10 Harmful Ingredients to Avoid in Your Skincare

The average woman uses up to 9 personal products every day that exposes us to 126 unique ingredients. Some of those ingredients present in your skincare can be harmful to your health.

We are familiar with the fact that what we put in our body affects our health.

But do you know the product that you put on your skin can also drastically impact your health?

Yes, you read it right. It can affect your health if not used cautiously.

The average woman uses up to 9 personal products every day that exposes us to 126 unique ingredient.

An Environmental Working Group (EWG) report says 89 per cent of 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products haven’t been evaluated for safety by the (FDA) Food And Drug Administration. 

Our skin is our body’s largest and also one of the most important organs in our body.

It can easily absorb almost up to 60% of what we put on our body. Those chemicals may be the cause of your certain health problem. So next time you reach for your favourite shampoo or natural beauty product, take another look at the label and check out what it could be doing to your skin.

Unfortunately, cosmetics and personal care products have little government regulation. So it’s on you how careful you are and don’t get duped by these.

Don’t forget to check for these chemicals in your skincare that is lying in your closet. And also be mindful when you go shopping for skincare products and check for these harmful ingredients.

10 Harmful Ingredient in Skincare

1. Paraben

Paraben is used as preservatives in cosmetic product to increase their shelf life. It can be found in almost everything from soap to lotion to makeup. In fact, 80 per cent of common beauty product contains paraben.

Paraben is known to disrupt hormones signalling. A study linked one type of paraben to infertility in women. Some research also explains that parabens enter your skin and mimic estrogen(female sex hormone) that triggers excessive cell division in the breast. And it can eventually lead to breast cancer.

Other names: Isopropyl-, butyl-, isobutyl- etc.

Also lookout for the ingredient name that ends with “-paraben”, “methyl-“, “ethyl-“.

Most commonly found in– Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shaving gels, makeup, toothpaste.

2. Formaldehyde releasers

Formaldehyde is used in cosmetic products as a preservative to keep the product from growing bacteria and mould. When we use skincare product which contains formaldehyde, it releases into the air around us, and we breath that air. Its exposure has been linked to difficulty in breathing, eye irritation and cancer.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization consider carcinogenic.

Formaldehyde is also on the EU ban list because of its potential health risk. 

Other names: Formaldehyde, formalin, bronopol, or glyoxal.

Most commonly found in- eyelash glue, nail hardeners, hair gel and more


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate are foaming agents used in various cosmetic products like shampoo, toothpaste, lotions and cream. Studies indicate that these can cause skin irritation, depression and can cause damage to the eye.

Other names: SLS, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium lauryl sulfate, Sodium dodecyl sulfate.

Most commonly found in- Shampoo, soap, Washing liquid, Bubble bath, body wash.

4. Artificial Fragrance/ Perfume

Artificial fragrance, also labelled as fragrance or parfum, is found in almost every cosmetic product. It is best to avoid it because it can cause severe allergies and rashes. These fragrances are packed with many harmful chemicals.

Researchers at EWG have found that more than 75 per cent of product listing “fragrance” as an ingredient contain phthalate. This chemical is known to disrupt hormone activity, cause reproductive malformation and have also been linked to liver and breast cancer.

Other names: Fragrance, perfume, parfum, aroma.

Most commonly found in- Shampoo, soap, deodorant.

5. Phthalates

Phthalate is used mainly in fragrance and can also be found in other personal care product like hair spray and nail polish. Studies link phthalate exposure to reproductive abnormalities in baby boys and early puberty in girls.

Other names: DBP, DEHP, DEP and others

Most commonly found in- Nail polish, hairspray, sanitary pads and more

6. Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent used in skincare. It is use to treat hyperpigmentation caused by acne scar, age spots, freckles, and post-inflammatory marks caused by psoriasis and eczema.

This chemical, over time, is known to cause a skin disease called Orchonosis, which is characterized by blue-black lesions that in the worst-case, becomes permanent black caviar-size bumps.

Other names: Hydroquinone or tocopheryl acetate.

Most commonly found in- skin cleansers, facial moisturizers, fingernail coating, skin lightener.

7. Oxybenzone

This is a common toxic chemical found in cosmetics, especially sunscreens. It absorbs UV Alpha(UVA) and UV Beta(UVB) rays and is common in skincare products with SPF. 

Oxybenzone is found to cause skin allergies, redness and irritation. It has also been linked to fertility problems and obesity by the EWG. As the body easily absorbs it, it may affect the endocrine system due to accumulation.

Other names: Oxybenzone, “benzophenone-3”, “BP-3”.

Most commonly found in- sunscreen, hairspray, baby lotion.

8. Toluene

Toluene is a volatile petrochemical solvent and paint thinner found in most hair dyes and nail polish. It is a potent neurotoxicant that acts as an irritant, impairs breathing and causes nausea.

It can be dangerous for a pregnant lady as it can impair fetal development.

Most commonly found in– nail product

9. Coal Tar

Coal tar is a byproduct of coal processing. It provides the base for vibrant and lighter colour in lipstick. Coal tar is also used in hair dyes and in shampoo to treat dandruff and also for itchy and dry skin.

According to the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Coal tar is a human carcinogen.

Other names: FD&C or D&C, chemical colours ( BLUE 1, GREEN 3, etc.).

Most commonly found in- medicated shampoo, soap and ointment, hair dye.

10. Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is made up of petroleum. And if it’s not treated properly, then it can be carcinogenic, it can cause cancer. The compounds of mineral oil can build up in our body, in our fat and in certain organs. 

Most commonly found in- lip gloss, SPF, eyeshadow, concealer.