66 of The Most Toxic Ingredients to Never Use on Your Skin

Are you putting your health at risk without even knowing it? It’s time to take control of what goes on and in your body, starting with skin care. The mainstream beauty industry is loaded with toxic ingredients that can do harm to both our skin and overall wellbeing. Luckily for us, there are plenty of natural and safe alternatives available, including our vetted products here on our NonTox Shop, with all of your necessary essentials, and without any of the garbage that has been wrecking havoc on our health for decades.

We’re exploring the shocking high number of 66 toxic ingredients that you should never use on your skin and why they should be avoided from now on! With this knowledge in hand, you can make informed choices about products that will contribute positively to better health for a radiant complexion. So read up – let’s start taking those steps towards cleaner skincare today!

Parabenstoxic free skin care swaps
Parabens are a group of chemical preservatives that are used to prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast in cosmetics and personal care products. Although these preservatives may be effective at keeping bacteria and mold away from personal care products, they may also cause a number of health issues.

Parabens have been linked to hormone disruption and are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they can interfere with your body’s natural balance of hormones. Parabens mimic the hormone estrogen, which can lead to an increased risk of cancer and other health conditions. Parabens can be absorbed through the skin and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive issues.

They can be found in a variety of cosmetics, including makeup, facial moisturizers, shaving gels, shampoos, conditioners and cleansers. They are also known to be skin irritants, and can lead to contact dermatitis or eczema upon contact.

Parabens on an ingredient label:
Parabens have many different names, but they usually end in “-paraben”.  Here are some of the names you may find on an ingredient label:

  • Methylparaben (E218)
  • Propylparaben (E216)
  • Butylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Isopropylparaben
  • Sodium methylparaben
  • Sodium propylparaben

It is also important to check the expiration date on skincare products. Parabens may not be as effective in preserving a product after its expiration date, so it’s best to discard them and replace with a new one. This will help you ensure that your skin is receiving only the safest ingredients and avoiding any potential risks associated with parabens.

NonTox Paraben Swaps
Shaving Cream
$15 – $16

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Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and are often found in cosmetics, fragrances, and personal care products. Studies have linked phthalates to increased risk of endocrine disruption, infertility, birth defects, and cancer.

Studies have shown that phthalates can interfere with reproductive hormones leading to fertility problems, lower testosterone levels in men, and birth defects in babies. Phthalates can also be absorbed through skin contact, making them particularly dangerous as they are used in a variety of personal care products such as shampoos, lotions, and cosmetics.

Phthalates are often found in skincare and cosmetic products, such as lotions, hairspray, nail polish, and even fragrances. Phthalates can also be found in shampoos and cleansing creams. As they are used as solvents and softeners or to create a thicker texture for many popular products, these chemicals may be present in many cosmetics, even if they are not listed on the product label.

Phthalates on an ingredient label:
Phthalates can be identified through their chemical names, such as:

  • Diethyl Phthalate (DEP)
  • Dimethyl Phthalate (DMP)
  • Di-n-butyl Phthalate (DBP) 

It is also important to be aware that phthalates are often hidden in fragrances, so make sure to read labels carefully before using any product containing fragrance. To ensure you are using a safe and healthy skincare product, look for ingredients such as essential oils, botanical extracts, and other natural fragrances to help you avoid products with potentially harmful phthalates.

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NonTox Phthalate Swaps

$10 – $23

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Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a harsh detergent and foaming agent commonly used in products like shampoo, toothpaste, soap, and even many household cleaners. Unfortunately, these products aren’t just made for cleaning your body or home; they are also found in many cosmetics and skincare items.

Sulfates are known skin irritants and can cause redness, itching, burning sensations, and rashes when exposed to the skin for long periods of time.

In addition, sulfates can also strip away the skin’s natural oils, leaving it dry and vulnerable to damage. They have been linked to high levels of toxicity in aquatic life, so those who are environmentally conscious should avoid products containing sulfates as much as possible.

Because SLS is so harsh, it can strip the skin of its natural oils and moisture. This can lead to dryness, irritation, redness, and even breakouts or other skin issues. That’s why it’s important to read ingredient labels carefully when you’re shopping for these types of products.

How to identify SLS on an ingredient label?

Common ingredients that contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) include:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
  • Ammonium Laurel Sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate

It is important to note that many of these ingredients may have other names or variations – so make sure to read the label carefully.

