Here is a short-list of synthetic cosmetic ingredients that you should avoid at all costs:

Alcohol

Acts as a carrying and antifoaming agent as well as a water and oil solvent. It dries quickly and ages the skin. Usually, it is produced synthetically. Avoid all but organic grain alcohols. 

Aluminum

Found in antiperspirants, and cosmetics (eyeshadow), deodorants; this metal has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer. Avoid all products containing this ingredient. Listed as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic.

Barium

Another heavy metal used in lipsticks, etc; toxic; banned from European cosmetics years ago.

Benzene

Used in many personal care products including hairsprays and nail polish removers. Inhalation of fumes may be toxic and are a threat to public health. Benzene is a powerful bone marrow poison and there is mounting evidence that it also is associated with leukemia. Derived from toluene and gasoline, it is also used in the manufacturing of detergents, nylon and artificial leather. It is carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic.

Coal Tar

Used in shampoos designed to combat dandruff, dry skin, and scalp. Used as color in cosmetics and hair dyes. Disguised in names such as FD, FDC, FD&C color. Causes cancer in animals and is a frequent source of allergies, rashes, and hives. Carcinogenic and toxic.

Dioxins

You won’t see this word listed on the ingredient label, but if you are buying cotton balls, facial tissue, toilet tissue, sanitary pads and tampons (all of which have very close contact with your body) you may be exposed to them. These environmental pollutants are created unintentionally as a by-product of commercial of municipal waste incineration and burning of fuels. Chlorinated dioxins are also formed through the bleaching of pulp and paper including cotton balls, facial tissue, toilet tissue, sanitary pads and tampons. Studies show that exposure to dioxins may cause a number of serious health consequences including reproductive damage, birth defects, miscarriage and cancer. Purchase only Totally Chlorine-Free (TCF) paper products, bleached with hydrogen peroxide.

Formaldehyde

Commonly found in nail products, formaldehyde is associated with an increased risk of cancer of the nose and lung cancer in humans. Formaldehyde is irritating to mucous membranes, can cause inability to urinate, internal bleeding and is a known carcinogen. Widely-used preservatives such as 2-bromo2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol, Diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Quaternium 15 or Bronopol also break down to release formaldehyde. Avoid any formulation that combines these preservatives with DEA, TEA or MEA due to the potential for nitrosation. 

Imidazolidinyl Urea (Germall II) and Diazolidinyl Urea (Germall 115)

These are the most commonly used preservatives after the parabens. Neither of the Germall chemicals provide good antifungal protection, and must be combined with other preservatives. They release formaldehyde at just over ten degrees. (See Formaldehyde, above)

Mercury

This heavy metal has been banned from disposal in the environment because of its toxicity. It is a cumulative poison. There is no barrier that prohibits mercury from reaching the brain cells and the nervous system. Frighteningly, there is one place that it is still used in the cosmetics industry and that is in eyeshadow; used as an agent against eye infections. Daily use of eyeshadow in the sensitive eye area causes the accumulation of mercury, close to the optic nerve. Mercury was banned by the American Dental Association in 2007 for use in dental fillings. (It was banned in Europe years ago.) Mercury fillings (amalgams) should be removed as soon as possible. Candidiasis (yeast infections) will persist until you remove all of the mercury from your mouth. 

Parabens

These are also preservatives, and are used to inhibit microbial growth so that manufacturers can extend shelf life. They go by the names butyl, ethyl, methyl and propyl parabens. Methyl paraben combines benzoic acid with the methyl group of chemicals to make it highly toxic in the body. Parabens are known xenoestrogens. (See Terms)

Parafins

Derived from petroleum, parafins may be contaminated with xenoestrogenic polycystic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). (See Terms) They are known to activate estrogen receptors and stimulate MCF-7 breast cancer cell proliferation and are therefore carcinogenic (known to be cancer-causing.) They are used because they are cheap, like mineral oil and petrolatum.

Petrolatum

Used frequently in lip and baby products. Made from mineral oil jelly (petro-chemical), petrolatum causes photosensitivity (sensitivity to the sun) and interferes with the body’s own natural moisturizing mechanism. Using petroleum products on the skin will eventually lead to unhealthy and dehydrated skin. Manufacturers like it because it is very inexpensive. Petroleum products are also xenoestrogenic, (See Terms) and may contain impurities linked to breast cancer.

