List of Toxic Ingredients Found in Skin Care

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned an independent laboratory test in 2009 on 48 skin care products for children and found that 61 percent of the products tested contained high levels of two cancer-causing chemicals: formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane 1. To limit your exposure to toxic ingredients in skin care products, select products with simple ingredient lists that have fewer synthetic chemicals. Limit your exposure by using just a few products and avoiding those with heavy fragrances and synthetic dyes. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the beauty industry is largely unregulated and there are no legal standards for personal care products when manufacturers state their products are pure, natural or organic 1.

Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate

It is a chemical that is toxic to the human nervous system and is a suspected developmental neurotoxin. The aluminum compounds are also suspected respiratory hazards.


Why Are Sulfates in Hair Products Bad?

Learn More

Arsenic is an impurity of some ingredients used in skin care products, says the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database 2. The ingredients aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, hydrogenated cotton seed oil, polyvinyl acetate and hydrogenated cottonseed glyceride may contain arsenic as an impurity. Arsenic is a known carcinogen that causes cancer, immunotoxicity, organ system toxicity and endocrine disruption.

Synthetic Fragrances

The Organic Consumers Association says synthetic fragrances used in skin care products can contain as many as 200 ingredients and there is no way to know exactly what makes up the fragrance ingredient since labels only state “fragrance.” Synthetic fragrances contain chemicals that can cause:

  • skin irritation
  • rash
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • coughing
  • hyperpigmentation in some people


How Is Lysol Health Hazardous?

Learn More

Methylparaben is used as a fragrance and as a preservative ingredient in skin care products, according to the Skin Deep Cosmetic Database 2. It is toxic to non-reproductive organs in the human body and may cause cancer, skin irritation, neurotoxicity and may disrupt endocrine function.


Oxybenzone or benzophenone-3 is an ingredient used in skin care products as a sunscreen agent, ultraviolet light absorber or ultraviolet filter. The Skin Deep Cosmetic Database states that oxybenzone may cause cancer and developmental toxicity 2.

Stearalkonium Chloride

The Organic Consumers Association states that stearalkonium chloride is a toxic chemical that can cause allergic reactions. It is used in creams and hair conditioners and was originally developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener and is cheaper to use in hair conditioners than herbals or proteins.