Gallery: 6 Toxic Ingredients You Should Avoid in Cosmetics


Also known as 1,2-dihydroxypropane, 1,2-propanediol, methyl glycol, and trimethyl glycol, this colorless, odorless liquid is used in most conventional personal-care products as a penetration-enhancer. It is the main ingredient in massage oils and deodorants, but you might also recognize it as a component of antifreeze and car- and boat-deicing solutions. Large amounts of propylene glycol on the skin can lead to skin irritation, inflammation, rashes, and breathing problems, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

eco-friendly cosmetics, green cosmetics, eco-friendly makeup, green makeup, eco-friendly beauty, eco-beauty, green beauty


1. Talc

2. Parabens

3. Propylene glycol

4. Mineral oil

5. Sodium lauryl sulfate

6. Phthalates

18 Responses to “6 Toxic Ingredients You Should Avoid in Cosmetics”

  1. Angela B says:

    Hi! Thanks for posting this useful information. Just an FYI, I chose to “Like” this article so that it would post to my Facebook wall and I could share with friends. However, the thumbnail that is shown next to it isn’t the best choice. A set of breasts covered by a white bikini top is not really the type of pics I display, lol. Didn’t know if you were aware.

  2. Maren G says:

    Always useful such articles, thanks! But how come you don’t mention aluminium, which is present in so many deodorants?!

  3. elised says:

    I usually respect your articles and stance on ethical fashion and beauty. However, your wording in this article is very misleading and irresponsible. You say, “Asbestos-containing talc” can cause cancer, but the American Cancer Society website you link to says, ” Talc that has asbestos is generally accepted as being able to cause cancer. This type of talc is not used in modern consumer products. The evidence about asbestos-free talc, which is still widely used, is less clear.” Which has a very different meaning. The wording you have chosen implies that asbestos can contain talc and that talc is the toxic ingredient. In reality, the toxic ingredient is asbestos that can be (but is no longer) found in some talc. I think you should review this article with a fine-tooth comb and rewrite in a way that is more accurate and less fear-mongering.

  4. Carro says:

    Love this post! There are so many harmful ingredients out there, it is a jungle to navigate the labels. If you are worried about the chemical’s affects on your body then my advice in to choose all natural products.

  5. Jasmin Malik Chua says:

    Hi Elised; re-read our story. We do make the distinction between asbestos talc and asbestos-free talc (the latter isn’t entirely in the clear but we do note that evidence is fuzzier.)

  6. elised says:

    Yes, but you imply that the talc is the toxic ingredient when the dangerous compound is actually the asbestos. It seems you did not understand my criticism. While it may not be your intention, you are promoting an irrational fear of talc itself. If you were truly concerned for your reader, you would make clear the ways which talc can actually be cancerous or dangerous: excessive inhalation (as experienced by talc miners) or careless use of talc on the genitals can lead to ovarian cancer.

  7. Lina Hanson says:

    There’s obviously a lot of different opinions regarding this subject. In 1993 the National Toxicology Program reportedly found that cosmetic grade talc, without any asbestos-like fibers, caused tumors in animal subjects. With that said, I don’t believe we are promoting an irrational fear of talc at all. It’s true that the evidence is fuzzy, but if talc in any way can lead to cancer, why would anyone want to take a risk using a product containing talc when there are so many other natural options.

  8. superflysquirrel says:

    I don’t feel any more afraid of the talc portion of the article by the way it was written, than any of the other chemicals mentioned. The article seemed pretty clear to me.

  9. thatgirl says:

    “The wording you have chosen implies that asbestos can contain talc and that talc is the toxic ingredient.”

    Actually, their sentence is, technically, correct. Punctuation makes a difference, elised:

    – asbestos containing talc = asbestos that contains talc
    – asbestos-containing talc = talc that contains asbestos

    Yes, I know, late comment.

  10. FashionIcon says:

    Fear is good. I don’t want anything that is “expected to be toxic or harmful” on my face or near my eyes. Genitals schmenticals, elised, skin is the body’s largest organ.

  11. Jeroen says:

    Does someone has a suggestion about a non toxic shave foam?

  12. karen k says:

    This is exactly why I switched to using European products, one in particular, Arbonne International. A 38-year old Swiss company of botanically-based skin care/cosmetics/health & wellness products. They are free of parabens, pthlalates, petrolatum, mineral oil, formaldehyde, animal by-products/fillers, and more. I have seen a huge improvement in the hydration, texture and overall firmness of my face. Not only do I feel safe using Arbonne’s products, but I absolutely love how effective they are.

    I fell in love with these products so much so that I became an independent consultant for the company. If you are interested in trying out some samples, I am willing to mail them out free of charge. I love sharing these products with people because I see how happy so many women are after using them. Many of our products are used in healing eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, oily skin, breakouts, etc. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in hearing more about them.

    God bless,

  13. pharmd says:

    Sodium laureth sulfate is a very good surfactant – it lowers the surface tension between two objects, which makes it useful in cleaning. It’s used in heavy-duty environments (like for engine degreasing) but it’s perfectly safe for toothpaste, shampoos, etc. Suggesting it’s dangerous for personal use primarily because it has uses in industry is nothing more than fear-mongering.

    Yes, it can be a mild irritant if you leave a lot of it on your skin for an extended period of time, or if you get it in your eyes. Getting a little shampoo in your eyes isn’t going to lead to permanent eye damage – it’s the dosage that’s important here. Anything can be toxic in the right amounts, including water.

    For reference, the Environmental Working Group rates the hazard of SLS as “low.”

