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10 Potentially Toxic Chemicals Found in Cosmetics

Woman Comparing Cosmetics

Cosmetics are well-known for having long lists of ingredients. However, consumers may not understand the difficulties involved in developing and manufacturing substances that blend with skin tone and smooth imperfections. Using makeup can be an involved process, so is creating it.

Unfortunately, some cosmetics manufacturers overlook the dangers of including toxic ingredients. Creating makeup and hygiene products responsibly means avoiding these commonly used but potentially dangerous ingredients during the manufacturing process.

Cosmetic toxicity is not currently thoroughly researched, but for cosmetics manufacturers, it is safer to err on the side of toxicity prevention. For various reasons, you may want to avoid using the following substances in your cosmetic product development or manufacturing processes:

Coal Tar Dyes

Coal tar has the potential to contain heavy metals that, when absorbed through the skin or carried through the bloodstream, can be toxic to the brain. Introducing p-phenylenediamine and metals to the body can also lead to various types of cancer throughout the body.

Preservatives that Release Formaldehyde

As a natural chemical process, some preservatives, such as DMDM hydantoin and imidazolidinyl urea, release formaldehyde. When these preservatives are included in cosmetics, formaldehyde makes direct contact with skin and can creep into mucous membranes.


Some fragrances are made from chemicals that, in large enough doses, are toxic to humans. If enough fragrance is introduced, it could affect the brain, trigger allergies, or cause asthma flare-ups.


Health experts have begun researching the dangers of parabens in various commercially available products. Current stances from researchers point to a link between cumulative exposure to parabens and endocrine disruption, as well as the possible interference with the male reproductive system.


These make up another set of preservatives that are potentially harmful to the human body if ingested or absorbed. They, too, may be endocrine disruptors, and studies are underway to verify whether BHA could be a cancer-causing ingredient.


Under the right conditions, these chemicals that are common in moisturizers and shampoos can react with other chemicals to form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are harmful to humans and animals and could lead to the growth of cancer.


While not directly toxic, this chemical is used in antibacterial cosmetics such as cleansers, antiperspirants, and toothpaste. When overused, it may cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. For heavy cosmetics users, it could lead to sensitivity to bacterial infections.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Sodium laureth sulfate is susceptible to contamination by 1,4-dioxane, which may be cancer-causing. Like other toxic chemicals, the dangers are most present when overexposure is a strong possibility.


Found in products that add gloss or shine, such as salon-quality hair products, lip balm, and moisturizers, petrolatum can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These substances can trigger the processes that lead to cancer.


Siloxanes cause similar effects to those of parabens. They are found chiefly in cosmetics that soften, smooth, and moisten different parts of the body. The presence of siloxanes could cause reproductive issues and endocrine disruption.

Cosmetics Chemical Analysis

Don’t let poorly planned and potentially harmful cosmetics reach your consumers. If you’re concerned about the efficacy and toxicity of your product, or if you’re looking to ensure the safety of your cosmetic products, find out what Avomeen can do to deformulate and reformulate your product for safety. Additionally, we offer a wide range of analytical services for cosmetics companies. Get more information about our solutions for the cosmetic industry.