Clear the Cabinets! Top 10 Dangerous Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid

So when you hear the word “healthy” you probably think it’s about weight loss, diets, shakes, celery and carrots and all that jazz. But, living a healthy life doesn’t just stop with fitness or food. In fact, the products we use daily like skin care products, can have a great effect on our bodies, both good and bad, depending on the ingredients contained inside.

It’s all about the Ingredients

Yes indeed. Ingredients on items you apply to your skin AND your hair is JUST as important as items you eat, and like we learned with the simple rules of clean eating, being aware of what ingredients you use can affect you in the long term. So, unfortunately, when I first heard about cancer-causing carcinogens found in shampoos, like cocamide diethanolamine (cocamide DEA), I began to investigate all the other dangerous skin care ingredients out there.dangerous skin care ingredients

According to the Consumerist, the Center of Environmental Health (CEH) revealed a myriad cancer-causing chemicals in 98 shampoos, soaps, and other personal care products sold by major retailers, including favorite brands like Herbal Essences, Palm Olive, Paul Mitchell, Organics, and Rusk.

If you take a quick scan of your shampoo repertoire, you may see the presence of this dangerous ingredient, along with a slew of other long multi-syllabic chemical compounds that are also known to cause high toxicity and cancer in skin and hair.

What dangerous skin care ingredients should I look out for?

I compiled a list of the top ten bad skin care ingredients that are commonly found in the many products we use today. If you find them, my strong advice would be to stop using that particular brand and find another healthy alternative (for example, use more natural-based products like Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, or Dr. Bronner’s). Without further ado, beware of the following ingredients in your skincare products:
      1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
        • Although a strong chemical detergent (also found in kitchen dishwasher soap) that gives your shampoo its foaming quality, it is the most toxic shampoo ingredient. When combined with other chemicals, SLS can form into nitrosamines, a deadly class of carcinogen. SLS can cause scalp irritation, redness, diarrhea, eye damage, and itchiness.
      2.  Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA),Triethanolamine (TEA)
        • These ingredients can disrupt hormones and research has indicated a strong link between liver and kidney cancer.
      3. Phthalates and Parabens
        • Phthalates and parabens are commonly used as preservatives for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, however studies revealed these two to be carcinogenic, particularly linked to breast cancer.
      4. FD&C Color Pigments
        • Ever seen ingredients such as Red #40, Yellow #6, Green#3 on your moisturizer, lotion, or shampoo? Those are FD&C color pigments. Made from coal tar, almost all FD&C color pigments are shown to be carcinogenic. It can cause skin sensitivity, irritation, or oxygen depletion to the blood.
      5. Mineral Oil
        • A petroleum derivative, mineral oil coats the skin like saran wrap, preventing it from breathing, absorbing and excreting. In addition, it interferes with the skin’s natural cell development, causing skin to age prematurely.
      6. Polyetylene Glycol (PEG)
        • PEG is commonly found in spray-on oven cleaners and is used in shampoo to dissolve oil and grease from the scalp. This chemical takes out the protective oils off the skin and hair, leaving your hair in a vulnerable state to other toxins.
      7. Isopropyl Alcohol
        • This is a petroleum-derived substance that cleans and dissolves oils, and is extremely drying, stripping the hair of its natural moisture, leading to hair damage and even hair loss.


        1. Imidazolidinyl Urea and DMD Hydantoin (Formaldehyde)
          • Imidazolidinyl urea and DMD hydantoin are carcinogens that irritate the eyes and respiratory system and cause skin inflammation. These chemicals are linked to allergies, chest pain, chronic fatigue, depression, dizziness, ear infections, headaches, joint pain, loss of sleep, and asthma.
        2. Propylene Glycol
          • Propylene glycol is a detergent that is used in shampoos to penetrate hair. What makes it dangerous is it’s ability to break down the healthy-hair proteins and irritate sensitive skin and eyes. Also, this stuff is commonly found in antifreeze. Yikes
        3. Fragrance
          • Synthetic fragrance is a very common ingredient found in perfumes, colognes, lotions, shampoos, and baby wipes (just to name a few); however, 95% of chemicals that make up synthetic fragrance are derived from petrochemicals that can cause birth defects, allergies, cancers, and nervous system disorders. In the U.S., manufacturers can legally hide hundreds of synthetic chemicals in the one word—”fragrance”—without revealing what those ingredients are. My advice: avoid ALL products with the ingredient “fragrance” on the label. Even if the front says “fragrance free,” products can still contain fragrance ingredients, so be sure to read the labels!
dangerous skin care ingredientsI’m not going to lie. I felt discouraged and sad that many of my shampoos and moisturizers had one or more of these dangerous ingredients. Like my discovery of hidden sugars in food, I felt duped and angry.

However, in this day and age, products abound, and we can always try to find another one that works better for us. If your shampoo, moisturizer, or makeup contains any of the above ingredients, proceed with caution or throw them out!

How many items did you find that contained the above ingredients? Comment and share below!

-xo, Amanda, the Buzzed Coach

* The links provided in this post contain affiliate links. This comes at no extra cost to you, my dear readers. It will however help me pay the electric bill.

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