Ingredients that Suck!

Similar to making healthy food choices, choosing the right personal care products can have a huge impact on your long-term health and happiness. Much of what we place on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream, making it important to choose products that use healthy, natural ingredients. Green Beaver Organic Certified products are an excellent contributor to a healthy lifestyle. Remember, the only safe synthetic chemical is the one you don’t come into contact with!

Harmful Ingredients in Personal Care Products


This is a by-product of a petrochemical process. In other words, this contaminant is created when two other chemicals are mixed together. This compound is irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract. Exposure may cause damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. This contaminant can often be found in cosmetics and personal care products such as deodorants, shampoos, toothpastes and mouthwashes. More than 56 cosmetic ingredients are associated with the contaminant 1,4-dioxane.

Look out for it!
The following is a list of some of the most common ingredients associated with 1,4-dioxane:

  • Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate
  • Triethanolamine laureth sulfate
  • All ingredients with “”eth”” in the name e.g. ceteth, oleth, steareth, ceteareth, myreth followed or not by a number
  • All ingredients with “”PEG”” in the name e.g. PEG-8, PEG-40 glyceryl cocoate, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil
  • All ingredients with “”oxynol’ in the name
  • All ingredients with “”polythylene””,””polyethyleneglycol”” or “”polyoxyethylene”” in the name
  • All the Polysorbates
  • All are synthesised by ethyoxylation and contain the carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane”

Further Reading

  1. Dioxane-and-Ethoxylation
  2. Safe Cosmetics

Synthetic Fragrances or Perfume

Not many people realize that 95% of the chemicals in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. Some of these chemicals can alter the skin’s surface tension, allowing more chemicals to be absorbed through the skin.

Fragrance chemicals affect the brain and nervous system, with some effects being immediate and transitory, and other effects being chronic and long lasting.

Fragrances can:

  • Modify brain blood flow
  • Alter blood pressure, pulse and mood
  • Trigger migraine headaches
  • Induce or worsen respiratory problems
  • Trigger asthma in school-age children (asthma is now the leading serious chronic illness among youth)

Look out for it!
Every year, more and more commonly used chemicals are found to be hormone disrupters. Fragrances often contain large amounts of phthalates, a group of toxic chemicals that are known estrogen and testosterone hormone disrupters. It is presently unknown how many of the hundreds of existing fragrance chemicals have these properties.

Further Reading

  1. Safe Cosmetics
  2. Fragrance: A Growing Health and Environmental Hazard

Synthetic pigments and colours

Synthetic pigments may contain heavy metal salts that leave toxic by-products on the skin, and they are a known contributor to skin irritations and contact dermatitis. Coal tar chemicals, which are found in synthetic colours used in almost all coloured personal care products, are a known human carcinogen. Coal tar derivatives are also used as a dye base for dark hair colouring, and some substances derived from it have been linked to bladder cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. FD&C Blue 1 and FD&C Green 3 are possible carcinogenic, and impurities in other colours — D&C Red 33, FD&C Yellow 5 and FD&C Yellow 6 — have been shown to cause cancer when applied to the skin.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil, also known as paraffin oil, is a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum, and is widely used in creams, lotions, cleansers, moisturizers, hair products and makeup. It interferes with the skin’s ability to breathe, can cause allergic reactions, slows down skin function and cell development, can cause dryness and clog pores. Any mineral oil derivative can be contaminated with cancer causing PAH’s (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons).

NOTE: Baby oil is 100% Mineral Oil!

Petrolatum (Mineral oil in a gel form)

Petrolatum causes many problems for photosensitive skin (that is to say, it augments damage from the sun). It also tends to interfere with the body’s natural moisturizing mechanism, leading to dry skin. Any product sold that contains this chemical creates the very conditions that it claims to relieve. Many manufacturers use petrolatum because it is incredibly cheap. Highly comedogenic. Petrolatum is listed as a probable human carcinogen in the European Union’s Dangerous Substances Directive, and its use in cosmetic products was banned in Europe in 2004, yet it is still permitted in North America.

