Top 5 Most Harmful Chemicals in Your Skin Care

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So, I don’t want to scare you, but there are a lot of frightening things in your bathroom. Okay, maybe I do want to scare you, but you’ve survived this long so don’t panic, too bad.  

When it comes to ingredients, cosmetic companies in the U.S. are essentially unregulated. I mean, there are really harmful things allowed in your products, and companies use them because they're cheap.

My advice: buy from a company you trust!

Here are my top five ingredients to avoid:

1.      Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)

BHA is a preservative and stabilizer found routinely in body lotions, lipsticks, perfumes, and other products. The National Toxicology Program classifies BHA as a human carcinogen. In animal studies it produced: liver damage, stomach cancers, interfered with normal reproductive system development and thyroid hormone levels. Other than that, it’s totally safe. (Insert eyeroll here.)

2.     Parabens

Parabens are used widely as a preservative in makeup, moisturizer, shaving cream, shampoo, lubricant, etc. Look for butylparaben, isobutylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, or ethylparaben on your labels. Parabens are known estrogen mimickers, which means that they mess with reproductive hormones in females and males. The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption has listed parabens as category 1 priority substance.

They have also been linked to and found in breast cancer tissue. According to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, longer chain parabens like propyl and butyl paraben and their branched counterparts, isopropyl and isobutylparabens, may disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders.

Definitely check your labels for these parabens!

3.     Phthalates

Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in many products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastic. The main phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, diethyl phthalate in perfumes and lotions, and dimethyl phthalate in hair spray. They are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects in males and females. Unfortunately, many cosmetic companies get away with not listing it on their ingredients because they hide it under “fragrances”. Companies are not required to list what they use as their fragrance; a major loophole in the law.

4.    Triclosan

Found in antibacterial products, hand sanitizers, deodorants, toothpaste, and acne products. Triclosan is linked to cancer, thyroid, endocrine, and reproductive disruption; It is also harmful to fish and wildlife.   

5.     Synthetic Colors and Fragrances

If you look at your product label and notice FD&C or D&C, they represent artificial colors. These synthetic colors are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. Synthetic colors are suspected human carcinogens. The European Classification and Labeling considers them carcinogens and the European Union has banned them.

“Fragrance” or “Parfum” is basically a catchall for hidden chemicals. Federal law doesn’t require companies to list the ingredients in their fragrance mixture. Recent research from Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found an average of 14 chemicals in 17 name-brand fragrance products, none of them listed on the label. Fragrances can contain hormone disruptors and are among the top 5 allergens in the world. They are connected to headaches, dizziness, asthma, and other allergies.


We are honestly just scraping the surface here. My advice? Shop from companies that are transparent about their process and ingredients. And don’t believe marketing campaigns! They lie! Companies throw around words like “natural” and “organic” that don’t really mean anything. Find a company that truly shares your values.

Keep your skin care clean, goddesses 😉

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Lydia Rose Spencer