The Toxic Twenty Ingredients in Beauty to Avoid

These twenty toxic ingredients have been found in cosmetics, skin care, and hair care products here in the United States. Your first step into Clean Beauty should be to completely eliminate these common offenders from your beauty regime.  


Formaldehyde is carcinogenic; it also causes allergic reactions and irritates the eyes and respiratory system.

Uses: Formaldehyde is used as a hair straightener, nail hardener and preservative

Formaldehyde Releasers

Formaldehyde releasers can have health effects similar to those of formaldehyde.

Uses: Formaldehyde releasers are chemicals that release formaldehyde over time. They are used as preservatives.

Dibutyl phthalate

Dibutyl phthalate is an endocrine disruptor and a developmental toxicant that harms male reproductive system development. It can cause early puberty in boys and other changes in the reproductive system.

Uses: Dibutyl phthalate is used as a solvent and fixative in perfumes, and as a plasticizer in nail polish.

Diethylhexyl phthalate

Diethylhexyl phthalate harms the reproductive system and can affect the developing fetus. It is a potential endocrine disruptor and has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Uses: Diethylhexyl phthalate is used in eyelash adhesive and in fragrances.

Mercury and Thimerosal

Mercury is a heavy metal that is absorbed through the skin. Mercury can damage the kidney and impact the nervous system. It is especially harmful to the developing fetus.

Uses: Mercury is used as a skin lightener. Some preservatives, like thimerosal, contain mercury and are still allowed.


Isobutylparaben is an endocrine disruptor that can harm male reproductive system development

Uses: Isobutylparaben is a preservative.


Butylparaben is an endocrine disruptor that can harm male reproductive system development.

Uses: Butylparaben is a preservative.


Propylparaben is an endocrine disruptor that can mimic estrogen.

Uses: Propylparaben is a preservative.


Toluene is toxic to the brain and the nervous system; it also harms the developing fetus.

Uses: Toluene is a solvent used in nail polish, nail treatments and hair dye.


Triclosan affects the thyroid and reproductive hormones.

Uses: Triclosan is an antimicrobial compound used in deodorants, mouthwash, hand sanitizer, shaving cream and toothpaste.

Carbon black

Carbon black has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Uses: Carbon black is a pigment used in eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick.

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances)

PFAS chemicals harm the developing fetus, increase the risk of cancer, affect the immune system, lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant and disrupt hormones.

Uses: PFAS is a class of more than 4,000 chemicals. They have been found in sunscreen, foundation, concealer, eyeliner, shaving cream and hairspray.


Asbestos is a carcinogen and can cause lung disease if inhaled.

Uses: Asbestos is a fibrous mineral. It can be found near talc deposits and may contaminate talcum powder and talc products. Talc can be used to absorb moisture, make a product opaque or make a product feel smoother.

Lead and related compounds

Lead can affect the brain development of children and cause permanent nervous system damage. Lead also harms other organ systems, especially the cardiovascular system and the heart.

Uses: Lead is a heavy metal that occurs as a contaminant in lipstick, eye shadow, blush, powders, shampoos and lotions.