Phthalates (thay-lates)

There is now a first-ever consumer alert on beauty products containing dibutyl-phthalates (DBP). Major loopholes in federal law have allowed cosmetic manufacturers to put unlimited amounts of industrial chemicals like DBP into personal care products with no required testing or monitoring for adverse effects. This chemical is under growing scientific scrutiny because of high levels found in every woman of reproductive age. Phthalates are suspected of causing birth defects. The European Parliament prohibited the use of the phthalates Di-(2-ethylhexyl)Phthalate (DEHP) and DBP in cosmetics.DBPs are in everything from cosmetics to skincare to nail polish to perfume. They are found in hairspray, hair growth products, shampoo, conditioner, deodorants, plastic packaging and toys.Phthalates are absorbed through the skin, inhaled and ingested when they leach from plastic containers and contaminate food and water. They are also present in toys made from Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or vinyl. Animal studies prove that phthalates damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive systems (testes). They also can induce a state of hypersensitivity in the immune system. The Environmental Working Group has sent a letter to every cosmetic company asking that they reduce the use of phthalates in their products.

Propylene Glycol (PEG)

This is a synthetic petro-chemical mix. It is also made from the same chemical that is used to create anti-freeze, hydraulic fluids, placticizers and solvents. PEG facilitates penetration of formulation deeper into the skin, thereby allowing increasing amounts of other chemicals and toxins to reach the bloodstream. 

PVP/VA Copolymer

This petroleum-derived chemical used in hairsprays and cosmetics may contribute to the inhalation of foreign bodies in the lungs. PVP/VA should be considered toxic.

Quaternary ammonium salts (QUATS)

QUATS are caustic ammonium chemicals used as water repellents, fungicides, emusifiers, in paper and fabric softener. They are used in the fabric industry as softeners and antistatic agents, and are used in hair rinses and conditioners because they make the hair feel soft. In the long run, however, they damage the hair, making it dry and brittle. They are allergenic.

Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) 

Although SLS has not directly been linked with cancer, it can combine with other ingredients to form carcinogenic nitrosamines, in chemicals such as DEA, TEA and MEA. SLS may also contain dioxins. LS degenerates cell membranes and can change the genetic information in cells and damage the immune system. Used as a foaming agent, SLS is found in 90% of commercial shampoos and cleansers, and it is a known skin irritant. According to the Cosmetics Industry Review (CIR), SLS should not be used in products that remain in contact with the skin because it penetrates into the system. SLS also contributes to hair loss, rashes, dandruff, and allergic reactions. It is frequently disguised in pseudo-natural cosmetics with the term “derived from coconut.” 

Stearalkonium Chloride

Although now used in hair conditioners and creams, Stearalkonium Chloride was developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener. Causes allergic reactions. This toxic chemical is used in hair products simply because it is a lot cheaper than using proteins and herbals. Toxic.

Synthetic Colors

These are labeled FD&C or D&C followed by a number. FD&C colors are approved for food, drug and cosmetics. D&C colors are approved for drugs and cosmetics only. Many synthetic colors are believed to be cancer-causing. Many have already been banned by the FDA in America. If a cosmetic has them, do not use them!

Synthetic Fragrances

The word “fragrance” on a product label could refer to a combination of up to 200 individual synthetic fragrances. There is no requirement to list individual fragrances. Many are polycyclic musk combinations with fragrance that remain in the human body fat and have been found in mother’s milk. Many “fragrance” chemicals are phthalates (pronounced “thay-lates”), which are xenoestrogenic and toxic. (See Terms)

Talc

Some studies link the use of inhaled talc with lung conditions and an increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who use talc products in the genital region. The problem is in determining whether talc is the toxin, or if talc is contaminated with asbestos or other possible impurities.

Triethanolamine (TEA)

Often used to adjust the pH of a formulation. Used with many fatty acids to convert acid to salt (stearate), which then becomes a base for a cleanser. TEA causes allergic reactions, including eye problems, dryness of hair and skin, and can be toxic if absorbed into the body for a long period of time.

TERMS

Nitrosamines

Nitrosamines can form in every cosmetic/skincare product that contains amines or amino derivatives if they also contain a nitrosating agents such as alkanoamides. Alkanoamides are Diethanolamine(DEA), Monoethanolamine(MEA), and Triethanolamine(TEA.) Nitrosamines are known carcenogenics. To avoid nitrosamine exposure do not use products containing chemicals that begin with DEA, MEA, or TEA.

Xenobiotics

A xenobiotic (zeeno-biotic) is anything foreign to the body. These are usually synthetic chemicals including pesticides, herbicides and most pharmaceutical drugs. They cannot be broken down properly by the liver and kidneys so they are stored in the body. Eventually they take their toll on our organs, and disease follows. Most beauty/skincare products contain xenobiotics unless they are natural.

Xenoestrogens

Pronounced “zeeno-estrogens,” these chemicals are false estrogens found in pesticides, herbicides, cosmetics and skin/body care products. These chemicals bind with hormone receptor sites on our cells. When this occurs, xenoestrogens alter cellular functions, leading to changes in the way our bodies function. Xenoestrogens have been linked to many reproductive cancers, including breast cancer.