The No-Go Ingredients List

Quick reference list of toxic ingredients to avoid. If any of the following compounds are in any of your personal care products, it's time to ditch and switch.

1,4 Dioxane

This is a tricky one because it doesn’t appear on labels. It’s formed as a by product of mixing ethylene oxide to other ingredients to make them less harsh. For example, Sodium Laurel sulfate is quite harsh on the skin but when mixed with ethelyne oxide, it becomes less so, creating Sodium Laureth Sulfate. This is commonly found in products containing suds such as shampoos, liquid soaps and bubble bath. This is carcinogenic which means possible cancer causing, also potentially causes organ-system toxicity, and an irritant. Women tend to use several if not more products per day, so the risk of layering products containing this dangerous chemical is serious. Everyone should avoid this and in particular, pregnant women, infants and teenagers should steer clear of products that may contain 1,4 Dioxane. Ingredients to be wary of are PEG usually followed by a number, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethelene, and ingredients ending in “eth” and “xynol”

How to avoid: Avoid products containing SLS, SLES and PEG followed by a number.

Aluminum Salts

Listed as Aluminum Chlodride, Aluminum Chhlohydrate, Aluminum hydroxybromide. These show up in anti perspirant. It’s a neurotoxin and there has been conflicting data linking it to Alzheimers disease and breast cancer.

How to avoid it : It’s an easy enough one to avoid by switching to a natural deodorant.

Chemical Sunscreens : Octinoxate, Oxybenzone , PABA, Octyl-Methoxycinnamate

This is widely used as a UV filter commonly found in sunscreens, lipsticks, nail polish, hair dye, skin creams. The EWG Skin Deep website rates it a "6"with the highest concern being biochemical or cellular level changes and endocrine disruption.

How to avoid: read ingredients and switch to a sunscreen containing only zinc as it's active ingredient.

Coal Tar

This is a by product of bituminous coal and a known human carcinogen. It’s found in anti dandruff shampoos, hair dyes, cosmetics and sometimes mouthwash. Not always visible on the label as sometimes only parts of it are used, not the whole.

How to avoid it: if the label says Coal Tar, put it down and walk away! This is listed as a “10” on the EWG Skin Deep site, 10 being of highest concern. P-phenylenediamine is used in many hair dyes, the darker ones generally containing more than lighter colors.


As a group these chemicals are called Ethanol amines. They are used in a wide variety of household and cosmetic products as emulsifiers and pH balancers. They’re found in mascaras, foundations, blush, eyeshadows, eyeliners, fragrances, sunscreens, lotions, cleansers, hair dyes, household cleaners to name a few. The health concerns here are: Cancer, organ-system toxicity possibly affecting male reproductive health as well as accumulating in the liver and kidneys. Be on the look out for: Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethalomine (TEA), Monoethalomine (MEA), Ethanolomine (ETA)

How to avoid: Check the ingredients list


This is of the highest concern according to the EWG Skin Deep website who gives it a 10/10 score for toxicity. This is another of those hidden chemicals not always listed in the ingredients as it’s released by a number of preservatives. If you think about it, it’s what’s used to embalm dead people… It has been known to be found in nail polish, a wide variety of body and hair care products, hair growth products, antiperspirant. Health concerns are: Cancer, Immune system toxicity, allergen and irritant. Look out for: Formalin, Formic aldehyde, Merthaldehyde, methanal, Methyl aldehyde, oxomethane, oxymethylene. It can also be released by other ingredients such as DMDM hydantion, quaternium-15, diaxolidinyl urea.

How to avoid: Avoid antiperspirant and choose a natural nail polish or at least one that is “3,5 or 7 free”

Lead, Mercury

These metals may appear as contaminants in certain products. Mercury is an active ingredient of thimerosal which is used as a preservative in mascara. Lead has been found in a very high portion of lipsticks on the market. Thimerosal in mascara. Lead acetate can be found in some hair dyes. These metals are both highly toxic and wether ingested or absorbed into the skin can lead to numerous health issues including depression, brain damage, miscarriage, problems with the nervous system. Thimerosal. But unfortunately mercury and lead aren’t normally listed as ingredients themselves because they are contaminants.