Further Reading

  1. Cosmetics Database Ingredients
  2. Cosmetics Database Impurities

Aluminum Chlorohydrate

Aluminum, which has been linked to breast cancer, is found in many popular deodorants. A study was conducted in 2004 by Dr. Kris McGrath, a Chicago allergist who claims to have found a connection between antiperspirants, underarm shaving and cancer. He believes the culprits in these antiperspirants are the toxins in aluminum salts such as Aluminum Chlorohydrate. He says they don’t normally penetrate the skin enough to cause a problem, unless the skin is shaven. If you disrupt the skin by shaving, it can open up the door, because just under the skin is the lymphatic system, which is connected to the breast. In this study, more than 400 Chicago-area breast cancer survivors recalled their lifetime history of using antiperspirants and underarm shaving. He found that women who perform underarm shaving more aggressively had a diagnosis of breast cancer 22 years earlier than the non-users.

Propylene Glycol and Butylene Glycol

Petroleum plastics act as surfactants (wetting agents, solvents). EPA considers Propylene Glycol so toxic it requires protective gloves, clothing, goggles and disposal by burying. Because Propylene Glycol penetrates skin so quickly, EPA warns against skin contact to prevent brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities. There is NO warning label on products where concentration is greater than in most industrial applications. Used as a solvent, propylene glycol is probably THE most common ingredient found in personal-care items, such as make-up, hair products, lotions, after-shave, deodorants, mouthwashes, and toothpaste. (Check the labels of your favourite products!) It’s so strong that it can take barnacles off the bottom of boats, but because it’s so inexpensive, it’s widely used in very high concentrations in most personal care formulations, even ones from ‘natural food’ stores.

Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES)

Ammonium Laureth Sulfates are detergents and surfactants that pose serious health threats. Used in car washes, garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers and 90% of personal-care products that foam. Animals exposed to SLS experience eye damage, depression, laboured breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation and even death. SLS may also damage skin’s immune system by causing layers to separate, inflame and age.


Sunblocks, made with the minerals titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, stay on the skin’s surface, reflecting UV rays. However, to make them more aesthetically appealing and less opaque, some newer products use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide reduced to microscopic nanoparticles. A nanometer (nm) is about a billionth of a meter. To give you an idea of how small a nm is, consider that a single human hair is about 80,000 nm in diameter. The problem with nanoparticles is that they are unpredictable – they could penetrate the skin or enter the bloodstream, where they may damage cells.


A white-gray mineral powder used especially as a baby powder and in deodorant products. Long term use can produce the same effects as those of asbestos. Besides the consequences on the respiratory system, talc can also affect the reproductive system.


This synthetic antibacterial ingredient has a chemical structure similar to Agent Orange! EPA registers it as a pesticide, posing risks to human health and to the environment. It’s also classified as a chlorophenol (chemical suspected of causing cancer in humans). Tufts University School of Medicine says triclosan is capable of forcing emergence of super bugs it cannot kill. The Canadian Paediatric Society called for parents to stop buying antibacterial products, and instead use soap and water to wash toys, hands or household items.


Oestrogens are commonly found in many products, usually not listed on labels. Health effects include damage to liver/kidneys, birth defects, decreased sperm counts and early breast development in girls and boys.

Further Reading

  1. Safe Cosmetics

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

This ingredient is commonly used in personal care and cosmetics products to adjust the pH balance or formulation. It’s a skin/eye irritant and causes contact dermatitis. It can easily be absorbed through the skin and accumulate in body organs, even the brain. Repeated use results in major increases of liver and kidney cancer. May contain nitrosamines, a known carcinogen, or can generate nitrosamines as a by-product of manufacturing. These chemicals are already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects.

