5 Toxic Ingredients in Your Toiletries That Could Be Killing You

1. Parabens

Source: jenniferclarkskincare.com

What it’s for: Parabens are used to make your personal care products last longer, parabens work by preventing fungus, bacteria, and other icky stuff from growing.

Why it could be harmful:

  • Parabens are notorious for disrupting hormone function, which is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • A research in 2004 detected traces of parabens in breast tumours.
  • A more recent research in 2013 found that parabens could make breast cancer cells grow.
  • Denmark has gone as far as to ban some types of parabens for children up till 3 years old (propyl and butyl paraben).

Found in: shampoos, conditioners, shaving gels, toothpastes, lotions, sunscreens, deodorants, cosmetics, etc.

Look out for: Methyl paraben, propyl paraben, isobutyl paraben, ethyl paraben, butyl paraben, E216

2. Triclosan 

Source: business-ethics.com

What it’s for: Triclosan is a powerful antibacterial agent that kills microorganisms like bacteria.

Why it could be harmful:

  • Recent studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation in animals.
  • There is also data suggesting that triclosan may contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs (dangerous!) and could be harmful to the immune system.
  • Your skin actually absorbs the triclosan, as the chemical has been detected in urine, blood, and breast milk.

Found in: Antibacterial soaps, body washes, toothpastes

Look out for: Triclosan

3. Dibutyl Phthalate

What it’s for:

  • Used mostly as a solvent for dyes and to make plastics flexible
  • Dibutyl phthalate is sometimes also used as an ingredient in fragrances
  • It’s the ingredient that keeps your nail polish fluid

Why it could be harmful:

  • Dibutyl Phtalates have been linked to infertility, problems in sperm development, and interferes with hormone function.
  • Its use in cosmetic and personal care products has been banned in the European Union.

Found in: nail polish, perfumes (dibutyl phtalate won’t be listed as an ingredient in a fragrance as fragrances need not reveal their “secret recipes” – so watch out for those that list “fragrance”)

Look out for: dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate (related ingredient with similar effects on health)

4. Diethanolamine (DEA)

What it’s for:

  • This guy helps to make your cosmetics and personal care products creamy and bubbly.
  • It also balances the pH by counteracting the acidity of the other ingredients in the product.

Why it could be harmful:

  • Small amounts of this stuff can cause skin and eye irritation.
  • High exposure to DEA has been linked to liver cancers and precancerous changes in skin and thyroid.
  • DEA can also react with other ingredients in the product (like nitrites) to form carcinogens.
  • DEA is classified harmful in the EU due to the health issues it can caused from prolonged exposure.

Found in: moisturisers, sunscreens, soaps, cleansers, shampoos

Look out for: DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamide) and TEA (triethanolamine)

5. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)

What it’s for:

  • It works as a preservative and stabilizer in skincare products
  • It’s also used as an antioxidant and preservative in food.

Why it could be harmful: 

Found in: lip products, hair products, cosmetics, sunscreen, deodorants, fragrance

Look out for: BHA, BHT

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive guide, and there are many more toxic ingredients to watch out for. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics database is a good place to check out if your favourite face cream is going to cause cancer in the long term. The EWG database combines numerous scientific research with their own studies to conclude if a product is safe to use. It is constantly updated and has an extensive list of ingredients you should be watching out for. 


What other ingredients do you think we should watch out for and why? Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


Written by: Jolene Foo

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