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Cosmetic / Personal Care Ingredients You Should Avoid

Written by

Deborah Freudenmann BHSc

A lot of individuals think that what we find on the shelves in shops or what we buy online (from a reputable company of course) is safe for our health. Add in a little marketing jargon like “all-natural” “organic” “botanical ingredients” and you might just take a second look.

Cosmetic and personal care products are often laden with harmful chemicals that can affect our health in various ways. And even if we are conscious of it, it’s always important to remind ourselves of these. 

I can’t remember why or what happened but I remember needing to book a very last minute beauty appointment. Normally, I see a lovely holistic practitioner who does organic and truly clean facials, massages as well as sugar waxing… but she was away on holiday. So I booked a wax at another clinic which was “marketed” as all-natural and non-toxic, seemed safe enough right? Within a few minutes of our appointment she swooped out the Johnson & Johnson baby powder to use on my most delicate lady bits. I was mortified. This “moment” led to a conversion about why I don’t want to use that product which reminded me that this isn’t COMMON KNOWLEDGE. The moral of my story is that staying conscious and vigilant is important as not everyone is aware of what might impact your (or their) health. 

Let’s take a look at what some of those ingredients might be….

Cosmetic ingredients you should avoid 

Hormone-disrupting chemicals

Personal care products like perfume, shampoos, deodorants, skin care products, and aftershave often contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that are linked to a high risk of hormonal imbalances.

It can put women at risk of miscarriage, infertility, vaginal and breast cancer, and early menopause. The risk may even be inherited by women whose mothers had a prolonged history of exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals before and during pregnancy.

Bisphenol and polyvinyl chloride are commonly found hormone-disrupting chemicals in products like plastic drinking bottles, perfumes, cosmetics, food packaging (including tin cans), non-stick cookware, cleaning products, dental sealants, water-resistant clothing, floor polishes, flame retardants in furnishings, and building materials like water pipes. 

Exposure to these compounds is also linked to an increase in the risk of childhood obesity, cancers, metabolic diseases like diabetes, neurobehavioural disorders, and reproductive health risks.


The use of skin care products containing preservatives like formaldehyde-releasers such as quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, and imidazolidinyl urea can cause irritation of the skin.

Some preservatives can also increase the risk of skin cancers. Preservatives in foods have been implicated as the factors contributing to the rising incidence of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders, infertility, and thyroid dysfunctions.

Benzalkonium chloride, chloromethylisothiazolinone, benzethonium chloride, boric acid, butylated hydroxyanisole, and butylated hydroxytoluene are some preservatives linked to adverse health outcomes.


Surfactants are foaming products added to bubble baths, shampoos, body washes, and liquid hand soaps.

Surfactants like sodium and aluminum lauryl sulfate are found to increase the risk of skin irritation and hair problems like hair fall and dandruff. The use of these products may put young girls at risk of urinary tract infections.

Talcum powder

Finely crushed talcum powder is valued for its ability to absorb moisture and provide lubrication. It is commonly used for skin care, especially in women and babies to prevent nappy rash. 

The cosmetic use of talcum based Baby Powder began in the early 1900’s, when Johnson & Johnson began marketing the product to women and young children.

Talc particles enter a woman’s reproductive system through the vaginal opening, migrating into the cervix and the uterus, and moving through the fallopian tubes to the ovaries. In addition to breathing it in. Asbestos-contaminated talc products are carcinogenic and can cause asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma and ovarian cancers.

Johnson & Johnson is drawing criticism after using a controversial bankruptcy maneuver to block roughly 38,000 lawsuits linked to claims that its talc baby powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos. They insist on the safety and purity of its iconic product. 

Aluminum antiperspirants

Aluminum salts are commonly added to personal care products like sunscreens and antiperspirants. Aluminum chloride and aluminum chlorohydrate are aluminum-based antiperspirants that are suspected to elevate the risk of breast cancer as this metal can interfere with the activities of the estrogen receptors. 

Artificial colors and dyes

The pigments and colours used in personal care products are usually derived from coal tar, which is a known carcinogen. The artificial colours and dyes also contain toxic metals like arsenic and lead that can cause long-term health issues like cancer, gut dysbiosis, and inflammatory bowel diseases.

Artificial colours and dyes are also found in anti-dandruff shampoos, mouthwashes, and moisturizers. Studies have revealed that these chemicals can trigger chronic inflammation and cancerous changes in the skin and interfere with the natural moisture-retaining properties of the skin. 

Pesticides in lice treatments

Organochlorine pesticides like lindane are found in lice products usually marketed for children. These chemicals are highly toxic to the central nervous system and can contribute to the risk of seizures and dizziness.

Repeated exposure to lindane may also induce abnormal changes in the brain and accelerate neurodegenerative processes in the nervous system. [9]

Fluoridated toothpaste

Toothpaste containing fluoride is associated with adverse health effects, especially when the paste is swallowed after brushing the teeth. There are three main types of fluoride used in toothpaste including sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate, and stannous fluoride.

These are toxic by-products released by the phosphate or aluminum fertilizer industries. The health concerns associated with fluoride include bone diseases like skeletal fluorosis and increased risk of fractures. It may also cause acne, seizures, high blood pressure, and neurological disorders.

Hence, children should avoid using fluoridated toothpaste until they are old enough to spit it out.

Dental floss

Perfluorinated chemicals in dental floss have been found to be associated with a high risk of liver damage, immunological dysfunctions, developmental issues, and cancer.

More hidden ingredients
  • Nanoparticles in consumer products such as electronics, water filters, socks, clothing, sheets, sunscreens, wound dressings, and food packaging can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause immense damage to the brain. When inhaled, they may affect the lungs.
  • Phthalates can cause disruption in the hormonal balance.
  • Dioxin is a cancer-causing agent found in shampoos, body washes, and baby wipes. 
  • Formaldehyde and cancer-causing nitrosamines are found in shampoos, hair conditioners, and moisturizers. These chemicals can increase the risk of cancers by triggering inflammation and cellular damage.


How do we stay super aware of harmful ingredients? By taking the time to read labels… 

Have you ever walked through the store and found a super “clean” product so you stick with it for months or years. But what you didn’t do consistently was read the label… you might find that some companies will all of a sudden have added ingredients that you don’t want. So our advice to you is don’t blindly trust companies but take responsibility for your health! 

Want to add any products to the list? 

Or have a personal story to share with us? Let us know in the comments! 

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