 NonTox SLS Swaps
Shampoos & Conditioner

$22 – $28

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Formaldehyde is a preservative used in some cosmetics to prevent bacterial growth. Exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to an increased risk of cancer as well as respiratory problems such as asthma.

Formaldehyde is a commonly used chemical preservative and binding agent that is found in many personal care products, including makeup, shampoos and conditioners, soaps, lotions and even nail polish. Unfortunately, it can cause respiratory problems such as asthma, skin irritation and even cancer when inhaled or absorbed into the body through contact with the skin or eyes.

Formaldehyde is also known to damage the immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight infections. Studies have linked formaldehyde exposure with increased risk of various cancers including leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Formaldehyde on an ingredient label:
Some of the most common ingredients that contain Formaldehyde include:

  • Quaternium-15
  • Diazolidinyl Urea
  • Polyoxymethylene Urea
  • Imidazolidinyl Urea
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 Diol

It is important to avoid products that contain any of these chemicals or any other ingredient that may release formaldehyde into the environment.

NonTox Formaldehyde Swaps
$18 – $36

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Oxybenzone is a chemical sunscreen ingredient that is commonly found in sunscreens and other skincare products, due to its ability to absorb UV rays.. It has been identfiied as an endocrine disruptor and is responsible for causing disruption in hormones, along with contact dermatitis, allergies, cancer-causing agents, cell damage as well as other health issues

Oxybenzone on an ingredient label:

When looking for skincare or cosmetics that are free of Oxybenzone, here are some ingredients to look out for:

  • Benzophenone
  • BP-3
  • Uvinul M40
  • Eusolex 4360
  • Titanium Dioxide
  • Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC)
  • Avobenzone
  • Homosalate
  • Octinoxate
  • Phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid (PBSA)
  • Sulisobenzone

Natural sunscreens made from minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are a great alternative to chemical based sunscreens with Oxybenzone. Natural sunscreens can be just as effective and provide the same protection against UVA and UVB rays, without the risk of any of the potential health issues linked to oxybenzone.

We have two recommended, 100% natural sunscreens completely free of any toxins available on our NonTox Shop, all of which have been personally vetted and recommended by us at DietingWell. Try them out for yourselves!

NonTox Oxybezone Swaps
$22 – $32

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Hydroquinone is a chemical compound used in skin care and beauty products to lighten the skin tone or reduce age spots, freckles, acne scars, sun damage, or other discolorations. While many people choose to use hydroquinone for these purposes, there are some potential dangers associated with its use that should not be overlooked.

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The most common side effect of hydroquinone is skin irritations, such as redness, itcbing, stinging, burning sensation, or dryness. In rare cases, it can also cause more serious skin reactions like blistering and peeling. Using hydroquinone for a prolonged period of time can increase the risk of developing ochronosis, a skin condition that causes dark spots and discoloration. This can be especially problematic for those with darker skin since it can lead to permanent discoloration.

The long-term use of hydroquinone has also been linked to cancer in some cases. Additionally, the FDA has raised concerns about possible liver and nervous system damage associated with long-term use of hydroquinone.

Hydroquinone on an ingredient label:

Hydroquinone is an ingredient used in many skincare and cosmetic products to lighten the skin, but is also known to be toxic. Some of the common ingredients containing hydroquinone include:

  • Ammonium hydroxide
  • Methylparaben
  • Propylene glycol
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Octinoxate
  • Retinyl palmitate
  • Dimethicone
  • Niacinamide
  • Benzoyl Peroxide

Keep in mind that there are other safer methods for lightening the skin tone and treating discolorations, such as exfoliation, chemical peels, and laser treatments. These treatments can provide similar results without the potential risks associated with hydroquinone.

 Synthetic Fragrances
Synthetic fragrances are often added to skincare products for their pleasant scent but can be irritating for those with sensitive skin or allergies/asthma sufferers due to their potential allergenicity or toxicity levels.

Parfum or fragrance is often found in personal care products such as shampoos, lotions, and deodorants. These fragrances are composed of a mixture of chemicals which can be toxic to the human body.

Exposure to these fragrances can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems. Additionally, some fragrances contain hormone-disrupting phthalates which can cause long-term damage to your health.

Synthetic Fragrances on an ingredient label:
When shopping for skincare or cosmetic products, be sure to look out for the following fragrances:

  • Phthalates
  • Limonene
  • Benzyl Alcohol
  • Linalool

Phthalates are a group of endocrine disrupting chemicals known to disrupt hormones in the body. Limonene is an organic compound commonly used as an aromatic ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products, and has been linked to skin irritation and allergies. Benzyl alcohol is a preservative used in cosmetics that can cause an allergic reaction and potentially irritate your lungs. Lastly, linalool is a fragrant compound found in various essential oils and is known to be toxic when inhaled or ingested.

