You’re Probably Using These 6 Potentially Toxic Ingredients Every Day—Here’s What You Should Know

Knowledge is power. Here's how to protect yourself and your family.

The smart consumer’s guide to toxic bathroom products

01-Potentially-Toxic-Ingredients-You-Use-Every-Day-shutterstockshutterstockWhen it comes to our beauty and personal care regime, we’ve all got our favorite tried and true brands. But have you ever considered what your go-to products could be doing to your health? The answer might surprise you. We’ve rounded up six potentially toxic ingredients found in common products that you should watch out for. We’ve also outlined how they affect your health and how to use them safely. Here are 13+ things the beauty industry doesn't want you to know


02-Potentially-Toxic-Ingredients-You-Use-Every-Day-shutterstockshutterstockThis naturally occurring gas is a preservative in some hair products. Liquid versions are called methylene glycol and formalin. (Here are some natural hair products to check out for healthy, happy hair.)

Safety Status: The EPA and Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulates significant new uses of formaldehyde. Although America has nationwide limits for formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, there is no restriction for beauty formulas that contain formaldehyde in the U.S. 

Smart Use: You may see the carcinogenic element listed as methylene glycol, but professional products don’t have to disclose ingredient lists like over-the-counter products do. Watch out for formaldehyde-releasing preservatives like diazolidinyl urea, generally found in face and hair care, and quaternium-15, which is often embedded into face makeup—particularly powders.


03-Potentially-Toxic-Ingredients-You-Use-Every-Day-shutterstockshutterstockThis effective preservative can be found naturally (it’s found in blueberries and carrots) and is one of the most widely used substances in cosmetics. Most companies use a concentration of 0.3 percent or less.

Safety Status: They are not restricted in America. They weakly mimic estrogens, which originally led to concerns of a link to breast cancer. A Harvard study has also connected paraben build-up in the body with reduced fertility, which is why propyl parabens have been targeted by the Environmental Working Group. Even so, the FDA does not have solid evidence showing that parabens in cosmetics have an effect on human health.

Smart Use: Worry less about parabens than the alternatives. Stop using any new product if it irritates your skin. 

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04-Potentially-Toxic-Ingredients-You-Use-Every-Day-shutterstockshutterstockThis refined petroleum product makes your lipstick moist and is a key ingredient in many lotions and creams.

Safety Status: It is not restricted in America. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still approves of its use as an over-the-counter (OTC) skin protectant, as well as in other ophthalmic and anorectal OTC drug products. 

Smart Use: Buy petroleum jelly, lip balm, and face cream made by reputable brands. Avoid discounted or potentially counterfeit products made by companies you can’t verify.


05-Potentially-Toxic-Ingredients-You-Use-Every-Day-shutterstockshutterstockThis group of substances serves a range of functions in nail polishes, perfumes, and other cosmetics.

Safety Status: Phthalates are not required to be listed on product labels. Although America has banned the general use of some phthalates in children’s products, they are still widely prevalent in household items, cosmetics, fragrance, household cleaners, and even food. However, California’s Proposition 65 does require that companies with 10 or more employees manufacturing, distributing, or selling products with diisononyl phthalate (DINP) provide a clear and reasonable warning for that product. 

Smart Use: Avoid products packaged in “recycling-code-3” plastic and those that include the vague ingredient “fragrance” on their label. Reputable manufacturers will be following the rules.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

06-Potentially-Toxic-Ingredients-You-Use-Every-Day-shutterstockshutterstockIt’s used as a foaming and cleansing agent in rinse-off products, such as shampoo and shaving cream.

Safety Status: This substance can irritate the skin. It is not restricted in America, but consumers are urged to use it as directed. It’s rarely used in baby products.

Smart Use: Avoid getting products that contain SLS in your eyes. Avoid using adult products on babies and children. 

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07-Potentially-Toxic-Ingredients-You-Use-Every-Day-shutterstockshutterstockThis preservative and antibacterial agent is found in toothpastes, mouthwashes, deodorants, body washes, and shampoos. 

Safety Status: The FDA recently banned triclosan and other antibacterial ingredients in hand and body washes. However, Colgate Total convinced the FDA that the benefit of triclosan in toothpaste outweighs any risks, so it can still be found in mouth products. 

Smart Use: While triclosan added to toothpaste has been shown to help prevent gingivitis, animal studies have suggested that exposure to it has the potential to disrupt hormones in the body, trigger allergies, and be associated with some types of cancer. If you're concerned, think twice about buying products that contain it.

The beauty industry has all sorts of secrets they don't want you to know, but be especially careful of the ingredients outlined above. Try some natural alternatives instead.

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