toxic ingredient to avoid in skincare

31 Toxic Ingredients To Avoid In Skincare, Makeup, And Personal Care Products

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it absorbs everything you put on it. That’s why it’s essential to pay attention to the ingredients in your beauty and personal care products. Today, there are so many toxic ingredients to avoid in skincare. Many skincare and makeup products on the market contain harmful chemicals and toxins that can have adverse effects on your health.

From parabens and phthalates to formaldehyde and lead, these toxic ingredients can cause a range of issues, including allergic reactions and hormone disruption.

In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide to the most harmful ingredients to watch out for, and offer you some safer tips to keep your skin healthy and beautiful.

Check also our articles about non-toxic hand creams, clean lipsticks, and clean toothpastes.

The Conscious Insider is reader supported. When you buy something we recommend, we might earn an affiliate commission at no extra charge for you.

What Is The Regulation In The US?

The United States beauty industry operates with virtually no restrictions on the use of terms such as “clean,” “green,” “sustainable,” “safe,” or “natural.” This is due in large part to the fact that federal law regulating the industry has not been updated since 1938. Under current law, personal care product companies are not required to register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Additionally, the FDA lacks the authority to suspend registration or order recalls when products are found to pose health risks.

Shockingly, cosmetics are one of the least regulated consumer product categories in the US, with only 11 ingredients banned from use in products. In contrast, the European Union has banned over 1,600 ingredients. Furthermore, some of the most common irritants in beauty products are not currently disclosed on ingredient lists.

The only regulated label in the US beauty industry is “organic,” leaving consumers to navigate the minefield of unregulated products on their own. However, there is hope on the horizon. In December of 2022, Congress passed the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulations Act (MoCRA), an important update to the FDA’s regulatory oversight for the beauty industry. While there is still much work to be done, MoCRA is a step in the right direction towards a safer and more transparent beauty industry.

Ingredients prohibited or restricted by FDA regulation

  • Bithionol.
  • Chlorofluorocarbon propellants. 
  • Chloroform.
  • Halogenated salicylanilides (di-, tri-, metabromsalan and tetrachlorosalicylanilide).
  • Hexachlorophene.
  • Mercury compounds. 
  • Methylene chloride.
  • Vinyl chloride. 
  • Zirconium-containing complexes.
toxic ingredients to avoid in skincare

Toxic Ingredients To Avoid In Skincare, Makeup, and Personal Care Products

Asbestos (through contaminated talc powder)Diseases including asbestosis, lung and ovarian cancer, and mesothelioma
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
Irritant for the skin
Benzophenone-1 and Benzophenone-3Endocrine disruptor and allergen
BHAButylated HydroxyanisoleEndocrine disruptor. Classified as potentially carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer
BHTEndocrine disruptor
Somes Parabens – Butylparaben, propylparaben, sodium butylparaben, sodium propylparaben, potassium butylparaben, potassium propylparabenEndocrine disruptor
Siloxanes – Cyclopentasiloxane, cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclomethiconeEndocrine disruptor
DEADiethanolamineIrritant for the skin
FormaldehydeDMDM Hydantoin, Quaternium-15, Bromopol, GlyoxalThe substance formaldehyde has been classified as a carcinogen and a skin sensitizer by the European Health Commission and is therefore prohibited from use in cosmetic products
Ethylhexyl MethoxycinnamateEndocrine disruptor
HydroquinoneHydroquinone is among the substances prohibited for use in cosmetic products by the European Health Commission
LeadAccording to the FDA, Lead is a nervous system toxin with no safe level of exposure. It’s highly dangerous for pregnant women and young children
Methylisothiazolinone (MIT), methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCIT)Allergen, called “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society
PFASPotentially toxic class of chemicals.
PhthalateEndocrine disruptor
PEGCarcinogenic contaminants, genotoxicity, skin irritation and systemic toxicity
PetrolatumEuropean Commission classifies petrolatum a carcinogen and restricts its use in cosmetics
Sodium Lauryl SulfateIrritant for the skin
TriclosanEndocrine disruptor
OctocryleneEndocrine disruptor. When degrading over time, octocrylene creates benzophenone, a toxic component for human health according to a study from the Chemical Research in Toxicology
TolueneToluene is classified as toxic for reproduction by the European Commission

