Beauty Products

Here are the most common ingredients that should be avoided in your skincare, toiletries, and other beauty products:

1. Parabens

Parabens, mostly found in makeup, are known as endocrine disruptors because they mimic estrogen. Studies have shown that they can cause fertility issues in both men and women as well as breast cancer.

2. Fragrances

Products with fragrances or ‘parfum’ typically use dozens or hundreds of chemicals to imitate smells. The chemicals used to create the scents are known irritants to the skin and lungs. They are also usually carcinogens (cancer-causing) and/or are neurotoxic (cause nervous system issues).

3. Formaldehyde

Formaldehydes are used as a preservative in many beauty products and are also irritants and carcinogens. They are most well-known for their use in embalming bodies … definitely not something you should be psyched to put on your skin!

Although these three are the most common – and a good place to start when learning about ingredients to beware of – there are other chemicals that should be avoided as well. 

Additional Ingredients to Avoid on Beauty Product Labels

When you are ready to dive a little deeper into your clean beauty mission, here is a cheat sheet to help you on your journey. Learn what to avoid, what products they are commonly found in, and the possible adverse effects of using them.


Synthetic antioxidants commonly used as preservatives.

  • Other Names: butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene
  • Found In: makeup and lotions
  • Adverse Effects: possibly cancer-causing

5. Coal Tar Dyes

Used as an artificial coloring agent and often includes some heavy metal additives.

  • Other Names: p-phenylenediamine, aminophenol, diaminobenzene, and colors with “Cl” followed by five numbers.
  • Found In: hair dyes and shampoos
  • Adverse Effects: known carcinogen and can cause neurotoxicity

6. DEA

Commonly used as a wetting agent to help create a lathering effect.

  • Other Names: Diethanolamine, DEOA
  • Found In: shampoos and moisturizers
  • Adverse Effects: respiratory toxin, irritant, and possible cancer-causing

7. Dibutyl Phthalate

Mostly used as a solvent for dyes and plasticizer.

  • Other Names: DBP, DEP, toluene, and formaldehyde
  • Found In: nail products, nail polish, perfume, makeup remover
  • Adverse Effects: Can cause birth defects, endocrine disruption, and respiratory problems

8. PEG Compounds

Petroleum-based and often used as a thickener, solvent, or softener.

  • Other Names: polyethylene glycols
  • Found In: makeup
  • Adverse Effects: Potential for genotoxicity (damages genetic information within a cell) and skin irritation

9. Petrolatum

Derived from petroleum and used as a moisturizing agent.

  • Other Names: petroleum jelly, mineral oil jelly
  • Found In: moisturizers
  • Adverse Effects: believed to cause cancer

10. Siloxanes

A group of chemicals derived from silicone that are often used to soften and moisturize.

  • Other Names: cyclotetrasiloxane (D4), cyclopentasiloxane (D5), and Cyclomethicone
  • Found In: makeup, hair products, deodorant, moisturizers, facial treatments
  • Adverse Effects: can cause cancer, endocrine disruption, and infertility

11. Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Used as a detergent and to make products bubble. But it strips skin of natural oils.

  • Other Names: SLS, 1,4-dioxane, and chemical names including the letters “eth”
  • Found In: shampoos, body wash, facial cleansers, and toothpaste
  • Adverse Effects: can cause skin, eye and/or respiratory tract irritation as well as cancer

12. Triclosan

Mainly used as a preservative to keep products from spoiling.

  • Other Names: mineral oil jelly, triclocarban
  • Found In: deodorant, hand sanitizers, and makeup
  • Adverse Effects: can cause endocrine disruption and antibiotic-resistant bacteria


These hard-to-pronounce ingredients with scary side effects can make shopping for cosmetics and beauty products intimidating. But taking care of yourself is a lot easier once you know what to look out for and why. Now you will be able to shop around for more natural products confidently!

Speaking of natural products, check out our organic castile soap body washes!

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