Harmful Chemicals Hidden In Your Beauty Products!

Chemicals don’t just creep into our bodies from the food we eat  – many of our beauty products and cosmetics are full of harmful chemicals. Australia is a world leader when it comes to organic or chemical free products, but not enough Australians know about it or use it.  Approximately 60% (but up to 100%) of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream. There are more than 5,000 ingredients being used to manufacture cosmetic products, and 10,500 manufactured for personal care products – some of which are known or suspected carcinogens (cancer causing agents).  According to a British study that looked into the routines of over 2,000 women, an average woman bombards her body with up to 515 chemicals every day. The Journal of American Medical Association also acknowledge no long-term data exists on the safety of a lot of these ingredients. The European Union now bans more than 1,100 chemicals from personal care products because they may cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.

Chemicals to watch out for:

Foaming agents

They give products their smooth texture and foaming quality.

  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS),
  • Sodium Laureth Ether Sulfate (SLES),
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and other synthetic detergents

These chemicals are also used in detergents such as dishwashing and laundry products, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers.

They are typically found in cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner and research has found they are a common skin irritant. They may also cause potentially carcinogenic nitrates and dioxins by reacting with other ingredients.

Artificial fragrances

These are synthetic fragrances that mimic natural aromas.

  • Petroleum (Mineral Oil – a petroleum by-product)

Petroleum by-products such as mineral oil coat the skin like plastic, and can clog pores. This interferes with skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, which can cause acne and other skin disorders such as hyperpigmentation. It can also affect skin function, cell development, and premature aging. Many products contain mineral oil, such as baby oil that is 100% mineral oil.

Artificial colours

These are synthetic colours and harmful dyes made from coal tar, and heavy metal salts.

  • FD&C Red No.6
  • FD&C Green No.6

Artificial colours can cause adverse reactions on the skin’s surface such as acne, allergies and skin sensitivities. Colours made from coal tars contain heavy metals salts that deposit toxins into our systemic circulation.  They have also been found to be carcinogenic in varying degrees.  For example, FD&C Red No.4 is no longer available for use in foods because of its harmful effects, however it is still legal to use in non-food products


These are used in just about every possible personal grooming product to keep the texture of the product consistent and prevent the ingredients from separating.

  • Glyceryl monostearate
  • Stearic acid
  • Triethanolamine
  • Ethoxylates – PEG-4, PEG-7, PEG-4, PEG-100, Steareth 20, Ceteareth 20

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) is commonly used in cleansers to dissolve oil and grease.  It is also used in spray-on oven cleaners. PEG’s are potentially dangerous, even in small doses as they are strongly mutagenic which means they have potential to damage our DNA – this increases skin aging, and the risk of skin cancer.

Glyceryl monostearate and stearic acid have been known to cause skin irritation. Triethanolamine converts into nitrosamines in our living tissue, which is carcinogenic, and it can also cause allergic response in people with eczema.


These are added to cosmetics to slow the rate of decay and extend shelf life. Without preservatives a product could become contaminated with bacteria, and cause infection to consumers.

  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Parabens

Imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea are derivatives of formaldehyde. Skin reactions are common, and there are potential long term side effects and can cause contact dermatitis, irritation, nerve damage and cancer.

Most cosmetics contain a preservative from the paraben family, and parabens are less likely to cause irritation than formaldehyde.  They are commonly used in skin and hair products. Research suggests that they may be xenoestrogens (which mimic the female sex hormone oestrogen), which play a role in increasing the rates of breast cancer and decreasing rates of male fertility.

It can be hard to avoid preservatives in cosmetics, however some more natural ingredients include grapeseed extract, phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate, sorbic acid, tocopherol (vitamin E), retinol (vitamin A), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), gum benzoin and pycnogenol (antioxidant).


Formed from two otherwise safe ingredients, nitrous acid and amines. They combined to make highly carcinogenic nitroamines.

  • DEA – dietha-nolamine
  • MEA – monoetha-nolamine

DEA & MEA are commonly found in shampoos, bubble baths, and shaving creams. These chemicals are restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects.  DEA in particular is known to be easily absorbed through the skin and accumulates in organs such as the brain, liver and kidneys, where it induces chronic toxic effects.

Alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs)

These are used in cosmetics for their ability to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Malic acid
  • Citric acid
  • L-alpha hydroxyl acid

Adverse reactions can include burning, blistering, bleeding, rashes and increased sensitivity to sunlight.


Drived from sheep’s wool is often used in cosmetics and baby products, but is the forth most common cause of adverse skin reactions.

Other ingredients to be aware of:
  • PVP/VA copolymer
  • Stearalkonium chloride
  • Petrolatum
  • Paraffin

Have a think about your personal chemical loading, and check out some of these alternatives:

Local and International personal care products and cosmetics:


  • Butter London – Nail polish. http://www.butterlondon.com/
  • Dr Hauschka – Personal care products & Cosmetics/Make-up. http://www.drhauschka.com.au/
  • Ere Perez – Cosmetics/Make-up. http://ereperez.com/
  • Lavera – Personal care products. http://www.lavera.com/
  • Living Nature NZ – Personal care products & Cosmetics/Make-up. http://www.livingnature.com/
  • Miessense – Personal care products. http://www.miessence.com/shop/en/
  • Soleo Organices – Sun screen. http://www.soleoorganics.com/
  • Suvana Pawpaw ointment – Lip balm
  • Tinderbox – Personal care products. http://www.cheekyherbs.com/
  • UV Natural – Sunscreen. http://www.uvnatural.com/
  • Vanessa Megan – Personal care products. http://www.vanessamegan.com/
  • Wotnots – Baby Products. http://www.wotnot.com.au/
  • Weleda – Personal Care products & Baby Products. http://www.weleda.com.au/