10 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products

It’s hard to narrow this list down to just 10 toxic personal care ingredients since unfortunately there are SO many. Even products that claim to be “paraben-free,” “clean,” or “all-natural” often hide toxins in their ingredients list. Ironically, sometimes these hidden ingredients are toxic chemicals that are some of the worst offenders!

Over a number of years we’ve gradually made the switch to much healthier, more natural cleaning and personal care brands, one product at a time.

And when I couldn’t find them, I made them!

Doesn’t the FDA Have It Covered?

It’s a common misconception that skincare ingredients must be proven safe and effective before they’re allowed on the market. Even worse, the FDA doesn’t have the authority to ban skincare ingredients that show strong evidence of being dangerous or deadly. Talcum powder is the perfect example.

Products that contain talc (aka talcum powder) include makeup and some baby powders. Talcum powder is frequently contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos. Johnson and Johnson paid millions over this issue, and the lawsuits just keep rolling in (so far there are 15,500 lawsuits).

It’s obvious the item should be pulled from shelves, right? Nope. Baby powder is still being sold in stores, still being sprinkled on baby’s genitals, and still causing harm for some. The FDA and government oversight agencies usually don’t pull the plug on toxins in skincare, so we all have to stay on top of what’s in our products.


Many companies have caught on to the fact that consumers want safe, natural products for their families. While this is driving positive change, not everything is as it seems. Since the beauty industry is largely self-regulated, skincare companies can dress up labels with natural-looking colors and terms like “vegan” and “all-natural” — all while still hiding a bunch of toxins in the ingredients list.

Just Because We Can’t Pronounce It…

I always read the ingredients list on skincare products, but just because I can’t pronounce it doesn’t mean an ingredient is necessarily bad.

For example, alpha tocopherol may sound like a toxic chemical, but it’s actually the antioxidant vitamin E. Shea butter is listed as the tongue twister (butyrospermum parkii) on skincare labels.

When in doubt, do some research!

Top 10 Toxins to Avoid in Personal Care Products

This is not an exhaustive list by any means but it helps weed out the top offenders. Typically if a product has one of these ingredients (or more) I can be pretty sure there’s a lot of other toxins in there too.

1. Fragrances

While they may smell pretty, masculine, or calming, fragrances hide a dirty secret. A lot of dirty little secrets! Companies aren’t required to disclose the chemicals that make up their fragrances (and sometimes they don’t even know themselves).

The chemists who create fragrances have over 3000 chemicals to work with. Many of these fragrance chemicals are derived from petrochemicals that are known allergens and hormone and endocrine disruptors. These toxic ingredients can hide under the terms fragrance or parfum and don’t have to be listed on the label.

Here are products to watch out for that often contain fragrance:

  • Air fresheners and scented candles (no, not skincare, but worth mentioning!)
  • Perfume, body spray, and cologne
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Haircare products
  • Body wash, hand soap, and bar soap
  • Makeup
  • Sunscreen
  • Bubble bath
  • Face wash
  • Makeup remover
  • Face treatments and cleansers
  • Lotion

2. Petroleum

Petroleum jelly, petrolatum, mineral oil… these are all names for the same ingredient. Often found in lotions and balms labeled “healing” to skin, petroleum jelly is actually a highly refined byproduct of the oil industry.

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