Harmful ingredients in beauty products & cleaner alternatives

Do you ever wonder what’s really in your bathroom cabinet? Just as we look at food labels to help us understand what we’re feeding our body, we should make every effort to understand what’s in the beauty products we put on our bodies.

harmful ingredients in beauty

What does the research show?

Consider this: a recent study in the US notes that the average woman uses no less than 12 beauty products every day, with 168 unique ingredients; the average man uses six products daily, with over 80 unique ingredients.

That’s a whole lot of stuff we’re putting on our bodies. It’s not unusual for most products to be laden with chemicals and whilst many of these are harmless, some are actually pretty nasty. Endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and neurotoxins are common in beauty and personal hygiene products, and exposure to this kind of toxicity can add up over time.

Harmful ingredients in beauty: keep your eyes peeled

If you don’t know your parabens from your triclosan, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So we’ve pulled together a list of some of everyday beauty products and the most common harmful ingredients in them so you can tell the good from the bad and the ugly.

Harmful ingredients         What to look for on the label Common products these are found in
Benzophenone and related compounds Benzophenone, ingredients containing the word benzophenone (for example benzophenone-2), BP# (for example BP2) Lip balms, nail polish, foundations, shampoo & conditioners, hair spray, moisturisers & sunscreens
Butylated Compounds BHA, BHT Lip and hair products, sunscreen, antiperspirant & deodorants, fragrance & creams
Coal Tar Petroleum benzin, benzin B70, naphtha distillate Shampoos, soaps, hair dyes and lotions
Ethanolamine Compounds Triethanolamine, MEA, DEA, TEA, TEA-lauryl sulfate Shampoos, soaps, conditioners, lotions, shaving creams, cosmetics, fragrances, sunscreens
Ethoxylated Ingredients PPG, PEG, polysorbate and ingredients that end in –eth such as laureth, steareth, ceteareth Shampoo, liquid soap, bubble bath
Formaldehyde & formaldehyde-releasing preservatives Formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin Nail polish, glues, baby shampoo, body soap, bodywash
Fragrance Fragrance, perfume, parfum, essential oil blend, aroma Most personal care products including sunscreen, shampoo, soap, body wash, deodorant, body lotion, makeup, facial cream, skin toner, serums, exfoliating scrubs and perfume


The really bad guys

It can be tricky to remember what to avoid. The list above is geared to provide some detail, but below are the main ones to always keep top of mind, as these are classed as endocrine-disrupting chemicals and carcinogens which have been linked to adverse health effects:

  •      Parabens
  •      Phtalates
  •      Triclosan
  •      Synthetic musks
  •      Formaldehyde

The good guys

There are many all-natural alternatives out there to balance out the good vs evil scales. Remember that not all chemicals are harmful, but in the long run, opting for products that are free of questionable ingredients may be a good habit to foster. You can also try your hand at making your own beauty and personal hygiene concoctions at home.

Here at Plentiness, we pride ourselves in selecting such products because we believe that beauty (and health) starts from within – sourcing clean, natural ingredients is top of our agenda.

5 Golden rules to avoid harmful ingredients in beauty products


The complete list of the ingredients is written in decrescent order: the first ingredient has the biggest percentage in the formula and viceversa. Keep this in mind when you choose your products: this will also give you a better idea of how much of the advertised actives are actually infused in the final product. Sometimes the hero ingredient is among the last of the list…


Usually the shortest the list the better! Obviously only if the list isn’t a concentration of the bad guys 😉


If you’re not able to see the full ingredient list, ask for it!


When in doubt, check this free online source: Biodizionario.it. Just type the unknown or suspect ingredient and find out more about it and potential toxicity.


Screenshot or save the image below in your phone: you will always have a handy guide to what you should avoid.

harmful ingredients in beauty toxic 10

Disclaimer: This article is in no way a complete guide to harmful / toxic chemicals associated with cancer or any other adverse physical effects.

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