7 Chemicals In Your Everyday Beauty Products That You’re Probably Using

by Polly N on January 15, 2014

Many years ago, I used to really enjoy walking into my local pharmacy or chemist and walking out laden down with beauty products that promised me glowing wrinkle-free skin, the perfect nails and soft shimmering hair. I would load up my basket with the latest products offering 2 for 1 deals on the the latest makeup brands, facemasks, moisturizers and creams promising me the very best in personal-care.


Little did I know that with every slather of moisturising cream and swipe of lipstick that I was loading up on chemicals.

When I was diagnosed with cancer aged 24, I decided to do everything that I possibly could to help my body heal in the hope of reversing the disease. This involved changing my diet, starting to meditate and use visualization, and clean up my life from all the toxins I was surrounded with. When I discovered what was in my personal care products that I was using every day, I was horrified and immediately switched to using chemical-free products only which I still do today.

Unbelievably, beauty brands are allowed to use chemicals as ingredients because they justify that they are “safe” as they use ‘small’ quantities. This alone is not acceptable but when you take into consideration that many of us use more than one product a day, (for eg in your morning routine you probably use shower gel, toothpaste, moisturiser, makeup and perfume), you are loading up on a host of chemicals that are extremely toxic for your body.

Here are the worst offenders and where you’ll find them:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES/1,4-Dioxane)

These ingredients are used in everything from garage floor cleaners to car washes to bubble baths to shower gels. If the product you’re using foams up when you use it, it probably has one of these ingredients in it.

SLES becomes SLS after it has gone through a process where it reacted with ethylene oxide, which is a known human carcinogen, which can cause irritation to the scalp, eyes and skin. According to the Women’s Environmental Network there is some evidence to suggest there are reproductive effects and damage to the liver, lungs & the immune system when this comes into contact with the body.

Fragrance & Perfumes

Thousands of chemicals are combined to make fragrance and because the manufacturers aren’t required to list each individual ingredient, there really is no way of knowing just what’s in it but it’s most likely made up of a toxic slew of chemicals you don’t want on your skin or inside your lungs. Many fragrances often bring out reactions in people as some can cause inflammation.

Giving up perfume was a toughie for me so I totally understand that this might be tough for you too but when you take into consideration the damage it’s doing to you on a number of levels, it’s hard to argue with the cold hard facts. I now use solid perfumes made from natural essential oils.


Phthalates are often used alongside fragrances as they help to make the scents in personal care products last longer. They are often added to cleansers, shampoos, conditioners and moisturizers and they are often not listed because they fall under the “fragrance” umbrella. Sneaky! Phthalates have been linked to decreased fertility in females and faulty reproductive development in male foetuses. They’ve also been associated with mimicking and blocking female hormones and onset puberty as well as causing problems in the male reproductive system.


Parabens are in everything from moisturizers to antiperspirants to shaving gel to sun creams to shower gels. They are chemicals with oestrogen-like properties, and oestrogen is one of the hormones involved in the development of breast cancer. New research has detected the presence of paraben esters in 99 percent of breast cancer tissues sampled. They have also been linked to premature aging so those night creams that promise wrinkle-free skin? They’re lying.

Also known as: methyl paraben, isobutylparaben, butylparaben, isopropylparaben, ethylparaben, E216.

Instead switch to a natural deodorant and ditch the antiperspirant as they work by blocking the pores under your arm. Ever since I started eating a super clean plant based diet, I haven’t really needed to use deodorant but on occasion during summer I do like to keep one on hand and my choice is Tom’s Of Maine.

Mineral Oil

Mineral Oil also known as petroleum jelly is an extremely cheap and common petroleum derivative used in moisturizers, lip balms, facial oils, conditioner and hair treatments. Petrochemicals contain neurotoxins, which damage the nervous system and can cause allergic reactions and skin disorders.

Mineral oil blocks pores and prevents your skin from breathing and detoxing and has been shown to increase the risk of tumours by 21% in studies. To avoid this, steer clear of Vaseline, baby oil, mineral oil and petroleum jelly. 


This is used as an antimicrobial in soaps and body washes and while the FDA maintain that it hasn’t been shown to harm humans, their website does admit that it has been linked to hormone disruption in animals. The Environmental Working Group tells us that triclosan and triclocarbon are also pesticides! Click here to read what the FDA has to say about this nasty stuff.

Nanoparticles and Oxybenzone

Sunscreens are created in order to protect our skin from damage from the sun but many are made with nanoparticle technology, which enable certain particles, that would otherwise be harmless, to penetrate your skin. Once they do so, they infiltrate other parts of the body, like the brain and contribute to cell death. Zinc oxide for example is normally considered safe for natural sun protection but with this technology it could damage your DNA and cause cancer.

Oxybenzone is an organic compound used in sunscreen, which oxidizes quickly when exposed to sunlight and may disrupt the normal functioning of the epidermis. It acts like oestrogen once it’s absorbed into the body and could be responsible for contributing to endometriosis in women. It also causes free radical damage by reducing the capabilities of antioxidants.

Instead, buy sunscreen that uses zinc oxide as a natural ingredient. Coconut oil also makes an excellent sunscreen. Topping up on superfoods also helps prevent sunburn by increasing your body’s ability to protect from UV rays.

A word about toothpaste:

Many brands on the market are very toxic and contain fluoride, which is a byproduct of industrial waste, SLS and saccharin to name a few. Switch to a natural alternative such as Gonozhi, Farrens or Green People. 


How many products do you use a day and would you consider switching to more natural brands now you know this? Tell me in the comments below.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bex January 15, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Really interesting – thank you. I think I might have the start of rosacea and I am looking for a gentle natural moisturiser and cleanser. Any recommendations of which brands to use?


polly January 16, 2014 at 11:48 am

Hi Bex, check out Love Lula https://www.lovelula.com?atk=_0cNEL73kdk0ANV4LSZFNQ and my latest post on natural alternatives. 😉 “Natural alternatives to your toxic beauty products” http://pollynoble.com/2014/01/natural-alternatives-to-your-toxic-beauty-products/


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