Further Reading

  1. Safe Cosmetics


(DEA, DEA-CETYL phosphates, DEA OLETH-3 phosphates, Myristamide DEA, Stearamide MEA, Cocamide MEA, Lauramide MEA, Oleamide DEA, TEA-Lauryl Sulfate) – These chemicals ingredients are used as emulsifiers and foaming bases in the majority of body care products in spite of the fact the the FDA (The American Food and Drug Administration) has warned the industry of their potential danger since 1979. Furthermore, in 1998 a study by the NTP (American National Toxicology Program) seriously condemned their use and designated them nitrates and nitrosamins, cancer causing elements.

Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde releasers

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (causes cancer). It causes allergic, irritant and contact dermatitis, headaches and chronic fatigue. The vapour is extremely irritating to the eyes, nose and throat (mucous membranes). Imidazolidinyl Urea, Diazolidinyl Urea, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (Bronopol), Quaternium-7, 15, 31, 60, etc., DMDM Hydantoin, Hydroxymethylglycinate are just some of many preservatives that release formaldehyde which may cause joint pain, cancer, skin reactions, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness, and loss of sleep. Exposure may irritate the respiratory system, trigger heart palpitations or asthma and aggravate coughs and colds.

Further Reading

  1. Safe Cosmetics


Phenoxyethanol is a preservative used in many so-called ‘natural’ skin care products. Enter phenoxyethanol into the Chemical Toxicity Database, and seven entries are listed. A sample of information found on phenoxyethanol includes:

  • Hazards Identification
    • Harmful if swallowed
    • Causes skin irritation
    • May cause central nervous system depression
    • May cause kidney damage
    • May cause respiratory and digestive tract irritation
    • Target Organs: Kidneys, central nervous system


  • Skin Contact: Severe irritation or burns
  • Eye Contact: Severe irritation or burns
  • Ingestion: May cause gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • May cause central nervous system depression
  • May cause headache, dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea
  • Advanced stages may cause collapse, unconsciousness
  • May cause coma and possible death due to respiratory failure
  • May cause kidney failure
  • May be harmful if swallowed
  • Lesions may appear in the brain, lungs, liver, meninges and heart

How do you feel about using products that include this ingredient?


Plastic solvent used as an insect repellent. Very irritating to the skin. Cases of death related to DEET usage have been compiled by the American Federal Environment Agency. Health Canada banned from stores any products containing more than 30% of DEET in December 2004.


Derived emollients are occlusive – that is they coat the skin, trapping anything beneath it, and do not allow the skin to breathe (much like plastic wrap would do.) Recent studies have indicated that prolonged exposure of the skin to sweat, by occlusion, causes skin irritation. Some synthetic emollients are known tumour promoters and accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes. They are also non-biodegradable, causing negative environmental impact.


Any chemicals used on sheep will contaminate the lanolin obtained from the wool. The majority of lanolin used in cosmetics is highly contaminated with organo-phosphate pesticides and insecticides.

Harmful Ingredients Found in Sunscreen Products


Avobenzone is easily absorbed through the skin. It is used in sunscreens because it absorbs ultraviolet radiation energy. Since it cannot destroy this energy, it has to convert the light energy into chemical energy, which is normally released as free radicals. In sunlight, avobenzone degrades and becomes ineffective within about 1 hour.


Scientists discovered that benzophenone, one of the five of six chemicals commonly used in chemical sunscreens, seems to mimic oestrogen. They recommended more studies to look at possible long-term effects as a hormone disruptor.

Homosalate and Octylmethoxycinnamate (octinoxate)

Homosalate and Octylmethoxycinnamate (octinoxate) are common sunscreen ingredients. This is concerning because they have shown estrogenic activity in lab tests. They’ve been shown to disrupt hormones, affect the development of the brain (particularly the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal system) and of reproductive organs in laboratory rats.

PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)

PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) is rarely used now in sunscreens, but you should still be aware of products that contain this ingredient. Forty percent of the population is sensitive to it, experiencing red, itchy skin.