Cosmetic ingredients to avoid

As a consumer, you must be on the look out for chemicals and toxic ingredients that may be injurious to your skin and your body. What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in it. Your skin is our bodies largest organ and it absorbs everything, including toxins.

If you are concerned about eating unhealthy foods, then you’ll definitely want to know which synthetic ingredients you should watch out for in the products you use.

These are the worst offenders.

  1. Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA): These are used as foaming agents, but can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of the hair and skin. DEA and TEA are toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time, and are associated with cancer in lab animals.
  2. Diazolidinyl Urea Used as an antiseptic in cosmetics. It may release formaldehyde, known to be highly toxic. Can be found in body powders, cleansers and soaps, lotions, make-up removers, sunscreen and shampoo.
  3. Imidazolidinyl Urea: The American Academy of Dermatology recognizes it as a cause of contact dermatitis. Formaldehyde release is a hazard of this chemical. The CIR Expert Panel is reassessing its safety.
    Can be found in; shampoos, bath and body oils, body powders, fragrances, moisturizers, makeup, permanent waves, and rinses.
  4. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate: This is a cheap, harsh detergent used in many shampoos for its ability to cleanse and foam. Often derived from petroleum, it causes eye irritation, dry scalp, skin rashes and other allergic reactions. Be on the lookout for pseudo-natural products that list this ingredient with the phrase “comes from coconuts” – it’s still bad for you.
  5. Petrolatum: Also known as petroleum jelly, this is a mineral oil derivative that can clog your pores. This in turn disrupts your body’s natural ability to moisturize its own skin, leading to dryness and chapping. Manufacturers use it because it’s really inexpensive.


  1. Propylene Glycol: Ideally this is a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural, but it’s usually made from synthetic chemicals. It has been known to cause hives and eczema. Beware of related chemicals labeled PEG and PPG.
  2. PVP/VA Copolymer: A petroleum-derived chemical that’s used in hair styling products and some cosmetics. Considered toxic since if inhaled, it can damage the lungs.
  3. Stearalkonium Chloride: This toxic chemical was designed by the fabric industry for use as a fabric softener. Companies use it in hair conditioners and lotions because it’s much cheaper than natural conditioning ingredients such as proteins.
  4. Synthetic Colors: Labeled as FD&C or D&C and followed by a number, these make products look pretty but can be carcinogenic.
  5. Synthetic Fragrances: Labeled simply as “fragrance,” there’s no way to tell what chemicals are actually in the product. People can get headaches, dizziness, rashes, and respiratory problems from them. People may also experience hyper-pigmentation, which means this chemical may cause brown spots to form on your skin.

Did you know:
450 ingredients that are used in the USA are banned for use in cosmetics in the European Union by the industry?

Keep this in mind before buying your beauty products and check the ingredients list. These ingredients can be found in make-up, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, perfumes, baby care products, sunscreens, toothpastes, nail products, and deodorants.


Hanne Sagstuen

Norwegian New Yorker Hanne Sagstuen a fashion model, art director and editor in chief. Beautylovin is the website where she shares her take on life, travel, beauty and everything in between.

Latest posts by Hanne Sagstuen (see all)


  1. Amanda

    Thats so true, I will definitely start looking more at ingredients in my cosmetics. Great post! Love your blog ;)

    1. Author

      I don’t have a lot of experience with Kiehl’s yet but I’ve had two friends working there and they both tell me great things about the brand. Maybe you’ve noticed that Kiehl’s doesn’t advertise as well? It’s not in their policy to advertise, instead they have a lot of magazines, bloggers etc who have been writing honest reviews about the brand. I like the idea! :)
      This is what they say about their ingredients, sounds promising :)

      “Ingredients are the single most important component of our products. Ingredients are not chosen on their esthetic merit – only ingredients that are truly beneficial to the skin are selected. Minimal preservatives are used in our formulations. Our intent is to utilize only the gentlest and most efficacious ingredients and that is why a great number of natural ingredients are used. Products are always formulated with sensitive skin in mind.

      We encourage you to read our product labels. The more you know about ingredients, the better you will appreciate Kiehl’s products. We refrain from hyperbole and make no false claims. On the contrary, we strive to uphold the standards of honesty, fairness, and integrity that have come to characterize Kiehl’s and to gain the confidence of our friends around the world. We have gained our position based on our reputation and on recommendation and we prefer to reach you through the quality of our formulations. We utilize only simple, efficient, recyclable packaging so that we may concentrate our efforts and costs on what is truly important: the substance and quality of our products. Truthfully, only the ingredients can help your skin.”

  2. Sabine

    Hi !

    It’s simple…healthy ingredients-healthy skin !

    I’m a cosmetician and I only use bionome skin care products for my treatments with great results. Many of my clients had problems finding the right skin care simply because most brands contain too much chemicals. That these substances can cause allergies is one bad thing, what makes it even worse is the fact that it can lead to premature skin aging as well !

    Kind regards


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