  14. marieanne says:

    Another ingredient that should be on this list is Bismuth Oxychloride because it can be very damaging to the skin and it’s in the majority of makeup lines out there. I was getting really bad cystic acne and after going to professionals trying to find a fix for it, no one could help me. I finally read about Bismuth Oxychloride and how a very large population of people experience the same thing with this ingredient so I decided to switch to an indie makeup line called NudiSkin because they have makeup without that ingredient and my cystic acne started disappearing, little by little. Although cystic acne and premature aging should be considered side effects worthy of warnings, apparently they are not severe enough for the Environmental Working Group because they gave that ingredient a hazard rating of 0!

  15. abbrzkitteh says:

    Talc powder actually hasn’t contained asbestos since the 1970`s and nothing else about has been proven to be toxic. Fyi

  16. geologist says:

    Talcum powder, really? That is 100% misinformation. Here is a link to The American Cancer Society’s findings on talcum powder- studies.
    Note that under the section labelled “Lung cancer” they report “NO INCREASED RISK OF LUNG CANCER HAS BEEN REPORTED WITH THE USE OF COSMETIC TALCUM POWDER.” The only risk involves unrefined talcum powder that contains asbestos, and those at risk are MINERS who work around UNREFINED (asbestos-ridden) aerosolized talc often.

    Tumors often appear in lab mice who ingest large amounts of ANY ingredient. If you look at all of the toxins in things considered healthy, for instance vegetables, they also pose a cancer threat in large amounts. However, people don’t ever think, “I’m going to get cancer from eating so many salads,” and really you should not worry because the risk of you getting cancer from a lifetime of salads is not a threat. And so, I digress. Here is a scientific paper on naturally occurring food toxins. Sorry there are no pretty pictures, but if you’re doing research, you might as well base it on something with true verified scientific evidence. And eCouterre should really correct their misinformation regarding cosmetic talc.

  17. pity the naive says:

    people arguing talc is safe…. really?? taking it for granted on the word of someone they havent met? By someone who might have skewed the results of a lab test because they were hired by people who want the tests to prove talc is safe so they can keep using it as its cheap??? They obviously havent heard of people paying whatever it takes to “prove” whatever it is they want to “prove”, testing until they get the results they want,,, like the sky is red.. the sting of the poisonous jellfish is not actually poisonous…. gum leaves are not really green… etc. hahahha open your eyes! I bet I could sell you nuclear infested dirt and you’d buy it by the gallon drum!! haha. Now to work on how to market it to people like you…. oh, that’s it: it’s not “really” toxic, it’s not “proven”. I’m sure I’ll get some lab somewhere in the backwoods of Thailand or Croatia to prove it if I give them a little incentive, wink wink :)

    the idiots that think “anything in moderation” are teh ones who are defensively protect their own interests and are google armchair experts… they fail to understand human biology and the way the body has to deal with foreign objects such as mined items, slathered over skin (YES an organ that transfers to inner organs) as well as anything absorbed and having to be dealt with by the inner organs, kidneys, lymph system, liver, lungs, etc. Talc powders are NOT GOOD in any amounts. Neither are any chemicals that cause irritation, this is the body TELLING YOU if you choose to ignore its screaming out at you, it is NOT GOOD. Most of these things accumulate within the body and fatty tissues / cells and take a lifetime to remove (if you spend the time trying to eliminate this rubbish, 99% of the population DON’T). Thats where you get growths, tumours, cancers, etc. The accumulation of rubbish within your body that it has NO FUNCTION FOR and actually finds it toxic to your system regardless of “amount”, these lab experts would have you think anything they can mine for whatever little money is usable to you so you can give them your money and make them rich; they dont care if you get any cancer or tumour from it, as it’s “not proven” by any medical establishment, regardless, these companies are in cahoots, and the only reason is money. Do you really think people would do the things they do or spread lies so widely if there was no financial benefit? Do you think people would buy talcs or man made preservatives like parabens and take the risk of using them if people in positions of power wouldn’t talk them into it and tell them “it’s not proven” to be cancerous??? They would lose their $$$ livelihood. My philosophy is avoid chemicals as much as possible and unless you know the ingredients do not apply to your face, body or hair or internally. When you have idiots saying “you’re paranoid”, you know they have some kind of vested interest in keeping people hoodwinked and believing this crap for a reason, whether its a basic reason “i don’t want to change my lifestyle, so dont make me feel guilty for not changing to something healthier because I am lazy” or more sinister “this is my chosen industry and i make money out of your business and these unnatural ingredients cost little to nothing to use and I don’t care if they accumulate in your body and you die because you can’t prove it according to modern day science and I am therefore not liable whether i marketed this product as your saviour or not”… well. I’ll take my fear and paranoia and avoidance any day over stupidity and ignorance and carelessness about my own body, my temple and without it you’d be nothing, dead. AMEN. (no, i’m not religious) OH an don’t bother writing me your arguments to my eye opener cos I will never bother reading them. I dont waste time on people who like to poison themselves and argue it’s good enough for everyone else too, when they don’t want it!!! Sorry, you can’t convert me to be as ignorant as yourselves, you google armchair “experts”. Why don’t you pay good money and spend your time instead learning about the human body and how the organs deal with poisons, after you’ve studied biology for say 4 years, in depth, then maybe come back and talk like you have some starting point for any argument. And perhaps some credibility. Until then…. you DONT and any argument from you is simply you trying to convince yourself. Well you can do that in your mind, fill yourself full of sh!t quietly, you only embarrass yourself publicly. So don’t bother writing back. Just take on what I say and learn before you open your mouth about things you know nothing about. Google does not make you an expert because it is 5 second research based on god knows what. Studying to learn both sides of an argument so you know ALL the facts makes you a bit more knowledgeable. I laugh at this internet crap. So many people google something and 5 seconds later they think they know everything!!! hahahahahha. Go study kiddies.

  18. leelee says:

    Pity the naive, that was spot on!!! I agree with you 100%.

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