Top 10 Most Toxic Skin Care Ingredients

toxic skin care ingredientsThere are at least a hundred toxic chemicals in today’s skincare products. Creating a list of the top 10 was difficult. I got some help from Dr Peter Dingle.

Dr. Dingle is an acclaimed environmental and nutritional toxicologist from Australia. He first began writing about toxic chemicals in skincare products in 1999. His book “Dangerous Beauty” sold well, but apparently did not reach enough people. Hopefully, I can reach a few more with this article.

One of Dingle’s most recent articles was published in the Australian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine Journal. According to Dingle’s research, there are 24 toxic sunscreen ingredients, 13 toxic preservatives and 14 other ingredients that should be avoided and might not even be listed on the label of ingredients.

I started with Dingle’s list and then looked to other sources to find out which ones were the most toxic. It took some time, but I finally came up with a list of the 10 most toxic ingredients in skincare products on the market today.

Most chemicals are dangerous because they build up in the body over time and increase a person’s risk of cancer. Dozens of different cosmetic ingredients are known carcinogens. The ingredients in my top 10 are accompanied by the risk of cancer and they cause other health problems.

1. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is used as a preservative in skincare products. It is highly toxic to humans. Health problems caused by exposure to formaldehyde include:

2. Quartenium-15

Quartenium-15 is also a chemical preservative. It is a formaldehyde releaser. Formaldehyde releasers are chemicals that slowly release formaldehyde. So, all of the health problems listed above are associated with quartenium-15.

In addition, quartenium-15 is a potent allergen. It is the single most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis on the hands. The symptoms of dermatitis include redness, itching, and cracking, flaking and swelling.

3. DMDM Hydantoin

Another artificial preservative and a formaldehyde releaser found in shampoos, hair conditioners and skincare products. Use of products containing it is accompanied by all of the health risks mentioned above.

4. Imidazolidinyl Urea

Another formaldehyde releaser and common allergen, it is also used as an artificial preservative in cosmetics.

5. Diazolidinyl Urea

Diazolidinyl urea may be listed on some products as “Germaban”, a brand name. It too is a formaldehyde releaser that is commonly used in cosmetics as an artificial preservative.

6. Bronopol

Not only is bronopol a formaldehyde releaser, it also has the potential to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. You might call it a double whammy. If you use products containing it, you may be doubling your lifetime risk of cancer.

7. 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor

4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) is a sunscreen ingredient. It is fairly effective at blocking UVB radiation. It is often added to avobenzone, which only blocks UVA radiation. While it is UVA that cause burns, it is UVB that cause skin cancer.

4-MBC is an endocrine disruptor, a substance that interferes with the body’s natural production of hormones. Endocrine disruptors cause:

Studies concerning 4-MBC specifically have shown that it suppresses pituitary and thyroid activity, which leads to hypothyroidism. It is also a photo-allergen, which makes it really seem odd that it is included in sunscreens. Photo-allergens are compounds that cause allergy-related contact dermatitis, but only after exposure to sunlight. So a rash may be one of the first symptoms of 4-MBC exposure.

8. Octyl Methoxycinnamate

Octyl methoxycinnamate has proven to be toxic to cells in in-vitro studies. Animal studies say that it is not “significantly” toxic to skin cells. However, estrogenic effects have been seen in animal studies.

According to the Environmental Working Group, octyl methoxycinnamate is an endocrine disruptor and an allergen. It is toxic to the organs of the human body and enhances the absorption of other toxic ingredients in a product. It also accumulates in the body’s organs over time. The ingredient is often found primarily in sun-screening lip balms.

9. Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl Palmitate has recently been shown to contribute to the formation of skin cancers. The Environmental Working Group lists it as being toxic to all of the organs of our bodies. It causes changes on a cellular level and interacts with other chemicals commonly found in skincare products. It is typically found in sunscreens.

10. Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is a benzene derivative. Benzene is a known carcinogen. Oxybenzone is a suspected carcinogen. It is known to be an allergen, an endocrine disruptor and is toxic to human organs. It also causes changes on a cellular level and reacts with sunlight to form free radicals in the skin. Yet, it is a common sunscreen ingredient.

You can avoid all of these ingredients. You should avoid all of these and many others. To see our full list of toxic skin care ingredients read The Blacklist.

My best advice is to buy only skincare products that are natural and free of synthetic chemicals. Dr. Dingle recommends using skincare products containing vitamins, because vitamins naturally protect against free radicals and sun damage, which may reduce your risk of cancer.


Be sure to read our page on the best natural skin care products. It is frequently updated and contains information on our #1 recommended product line.

Topics: Natural Skin Care, Skin Care, Skin Care Industry, Skin Care Ingredients, Skin Care Products, Skin Health | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “Top 10 Most Toxic Skin Care Ingredients”

  1. Rich Guzman Says:
    August 3rd, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I can’t believe all the toxic things that is put into these products its really scary when you think about it.