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7 toxic ingredients to avoid in beauty products

We all know what it’s like to feel like our beauty products are working against us—but they don’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to avoid toxic ingredients in beauty products. 

You’ve probably heard of some of these ingredients—they’re used in many cosmetic products. You might not know what they are, or why their use is so concerning. Here are just a few to keep in mind:


This ingredient is typically used as an anti-caking agent or color stabilizer, but it can be harmful to your health if you’re exposed to large amounts of it. It has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer. [1] 


SLS stands for sodium lauryl sulfate, and it’s often found in shampoos and cleansers because it helps them foam up easily! But studies have shown that this ingredient can cause skin irritation and other problems like eczema when used over time. [2]  

Apart from that, sulfates in shampoo can strip your hair from its natural moisture. 


Parabens are preservatives that prevent bacteria growth in cosmetics products—they’re also known as p-hydroxybenzoates or methyl paraben depending on their chemical makeup. They are found in lipstick, moisturizers, body washes—basically anything that comes in a tube or jar. They can mimic estrogen production in the body and have been linked to breast cancer. [3]  

Synthetic color 

Most people know to avoid artificial colors when they’re shopping for food items; but did you know that many cosmetics also use them? Some dyes can be made from coal tar, which is a known carcinogen. [4]  

Avobenzone and octinoxate

These two ingredients are commonly found in sunscreen and can cause irritation when applied over large areas of skin. Octinoxate can cause allergic reactions in some people who come into contact with it, including swelling of the lips or face, hives, and rashes.  

But, most importantly, these two ingredients are really harmful to coral reefs. They can bleach coral, making it vulnerable to disease and unable to absorb nutrients. These two ingredients are even banned in the state of Hawaii because of it! [5]


These chemicals can be found in hair care products, nail polish, and moisturizers, among other things. They’re also known as “plasticizers” because they make plastics more flexible. 

Some studies have suggested that phthalates may have endocrine-disrupting properties (i.e., they mess with hormones), though more research is needed before we can say if this is true. [6] In the meantime, it’s always best to steer clear of them. 


This chemical is used to preserve dead animals, so it’s probably not something you want on your face! Inhaling it can cause pneumonia and bronchitis, irritating your skin if it comes in contact with it. [7]  Formaldehyde is used in nail polish remover, hair straighteners, and relaxers, hair dye kits, eyelash extensions… it’s really hard to avoid. 

Of course, it’s usually in very low quantities in commercial products, but it’s always good to stay away from it, especially if you have sensitive skin that tends to react poorly to harsh ingredients.

At Ntdf.* our mission is to make vegan, clean, and sustainable shopping easier. All our products are made with natural ingredients, so you don’t have to search for toxic chemicals in lists. We read labels so you don’t have to.

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