NonTox Fragrance Swaps

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Talc is a common ingredient in many skincare and cosmetic products, including baby powder, blush, eye shadow, foundation, and lipstick. It can also be found in loose powders used to set makeup. Talc can aid with absorption of oil from the skin as well as provide a silky texture when used in cosmetics. It’s often used as an absorbent or a filler, but it can contain asbestos fibers which can cause serious health problems. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks associated with talc use.

Studies have linked long-term exposure to talc with an increased risk of ovarian and lung cancer, as well as respiratory problems such as asthma. Some research also suggests that inhaling talc particles, which can occur when using loose powder, can be dangerous for your health.

How to identify Talc on an ingredient label?
To identify talc in an ingredients list, look for words like:

NonTox Talc Swaps
Make Up
$14 – $28
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Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical found in a variety of products from toothpaste and hand soaps to cosmetics and deodorants. This chemical has been linked to a variety of health risks, including hormone disruption that can cause reproductive and developmental issues. It has also been associated with antibiotic resistance, which is a huge concern for public health.

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When it comes to skincare or cosmetics, triclosan is a chemical that should be avoided. Triclosan is an anti-microbial agent used in soaps and other products such as deodorants, toothpaste, and mouthwash. It has been linked to endocrine disruption, increased risk of antibiotic resistance and potential harm to the environment.

Triclosan on an ingredient label:

To identify the presence of Triclosan on an ingredient label, look out for words like:

  • Triclocarban
  • Triclosan
  • Benzalkonium
  • Benzethonium Chloride
  • 2,4,4′-trichloro-2′-hydroxy diphenylether
  • 3,4,4′-trichlorocarbanilide”

Another safe bet when searching for toxins in products is to be weary of any products that include the terms “anti-bacterial”, as they may contain triclosan.

NonTox Triclosan Swaps
$10 – $18
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Petrolatum is a by-product of the petroleum industry, and it has been found to contain trace amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, skin irritation, and other health concerns. Additionally, petrolatum can clog pores leading to breakouts. Therefore, you should always avoid any skincare or cosmetic products that contain petrolatum.

Petrolatum on an ingredient label:

When it comes to identifying toxic chemicals on any skincare or cosmetic label, one of the most commonly used ingredients is petrolatum. Petrolatum is a by-product of petroleum and can be found in skincare products, makeup, and sunscreens. It often goes by the names:

  • Petroleum Jelly
  • Mineral Oil

Petrolatum is an inexpensive substance that helps to seal moisture in the skin and acts as a barrier against irritants. It may seem like it would be beneficial for your skin, but petrolatum can actually trap toxins within the body and cause long-term health risks if used for extended periods of time. 

$10 – $18

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Lead is a heavy metal that has been linked to brain damage causing neurological and developmental issues, as well as kidney damage and reproductive issues. It is found in many cosmetics, including lipsticks, eyeshadows and blushes.

How to identify lead on an ingredient label?

Lead is not listed as an ingredient because it is a contaminant, but it can be found in products through its chemical name or under names such as D&C Red 6 Barium Lake and D&C Red 7 Calcium Lake. 

Ingredients to be on the lookout for include:

  • Lead acetate
  • Lead oxide
  • Sodium hexametaphosphate
  • Sodium Phosphate
  • Acetate
  • Calcium
  • Calcium sulfate
  • Talc
  • Chromium picolinate
  • Bismuth oxychloride

It’s clear that certain chemicals have no place on our skin. Whether it’s phthalates, parabens, or certain synthetic fragrances, these 11 toxic compounds are just a few of the many that can cause long-term health risks. Our skin is our largest organ, and it’s important to be mindful of what we put on it. Being informed about the ingredients in skincare products empowers us to make educated decisions that help protect our health and well-being. So let’s take control of our own choices—and our skin—today. “Your skin absorbs up to 60% of what is applied to it” (Gooch, 2005). Let’s ensure that we aren’t absorbing any of these toxic compounds.

Looking out for our skin doesn’t have to be a daunting task. We can take our health into our own hands by striving to use only clean and natural ingredients when choosing our skincare products. Let’s be vigilant and continue to educate ourselves so that we can make smarter and healthier choices today and in the future.


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