Nano Particles


In fragrance, phthalates are used as dispersers and to prolong the scent. In nail polish they serve to make it more flexible and chip resistant. Again, not necessarily listed on the label. It may be hiding in a fragrance or perfume. Nail polish, hair products body product may contain phthalates. As well as a slew of household products and plastics. Health concerns are: Suspected carcinogen, endocrine disruptor, meaning they interfere with the production of hormones. DBP has been found to cause anatomical birth defects to baby boys(!!) and has been correlated to lower sperm count and decreased fertility. Everyone should avoid phthalates if they can especially pregnant and lactating women, infants, children, adolescents, menopausal women. Look out for: Fragrance; mostly but not always contains phthalates. Also look for DBP, DEHP, 1,2 benzenedicarboxylate (and variations of), dibutyl/diethyl esther (and variations of).

How to avoid: A proactive thing to do is contact the manufacturer to find out is if the product is phthalate free, or contains no synthetic fragrance


These are cheap preservatives used in most cosmetics to prolong the shelf life of the product. They can be found pretty much in everything from makeup, haircare, skincare to deodorant. (Parabens have also been found in breast cancer tissue) These are believed to be an Endocrine disruptor. Possibly mimicking estrogenic effects. Everyone should avoid these, especially women of child bearing age, infants, adolescents and menopausal women. What to look out for: Methyl/ Propyl/ Butyl/ Isobutyl/ Isopropyl Paraben, Hydrobenzoic acid or hydroxybenzoate or ester.

How to avoid: read the label

Sodium Laurel Sulphate, Sodium Laureth Sulphate

This is an inexpensive foaming agent used to cut through oil and is found all over the place. Soap, shampoo, body wash toothpaste, bubble bath baby wash, mascara etc. The biggest concern with SLS and SLES as mentioned earlier is contamination with 1,4 dioxane as well as ethelyne oxide. They are a common skin irritant. May be endocrine disruptors. What to look out for: Sodium lauryl/leaureth sulphate, sodium dodecyl sulphate, sodium salt sulfuric acid PEG lauryl sulphate

How to avoid: read the label

Synthetic Fragrance

Fragrance is a mixture of natural and synthetic chemicals used to give a product a pleasant smell. Fragrance in and of itself isn’t an ingredient but a collection of possibly hundreds of undisclosed chemicals. Due to “trade secret” laws, companies aren’t required to name what is in “fragrance”. In fact lots of companies aren’t aware of what goes into the said fragrance as the pre-made perfume can come from a separate company. Not to say that absolutely ALL products containing fragrance are harmful, just be prepared to do some research into the products you are using. The most obvious is perfume, but most products used on the body and in the home contain some form of fragrance including your lotions, haircare, skincare and makeup. Health concerns are potentially numerous because of the unknown ingredients and because it can be inhaled, ingested and absorbed through the skin. Some ingredients may be allergens, neurotoxins or skin irritants. Fragrance commonly contains phthalates which are potent endocrine disruptors. Everyone should avoid synthetic fragrance if they can especially infants, pregnant women, adolescents and menopausal women. Look out for: Fragrance, perfume, parfum.

How to avoid: Choose a natural perfume and if unsure contact the manufacturer.


A potent solvent and paint thinner found in nail polishes, nail hardener, some fragrance though it will not be listed. Believe it or not in some dental composites as I found out recently while researching what to get my teeth filled with- but that’s another story! This is a potent neurotoxin, immune system toxicity, it’s a bone marrow toxin, possible link to leukemia and blood cancer, may cause damage to a developing fetus. Everyone should avoid this nasty chemical, especially pregnant women. Be ware of toluene, toluol, methylbenzene, phenylmethane.

How to avoid: Use only reputable nail polish brands and read the labels, choose a 3,5,7 or 8 free polish or a completely natural one. Contact the manufacturer.