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CHEMICALS OF CONCERN

http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chem-of-concern/
Learn about a few of the top ingredients and contaminants to avoid, based on the science linking each to adverse health impacts, and the types of products they’re found in.

For each of the chemicals included in this section, a growing body of hazard-based evidence suggests connections to long-term health concerns like cancer and reproductive problems. To learn more about how chemicals impact your health and where they come from, check out the Health & Science section.

Use our Red List quick guides to avoid chemicals of concern in each product category: shampoo, conditioner, creams, sunscreen, color cosmetics, hair color and skin lighteners.

Apply one or more filter to narrow your search by health effect, product type, or affected population.

 

Learn about a few of the top ingredients and contaminants to avoid, based on the science linking each to adverse health impacts, and the types of products they’re found in.

For each of the chemicals included in this section, a growing body of hazard-based evidence suggests connections to long-term health concerns like cancer and reproductive problems. To learn more about how chemicals impact your health and where they come from, check out the Health & Science section.

Use our Red List quick guides to avoid chemicals of concern in each product category: shampoo, conditioner, creams, sunscreen, color cosmetics, hair color and skin lighteners.

Apply one or more filter to narrow your search by health effect, product type, or affected population.

  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

1,4-DIOXANE

Not listed on ingredient labels, 1,4-dioxane is a contaminant linked to cancer found in products that create suds, such as shampoo and liquid soap.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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ACRYLATES

Acrylates (ethyl acrylate, ethyl methacrylate, and methyl methacrylate) are ingredients found in artificial nail products. We are mainly...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
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BENZOPHENONE & RELATED COMPOUNDS

A chemical linked to cancer, benzophenone is used in cosmetics such as lip balm and nail polish to protect the products from UV light.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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BUTYLATED COMPOUNDS

Concerns about organ-system toxicity and endocrine disruption led the European Union to prohibit the preservative butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) from cosmetics.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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CARBON BLACK

Carbon black is a dark black powder used as a pigment in cosmetics such as eyeliner, mascara and lipstick that has been linked to increased incidence of cancer.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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CARCINOGENS IN COSMETICS

The laws governing cosmetics and personal care products are so limited that known cancer-causing chemicals are legally allowed in personal care products.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

COAL TAR

Coal tar is a known carcinogen found in shampoos, soaps, hair dyes, and lotions.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

ETHANOLAMINE COMPOUNDS (MEA, DEA, TEA AND OTHERS)

Diethanolamine (DEA) is a type of ethanolamines, chemicals widely used in cosmetics. The European Union prohibits DEA in cosmetics due to concerns about formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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ETHOXYLATED INGREDIENTS

Ethoxylation is the process of reacting ethylene oxide with other chemicals to make them less harsh. Ethoxylation can create small amounts...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

FORMALDEHYDE AND FORMALDEHYDE-RELEASING PRESERVATIVES

Cancer-causing formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives are often found in shampoos and liquid baby soaps.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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FRAGRANCE

Many products list “fragrance” on the label, but very few name the specific ingredients that make up a “fragrance.” This lack of...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
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HOMOSALATE

Homosalate is a widely used chemical in sunscreens and skin care products with SPF. Homosalate is a potential endocrine disruptor and...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

HYDROQUINONE

One of the most toxic ingredients used in personal care products, hydroquinone is primarily associated with use in skin lighteners marketed to women of color.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

LEAD AND OTHER HEAVY METALS

Heavy metals like lead, arsenic, mercury, are contaminants found in a wide variety of personal care products including lipstick, whitening toothpaste, eyeliner and nail color.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
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METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE AND METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE

They may be hard to pronounce, but they can be even harder on the body.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

MICA

Mica is a naturally occurring mineral dust often used in makeup foundations, as filler in cement and asphalt, and as insulation material in...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
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NAIL POLISH REMOVERS

A serious concern for nail salon workers and pregnant women, nail polish removers are linked to reproductive harm and organ toxicity.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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NANOMATERIALS

