Are the Ingredients in your Skincare Products Harming You?

Did you know? .....that up to 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body?

For some time we have known that the skin is not a waterproof barrier but a permeable organ absorbing thousands of substances a year directly into the bloodstream. Many people are unaware of the synthetic chemicals and harmful ingredients that they put on to their skin every day of their lives.

If this concerns us at all, we have to learn to read the ingredients listed on the label if we want natural and pure products without the potential to harm us. We list below some of the harmful ingredients that are often added to cosmetics today. There are many others to look out for but these are probably 10 of the worst!


1. Imidazolidinyl Urea/ Diazolidinyl Urea
2. Methyl/Propyl/Butyl/Ethyl Paraben
3. Petrolatum
4. Propylene Glycol
5. PVP/VA Copolymer
6. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Laureth Sulphate
7. Stearalkonium Chloride
8. Synthetic colours
9. Synthetic fragrances
10. Triethanolamine, (TEA)

The above list is by no means exhaustive.  Below we go into a little more detail about each ingredient above and some more.  There is now lots of information on the internet about ingredients and the harm they can cause, so its worthwhile doing some research.  We always suggest you read the labels on the products you buy!


Imidazolidinyl Urea/Diazolidinyl Urea

Formaldehyde-forming preservative which can cause joint pain, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pain, chronic fatigue, dizziness, insomnia and asthma. Can also weaken the immune system and even cause cancer.

Methyl/Propyl /Butyl/Ethyl Parabens

Preservatives that inhibit microbial growth to extend shelf life of product. May cause allergic reactions, skin rashes and kill the intestinal flora so vital to the cleanliness of the intestines. They may damage health by inhibiting the vital action of natural enzymes in your cells. Recent research suggests parabens could act as a foreign hormone-like substance and cause a host of problems, including cancer.


This is commonly used in lip balms, hand and skin care products to form a moisture barrier. Clogs skin, keeping it from taking in oxygen and releasing toxins. Highly acne-producing. May contain carcinogens. May slow down normal cell development which in turn can age your skin. Can cause sun sensitivity and chapping, (which are the very problems it is supposed to prevent).

Propylene Glycol (PG)

This is a strong skin irritant. A cosmetic form of mineral oil found in automatic brake and hydraulic fluid and industrial antifreeze. In skin care products PG works as a humectant to retain the moisture content of the skin or cosmetic product by preventing the escape of moisture or water. Material Safety Data (MSDS) warm users to avoid skin contact with PG as it can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage. May be harmful by inhalation, ingestion or skin absorption. Other effects may be gastro-intestinal disturbances, nausea, headache and vomiting.. The molecular weight of PG is 60. (Ingredients with a molecular weight of 75 and below enter the blood stream).

PVP/VA Copolymer

A petroleum based ingredient. Same effects as petrolatum.

Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES)

Used in almost any kind of industrial cleaning agent and as a detergent, surfactant and foaming agent. Widely used as a major ingredient in cosmetics, hair conditioners, toothpastes and about 90% of shampoos. SLS is rapidly absorbed into the body and retained in the eyes, brain, heart and liver, which may result in harmful long-term effects. SLS could retard healing, cause cataracts in adults and keep children's eyes from developing properly. Studies have shown that washing your hair just once with a shampoo containing SLS could put as many nitrates in your body as eating a pound of bacon. Molecular weight of SLS is 40 (ingredients with a molecular weight of 75 or lower enters the blood stream).

SLES can be contaminated with a very potent carcinogen; dioxin, and is very easily absorbed through the skin. It is slightly less irritating than SLS but may cause more drying. Both SLS and SLES may cause potentially carcinogenic formations of nitrates and dioxins to form in shampoos and cleansers by reacting with other product ingredients.

Stearalkonium Chloride

Used in hair conditioners and creams. Causes allergic reactions. Was developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener. It is very cheap, so the manufacturers use it instead of proteins.

Synthetic Colours

Artificial colours labelled "FD and C" followed by a colour are coal-tar derivatives and not plant-based. FD and C Red No. 6 and Green No. 6 are suspected of causing cancer.

