Common Toxic Ingredients In Skincare

Have you ever taken a look at the long list of ingredients on a product and still wondered what exactly is in it? This is a common issue many consumers experience. Skincare, hair care and cosmetics often have lengthy ingredient lists filled with difficult and confusing words. While products must disclose all ingredients on their packaging, In Canada, they do not need to include any warnings for potentially harmful ingredients, that's why it’s important to research these chemicals for yourself. Here are some examples of common toxic ingredients, see if you recognize any of these?

BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene)

These are closely related synthetic antioxidants used to preserve products, both cosmetic, skincare and food. BHAs often induce allergic reactions on the skin. Long-term exposure to doses of BHT has been proven to cause liver, thyroid, lung, and kidney problems in mice and rats. Currently, BHA and BHT are unrestricted in Canada but both chemicals require warning labels in California stating ingredients may cause cancer.

DEA (Diethanolamine)

These compounds are used to make products creamy, sudsy or can be used to adjust the pH balance of a product. DEA is mainly found in moisturizers, sunscreens, cleansers, shampoos and soaps. This compound causes moderate skin and eye irritation and high doses have been shown to cause changes to liver, skin and thyroid function. DEAs have been flagged for further assessment by Health Canada under the government's chemical management plan. MEA (monoethanolamide) and TEA (triethanolamine) are also similar compounds.


Parabens are the most widely used preservative in cosmetics, and often they aren’t even explicitly stated on the packaging but rather labelled as “fragrance/parfum” which can be a combination of many different ingredients. Parabens are easily absorbed by the skin. They have been proven to interfere with endocrine function which not only causes health issues but can also interact with UVB rays leading to increased sun damage and signs of aging.

Parfum or Fragrance

The issue with “parfum/perfume/fragrance” is that they are umbrella terms that can represent any mixture of chemicals used to scent a product. Sometimes even products claiming to be unscented can have fragrances added in them to mask the natural scent of the ingredients. Fragrances are used in the majority of skin, hair, cosmetic and even household cleaning products. Since these are mixtures of hidden chemicals (sometimes as many as 50 or more) could often cause allergic reactions and various negative health issues.

PEG Compounds (Polyethylene Glycol)

PEG’s are petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in cosmetics and skincare products as thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisture carriers. They are known to cause skin irritation, and more severe issues if the skin is broken. Depending on the process of derivation, they can also be contaminated with impurities, specifically ethylene oxide which is known as a human carcinogen and harms the nervous system. PEGs also have a heavy toll on the environment and do not decompose easily.

Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives

Just as the name says these compounds are preservatives that slowly release formaldehyde. They can be found in a range of cosmetics, plastics and household cleaners. While formaldehyde is a restricted ingredient in cosmetics in Canada, there is no restriction on the low levels of formaldehyde released by: DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quarternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.

These are only 6 of the handful of commonly used toxic ingredients in skincare. There are plenty of more harmful ingredients often used in everyday products. It's important to research any confusing or unfamiliar ingredients in your product to ensure, they are not causing more issues than they intended to solve.

At Pure Non-Scents, we have developed a 10 product line free of any toxic or harmful chemicals. We spent over 2 years researching and developing our products so that they are devoid of any toxic or unnecessary ingredients. Our collection is natural, packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to ensure your skin and hair are well cared for. Shop Pure Non-Scent Here