Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid: Harmful, Toxic Products in Skincare & Makeup

Even with good exercise and nutrition, our skin can experience dryness and premature aging from exposure to harsh chemicals. Here is a list of skin care ingredients to avoid.
skin care ingredients to avoid

We all want to keep our skin and body looking their best for as long as we can. That’s why most of us have developed beauty routines featuring some of the best skin care products on the market.

But, why do we want to take care of our beautiful skin? Well, it serves as the protective layer for our muscles and organs. When our skin looks fresh, hydrated, and firm, it gives that unmistakable glow, but when it's dry and irritated it can result in wrinkles and make us appear a lot older than we actually are.

We all know that as we age, our skin starts to lose its natural bounce, making us look older. But, time isn’t the only thing that takes a toll on our skin. Our environment also plays a huge part in our skin’s health. And, one of the main culprits which make our skin age at a rapid rate is harsh chemicals. These chemicals are all around us. They’re in makeup products, chemical-based soaps, and other toxic skincare products. Not only can they actually encourage wrinkles and dry skin, but they even carry risks that go way beyond the health of our skin.

The worst part is that, in many cases, some of these harmful ingredients are present in anti-aging skin care products that are supposed to help us achieve that youthful appearance. It’s, therefore, important to know which of these ingredients have a negative effect on our skin and health so that we can remove them from our skincare routine.

In this article, we summarize how these ingredients impact your skin and body, the top 16 skin care ingredients to avoid, and where they are most commonly found.


How Chemicals Affect the Human Body


The FDA regulates many products throughout the United States but does not approve personal care products and skincare ingredients before they hit the market.1 This means that skincare brands are legally responsible for their own self-regulation. Now, this doesn’t mean that cosmetic companies are using 100% healthy ingredients in their formulas - in fact, it's just the opposite. Many companies include harmful ingredients that may cause birth defects, create hormone disruption, and can lead to other horrible side effects. All of this simply because these companies enhance their products in a way that cannot be recalled by the United States' FDA.1

You might be surprised by how many not-so-good additives, preservatives, and other types of ingredients are commonly used in skincare and cosmetic products. While many of these chemicals have received approval from regulatory agencies, they won’t necessarily have a positive impact on your skin.

As a matter of fact, it really depends on the concentration, exact compound used, and method of application among other variables, so we'll need to keep all of these in mind when evaluating which ingredients and chemicals in skincare products to avoid.

In most cases, harsh chemicals like chlorine and alcohol can produce skin irritation, rashes, and even lead to difficult-to-treat conditions like psoriasis. These chemicals pose more of a risk for people that have problems like allergies or skin that is sensitive. Folks who are undergoing a specific type of treatment or suffer from a chronic condition like rosacea may also experience issues. People with additional complications tend to develop more severe symptoms, potentially resulting in a chronic condition that needs regular attention.

It’s also important to learn about what ingredients to avoid in skincare during pregnancy and while breastfeeding because the chemicals that you consume directly affect your children, especially things like endocrine disruptors that can mimic estrogen in the body.

In addition to common complications like irritation, harsh chemicals can have a heavy impact on the health of our newborns. Some harsh compounds can lead to developmental issues and other severe health problems if ingested by children. Because of this, learning about which ingredients to avoid in skin care products during pregnancy and while breastfeeding is crucial for the health of your child.


More helpful reading:


Do Skin Care Products Absorb Into the Bloodstream?


One of the biggest misconceptions in the world of cosmetic and skincare goods is that external-use products don’t get past our primary dermal layers.

As a matter of fact, research suggests that about 60% of certain chemical compounds penetrate past our skin and are absorbed by the body, where they interact with different organs and often have negative effects.2 Certain chemicals used in products in the United States and around the world can act as endocrine disruptors. These endocrine disruptors can cause long-term side effects in women and men, as well as cause birth defects in babies.

If the products we use contain harmful ingredients that should be avoided in skincare, there’s a good chance they can seep into our pores, end up in our bloodstream, and get distributed to the rest of our body - causing different types of issues.

So, if you’re asking yourself “is chemical soap bad for your dermis and the rest of your body?” The answer is a resounding yes.

Even common products like sunscreen may deposit unsafe amounts of harmful ingredients like toxic chemicals and endocrine disruptors into the bloodstream, so we need to pay attention to which ingredients to avoid before purchasing our next products.

Remember, chemical compounds can be used for a variety of reasons including regulating texture, producing a specific scent, and giving cosmetics a particular appearance. We recommend you take the time to look through your current cosmetics and remove those that have harmful skincare ingredients.


More helpful reading:


Top 16 Skincare Ingredients to Avoid


Now that we’ve reviewed the negative effects of toxic ingredients in skincare to avoid and how these can affect the whole body, it’s time to go over the 16 ingredients to avoid in your skincare products at all costs.

Keep in mind that there are many more ingredients that can harm our skin and cause negative consequences, but we’ve focused on the compounds often included in soaps, perfumes, products for babies, and other common goods.

Our list of toxic ingredients in makeup and skincare includes synthetic as well as natural compounds that can have a detrimental effect on our health as a whole. If you want to know “what ingredients should I avoid for sensitive skin?” then just continue reading!

Let’s take a look at the ingredients to avoid in skin care products:


1. Alcohol Denat and Other Harsh Forms of Alcohol


Alcohol is one of the most common ingredients in skincare products that are used to help the formula fully penetrate into the skin, absorb quickly, spread evenly across the skin, and act as a preservative to keep the product from going bad. With this in mind, there are many different types of alcohol and many of these have a negative effect on the body.