Insoluble nanoparticles in cosmetic products are essentially used as UV-filters or preservatives.Nanoparticles alter properties of...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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NITROSAMINES

Nitrosamines are impurities linked to cancer that can show up in a wide array of cosmetics ingredients—including diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA)—and products.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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OCTINOXATE

An endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen, octinoxate is found in hair color products and shampoos, sunscreen, lipstick, nail polish, skin creams.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

PARABENS

Parabens are preservatives used in a wide variety of personal care products. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals can be absorbed through skin, blood and the digestive system.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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PABA

PABA and PABA derivatives are commonly used in sunscreens as ultraviolet B (UVB) filters. PABA use has declined over the years, but its...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

PETROLATUM, PETROLEUM JELLY

Petrolatum, or petroleum jelly, derived from petroleum, is often used in personal care products as a moisturizing agent. When properly...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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PHENOXYETHANOL

Phenoxyethanol is used as a preservative in cosmetic products and also as a stabilizer in perfumes and soaps.  Exposure to phenoxyethanol...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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POLYACRYLAMIDE

Found in facial moisturizers, anti-aging products and more, polyacrylamide can break down into known carcinogen acrylamide.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
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POLYTETRAFLUOROETHYLENE (PTFE, AKA TEFLON®)

Teflon® in your makeup? Yuck.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

P-PHENYLENEDIAMINE

Consumers and salon workers may be exposed to p-phenylenediamine through many forms of permanent hair dyes called oxidative dyes.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

PRESERVATIVES

Preservatives may be used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. Parabens and formaldehyde-releasing...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

PHTHALATES

Banned from cosmetics in the European Union, phthalates are widely used in color cosmetics, fragranced lotions, body washes and other products sold in the United States.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

QUATERNIUM-15

Quaternium-15, a known skin toxicant and allergen, may be especially dangerous for hairdressers and janitors, who are sometimes exposed to...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

STYRENE ACRYLATES COPOLYMER

Styrene acrylates copolymer is a chain of polymers consisting of styrene and acrylate which is added to cosmetics for color. There is the...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

RED LIST

You shouldn’t need a PhD in chemistry to choose safe cosmetics and personal care products. Check out our list of chemicals to avoid in shampoos, lotions, and more.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

RESORCINOL

Resorcinol is commonly used in hair dyes and acne medication.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

RETINOL AND RETINOL COMPOUNDS

Retinol is the chemical name of the essential micronutrient vitamin A which can be harmful to your health when it’s added to cosmetic...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

SYNTHETIC MUSKS

Synthetic musks are chemicals added as scents to personal care products, including perfumes, lotions, and many cosmetics.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
  All Population  infants & children  pregnant women  teenagers  women of color  workers 

TALC

Some talc may contain the known carcinogen asbestos, therefore it should be avoided in powders and other personal care products, unless it...
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
  All Products  anti-aging  body  dental  fragrance  hair  makeup  nail  skin lighteners  sunscreens 
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TITANIUM DIOXIDE

In its inhalable form, as it is in loose powders, titanium dioxide is considered a possible carcinogen.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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TOLUENE

Found in nail polish and hair dyes, toluene is restricted for use in the European Union, but not in the United States.
  All Health  allergens/irritants  cancer  developmental & reproductive toxicity  endocrine disruption  environmental concerns  organ-system toxicity 
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TRICLOSAN

Triclosan, which has been linked to hormone disruption and antibiotic resistance, can be found in soaps, detergents, toothpastes, deodorants, and more.

About the author

Dr. Howard Dryden

Dr. Howard Dryden

Dr. Dryden has unique knowledge combination of biology, chemistry and technology and is the inventor of the activated, bio-resistant filter media AFM®. Dr. Dryden is one of the world`s leading experts in sustainable water treatment.

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Wherever you are and wherever you live, there is no safe haven from the toxic wave of chemical pollution

Dr. Howard Dryden, CSO

Goes Foundation

3/2 Boroughloch Square

Clean Water Wave

The Meadows

Edinburgh

EH8 9NJ

Email. howard@goesfoundation.com