List of Common Allergens Found In Skincare, Makeup, and Personal Care Products

Alpha-Isomethyl ionone

Amyl cinnamal

Amylcinnamyl alcohol

Anise alcohol

Benzyl alcohol

Benzyl benzoate

Benzyl cinnamate

Benzyl salicylate


Cinnamyl alcohol

Citral, Citronellol



Evernia furfuracea extract

Evernia prunastri extract



Hexyl cinnamal


Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene carboxaldehyde





Methyl 2-Octynoate

How to Find Safe Cosmetics?

3 Labels To Help You Pick Non-Toxic Products

To know more about clean and non-toxic beauty labels and certifications, read our article.

Labels To Help You Pick Non-Toxic Products

EWG – The Non-Toxic Certification

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has emerged as a leading force in the push for safer, non-toxic products.

Founded in 1993, the EWG is focused on chemical safety and has been instrumental in banning hazardous substances from use in a variety of industries, including cosmetics, personal care, textile, household products, food, and water. Their mission is to push companies to create safer and healthier products for the benefit of both people and the environment.

To that end, the EWG certifies products that meet their rigorous standards for non-toxicity. Beauty brands like Well People, Beauty Counter, Honest Beauty, Kora Organics, and Mineral Fusion have all been awarded the coveted EWG certification.

The EWG label is an important clean beauty certification guaranteeing the safety of your makeup or skincare products. When you see this label, you can rest assured that the product has gone through the strictest checks for human health and was found to be free from hazardous chemicals.

On the EWG website, you can find many reports about hazardous substances.

Labels To Help You Pick Non-Toxic Products

Made Safe – Certified Safe for Human Health and the Environment 

Established in 2014 by Nontoxic Certified, a non-profit organization, the Made Safe label indicates that a product’s ingredients, manufacturing processes, and end-of-life disposal methods have been thoroughly vetted by an independent third party. The final product should not contain any ingredients that could pose a risk to human health or the environment.

The Made Safe certification covers a wide range of products, including apparel, baby and child items, bedding, cosmetics, household goods, intimate and personal care items, and even pet products. With its rigorous standards and thorough evaluation process, Made Safe is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after certifications for those seeking clean and safe beauty products.

To earn the Made Safe label, products must not contain any of the 6,500 hazardous substances that are currently banned from the organization’s ingredient list. With such stringent criteria, consumers can rest assured that any product bearing the Made Safe certification has been carefully scrutinized to ensure its safety and sustainability.

Several popular clean beauty brands have recently earned the Made Safe certification, which ensures that their products are not harmful to human health or the environment.  Annmarie, True Botanicals, and Blueland are among the notable names that have been certified by Made Safe.

Labels To Help You Pick Non-Toxic Products

USDA Organic – The Organic Certification for Ingredients

For those seeking organic food and ingredients, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic certification is a well-known and trusted standard. This certification program provides assurance that a farm or processing facility has been certified to sell, label, and represent their products as organic.

The USDA Organic certification sets stringent criteria for factors such as soil quality, animal breeding, and the use of additives. The program also prohibits the use of toxic substances, making it a go-to for consumers looking for non-toxic and sustainable options.

To ensure compliance with USDA Organic standards, accredited certifying agents inspect organic facilities every year. The certification process reviews a variety of criteria, including seed sources, soil conditions, crop health, weed and pest management, and water systems, among others.

The USDA Organic certification is divided into four categories based on the percentage of organic ingredients in the product. Products labeled as “100% organic” contain only organic ingredients, while those labeled as “organic” contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients. “Made with organic ingredients” products must contain at least 70% organic ingredients, and “specific organic ingredients” products are made with less than 70% organic ingredients.

This certification is not limited to food products, however. It is also used as a trustworthy clean beauty certification in eco-friendly beauty products. For those who prioritize sustainability and organic ingredients, the USDA Organic certification is a reliable standard for finding products that meet their standards.

Share this post