Synthetic Fragrances

These may contain hundreds of chemicals. There is no way to know what they are as the label simply says 'Fragrance'. Some of the problems caused by these chemicals are headaches, dizziness, rashes, violent coughing, vomiting and skin irritation. Fragrances draw from up to 5000 hydrocarbons. Some hydrocarbons are formaldehyde, styrene, toluene and phenol. Hydrocarbons can cause depression, exhaustion, anxiety, dizziness, headaches, trouble thinking clearly, diminished blood flow and brain damage.

Triethanolamine (TEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA), Diethanolamine (DEA)

Alias names are: Cocamide DEA, DEA-Cetyl phosphate, DEA Oleth-3 phosphate, Stearamide MEA, Cocamide MEA, Lauramide DEA, Linoleamide MEA, Oleamide DEA, TEA-Laurel Sulphate.
These chemicals are emulsifiers and foaming agents, widely used in cosmetics and skin care. They are eye and skin irritants. DEA is easily absorbed through the skin and accumulates in body organs including the brain. Animal tests show that some of them cause damage to the liver, kidney, brain, spinal cord, bone marrow and skin. Contact with the eyes can cause impaired vision. In 1998, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in the USA did a research study showing an association between cancer in laboratory animals and diethanolamine (DEA) and certain DEA-related ingredients, when applied topically. DEA, when in the presence of nitrate preservatives and contaminants, can form the nitrosamine NDELA (nitrosodiethanolamine). In 1991, two surveys were conducted which found that of 29 products tested, 27 were found to contain NDELA and in 1980 the FDA analysed 335 cosmetic products and found that 42% were contaminated with NDELA. Again, the concentration of nitrates in these products is as much as 50% - 100% higher that in nitrate-processed bacon.

Coal-Tar Dyes

Carcinogens! Blue No. 1 and Green No. 3 to name two. According to Dr. Epstein "...these carcinogenic dyes are often contaminated with arsenic and lead". Check your toothpaste label! These artificial dyes are in many other products as well.


Skin Irritant. Has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease. Commonly found in anti-perspirants. There is now evidence to suggest a link between breast cancer and the use of anti-perspirants.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Has been implicated in mouth, tongue and throat cancers. Produced by the fermentation of yeasts and carbohydrates. Alcohol may cause body tissues to be more vulnerable to carcinogens. Symptoms include flushing, dizziness, depression, nausea, headaches and coma.


Used as a preservative, germicide and fungicide. It is found in cosmetics and personal care products because other ingredients release formaldehyde when they break down. Highly suspected as a powerful carcinogenic and mutagenic; damages and inhibits repair of DNA. Banned in Sweden and Japan.


Possible carcinogen. Dr. Epstein states: "...There have been several studies incriminating fluoride in bone cancer. The public have been given no information about this and the fluoride in toothpaste is particularly dangerous because kids swallow a significant amount of fluoride, especially when the toothpaste contains saccharin".

Quaternium -15

This is a formaldehyde donor. It is used as a preservative and anti-microbial and is also a severe cause of dermatitis.


Carcinogen. Dr. Epstein says "…....There are at least three clear cut studies which have been published in the scientific literature that show routine application of talc in the genital area is associated with up to 3 to 4 fold increase in the development of ovarian cancer."


The latest rage in the arsenal of antibacterial chemicals. Triclosan is included in deodorants, cosmetics, lotions, creams, and toothpastes. It is registered as a pesticide. Triclosan is a chlorophenol; a class of chemicals suspected of causing cancer in humans. Externally it can cause skin irritations. It is stored in the body fat and can accumulate to toxic levels, damaging the liver, kidneys and lungs.

Above is a small sample of potentially toxic ingredients in personal care products.

This information has been taken from the following sources in good faith and is based on the opinions and research of the various authors which we believe to be correct, but in no way can we be held responsible or liable for its accuracy :

Samuel S Epstein, MD, Professor emeritus, environmental and occupational medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago, and Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition.
"Beauty to Die For, the Cosmetic Consequences" by Judi Vance.
"Cosmetics Unmasked" by Dr. Stephen and Gina Antczak.
"Dangerous Beauty; Cosmetics and Personal Care" by P. Dingle and T. Brown, 1999.
"Diethanolamine and Cosmetic Products" FDA office of Cosmetics fact sheet, Dec 9, 1999
"Drop-Dead Gorgeous" by Kim Erickson
"A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients" by Ruth Winter.