Toxic toiletries and cosmetics; and ’chemicals of concern’

Toxic toiletries and cosmetics; and ’chemicals of concern’

Chemicals of concern can be found in everyday toiletry and personal care products; here we look at 12 common products, which can contain chemicals that just might lie behind some of your illnesses, detailing the potential health risks.

12 toiletries and cosmetics containing chemicals of concern

We all want to look great and smell good, but at what cost to our health?

Your skin is a carrier, not a barrier - that’s how nicotine and HRT patches work. So, it's ludicrous to claim that chemicals cannot pass through our skin as some companies do.

The question then is what’s lurking in your toiletries, cosmetics and personal care products?

Research shows British women come into contact with 680 ’chemicals of concern’ on average, each month. They are in toiletries, cosmetics, detergents, cleaners - is it any wonder the in-home environment has been shown to be more toxic than that in a factory? In 2015 these ’Environmental toxins’ were shown to link to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes; something confirmed by more research in 2021. (1).

A Royal Commission in the UK warned of 4,000 chemicals of concern in everyday products - saying most were probably toxic and many were probably carcinogenic!

In 2012 Johnson & Johnson said that it would remove formaldehyde, parabens, triclosan and phthalates from all baby products. For adult products, it removed triclosan and phthalates. In 2018, a Court in St Louis granted a group of women $2.7 billion after claiming their ovarian cancer was caused by J&J asbestos-contaminated talcum powder (2, 3) 

Both the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are on the 'toxic toiletries' case in America but action by manufacturers is ponderous. In 2013 the World Health Organisation told world governments they should ban hormone disrupters like parabens, BPA and phthalates. And in July 2013 Triclosan was shown to cause muscle damage that could affect the heart. Little had happened by 2018.

Although the doses in each product may be minimal, xenoestrogens have been shown to be cumulative so there are really no safe limits on individual chemical levels. Euro MPs have already voted to kick out 1000 or more chemicals of concern and replace them with safer alternatives. A non-elected commissioner vetoed the decision and set up the REACH project - this may take 15 years at least to complete. 

It is still the case that you should read labels on your potentially toxic toiletry or personal care product, be very wary of chemicals of concern, spread the word and vote with your wallet.

Toxic Toiletries and Cosmetics - So how many of these 12 everyday chemicals do you use? 

Red = In high doses these have been deemed carcinogenic, neurotoxic and causes mutation of DNA

Green = Possibly carcinogenic, or often contaminated with carcinogens, or can form carcinogenic by products when mixed with other ingredients.

Blue = Skin irritant (note some red and green ones are also irritants)

1: Toothpaste
Saccharin, fluoride, artificial colours and flavours, propylene glycol (cosmetic form of mineral oil used in industrial anti-freeze), PEG ingredients, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), sodium lauryl ether sulphate (SLES), triclosan (absorption through the skin can lead to liver damage).

Remember: the quickest way into the bloodstream is through the lining of the mouth!

2: Deodorants & Antiperspirants
Formaldehyde (has caused lung cancer in rats and can damage DNA. It is banned in Japan and Sweden), aluminium (links to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease), propylene glycol, fragrance. alcohol, triclosan, parabens.


3: Shampoo & Conditioner
Formaldehyde (quaternium). PEG. fragrance (95% of the chemicals in perfume are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum - 26 of which are on an EU hit list), artificial colours, lanolin oil, propylene glycol. BHT. alcohol. isopropanol, paraffin (mineral oil). TEA, MEA, SLS, SLES (these can all lead to potentially carcinogenic cocktails of nitrites and dioxins forming by reading with other ingredients), cocamidopropyl betaine.


4: Shaving Products
Propylene glycol. PEG ingredients. DEA, paraffin, "eth" ingredients,TEA, MEA, SLS. SLES, Benzophenone 3, parabens, glycerin.


5: Lipstick
Mineral oil. petrolatum. fragrance, lanolin. Butylated hydroxya nisole(BHA). titanium dioxide, padimate-O, polyethylene, polyvinyl pyrro Ii done (PVP) (reports suggest that PVP may cause tumours and that inhaling its particles may be harmful), oxybenzone.


6: Shower Gel / Liquid Soaps
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate(SLES), proplylene glycol. PEG ingredients. quaternium. alcohol, artificial colours, fragrance, DEA, TEA. MEA, triclosan, parabens, glycerin.


7: Foundation
Talc, titanium dioxide, quaternium (formaldehyde). artificial colours, PEG ingredients, propylene glycol (cosmetic form of mineral oil), silica (may be contaminated with cystalline quartz which is carcinogenic). fragrance, diazolidinyl urea, silica ,parabens, glycerin. Foundation is the most dangerous thing in your make-up bag.


8: Hair Spray
Fragrance, alcohol, methylene chloride, toluene, ether.


9: Hair Dyes
Phenylenediamine (ppd can cause blindness on eye contact), coal tars, hydroxyanisole (affects the female reproductive system). paraffinum Iiquidum (mineral oil), fragrance, quaternium, PEG ingredients. "eth" ingredients, glycerin. Various medical reports have linked prolonged use of some dark hair dyes to bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian cancer and leukaemia.


10: Mouthwash
Alcohol (mouthwashes with an alcohol content of more than 2S% have been linked to mouth, tongue, oesophageal and throat cancers), fluoride, PEG ingredients, artificial colours.


11: Nail Polish, Nail Varnish
Formaldehyde. toluene (methyl benzene. phenyl methane a neurotoxin which can damage the liver, disrupt the endocrine system and cause asthma. Breathing high levels during pregnancy can result in children with birth defects). isopropanol acetone, acetonitrile (forms cyanide when swallowed), ethyl & methyl methacrylate.


12: Talc-based Baby Powder
Talc - has been linked to the increase in ovarian cancer and lung cancer because it can contain the contaminant, asbestos. It also blocks the pores when used in make-up and is may be dangerous when inhaled - fragrance. propylene glycol.



Phthalates do not appear on ingredients lists, but are hormone disrupters and can be leached from plastic bottles especially where the plastic has been heated (for example, a sun cream bottle left in the sun, a water bottle left in the car). Animal studies have shown they can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system.

'Why not see what OUR NATURAL SELECTION has in its store on the subject of toxin-free products. Click Here.



1. Environmental toxins link to cardiovascular disease, heart problems and stroke risk


2. Johnson & Johnson bowing to public concern over toxic chemicals -

3. Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million in court case linking Ovarian Cancer to baby powder -

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