On the back of your skincare products, you might find different forms of alcohol including isopropyl alcohol, ethanol, and alcohol denat (otherwise known as denatured alcohol and one of the biggest offenders), but all of these different types can cause negative effects on the dermis.3

That said, it’s important to note that not all alcohols are bad for the dermis. In fact, there is a class of alcohols known as fatty alcohols (or long-chain alcohols) that are generally included in skincare for their emollient and thickening properties. These fatty alcohols are not only less harmful, but they can even help improve dry or damaged skin.


More helpful reading: Alcohol in skincare.


Negative Effects of Alcohol


The vast majority of alcohols, including alcohol denat, are bad for the skin and can actually result in acne breakouts if used regularly. We consider them one of the top ingredients to avoid because these bad alcohols melt away part of the protective dermal barrier so our external layer can’t hold in moisture as long as it usually does. They also affect the health of your dermis, causing it to be more vulnerable to the development of bacteria and fungus. This same effect causes the body to produce oil, which can lead to acne and other skin irritations if left unchecked.

Generally, as we mentioned before, vegetable-based fatty alcohols like cetearyl alcohol don’t produce as much damage. In some cases, products with these types of alcohols may actually hydrate your dermis and promote better cellular function. While most alcohols produce unwanted effects, you don’t have to worry as much if you’re asking yourself “Is cetearyl alcohol bad for my skin?”.


Commonly Found In… 


Alcohols are one of the most popular ingredients found in products like hand sanitizers, moisturizing creams, and soaps. You can even find them in cosmetics like toners, serums, face masks, and lotions. They are among the top harmful skin care ingredients to avoid because they can leave you with dry and unhealthy skin. Keep in mind that isopropyl alcohol is used in hospitals and other settings as rubbing alcohol, but it can still cause irritation.

So, if someone asks you “Is rubbing alcohol bad for your dermis?” the answer is almost always yes.

But, if you want a product that reverses the harsh effects of alcohol on your complexion, you’ll want to include a solution in your skincare routine that promotes serious hydration, like our Taut Hydrate vegan supplement.

Each plant-derived pill works like a super moisture magnet to fill, hydrate, and plump dry, damaged skin deep from within where other serums and fillers cannot penetrate. The unique formula combines hyaluronic acid and grape seed extract (a powerful antioxidant) to increase moisture, protect the dermis from free radical damage, and reduce pigmentation and skin imperfections.


2. Witch Hazel


Witch hazel is considered a natural ingredient that’s sourced from a plant with the same name. Scientifically known as Hamamelis virginiana, the leaves, bark, and branches of this flowering shrub are processed to create products like topical creams, home remedies, and other cosmetics often applied directly to the epidermis. 

Witch hazel is packed with antioxidants and other beneficial compounds, but it also contains substances that produce dryness and irritation, such as tannins.4 Tannins (or tanninoids) are natural polyphenols and are present in some of our favorite things, like black tea and red wine. In witch hazel and skincare products in general, tannins are not so good, which is why witch hazel is included in our list of chemicals to avoid in cosmetics. So, check the labels of the products you want to purchase to ensure they don’t contain this natural ingredient.

skin care ingredients to avoid witch hazel


Negative Effects of Witch Hazel


Is witch hazel bad for your skin? Well, the simple answer yes, to some extent. While some women use witch hazel-containing products to help improve their acne, sunburns, and other ailments like bug bites, dermal inflammation, and even bruises, there are some downsides. For example, certain dermal conditions, like eczema, could be made worse from witch hazel-based products.

Now, while the negative effects of this natural compound are not lethal, the tannins in witch hazel can compress the proteins found in your dermis, thus causing dermal dryness and even cracking in severe cases (and nobody wants that!).

Additionally, most witch hazel products are processed using other harmful ingredients that can affect your health - like alcohol. So, it's good to check the ingredients of these products before making a final choice.


Commonly Found In… 


Although it’s natural, witch hazel can produce severe irritation and dryness when used in skincare products. That said, it’s commonly used by acne-prone people to address spots and blemishes that appear on over-hydrated skin. It’s also a common ingredient in makeup remover, toner, face creams, and puffy eye treatments.


3. Phenoxyethanol


Phenoxyethanol is a common cosmetic and sunscreen ingredient, but this ingredient has received a lot of negative attention over the last few years. Also known as glycol ether, phenoxyethanol is among the most common toxic ingredients in everyday products, giving them a sticky and slimy texture as well as a faint, sweet scent - but it can still be very bad from a health perspective. Keep in mind that phenoxyethanol can appear under a wide variety of names, including:

  • Rose ether
  • Dowanol
  • Phenoxetol
  • PhE
  • Fragrance (phenoxyethanol is a common ingredient of many types of fragrance)
  • Arosol and many more


Phenoxyethanol is one of the most popular preservatives and antiseptic ingredients that keeps microorganisms, like bacteria and fungi, out of your skincare products. It also helps stabilize skincare products to prevent them from separating or going bad with exposure to air and light. 

You might be surprised by how many products may contain phenoxyethanol. It’s a very common chemical that’s used in cosmetics, cleansers, and lipsticks.5 


Negative Effects of Phenoxyethanol


While the FDA has found that concentrations below 1% don’t produce immediate side effects, people with sensitive skin, eczema, or allergies to certain ingredients that use phenoxyethanol have experienced side effects like:

  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Eczema
  • Dermal dryness and irritation


If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it might be a good idea to avoid using skincare products with phenoxyethanol. Some experts have observed central nervous system complications, dehydration, and vomiting in children with mothers who are breastfeeding that have been exposed to different forms and higher concentrations of phenoxyethanol. Therefore, it’s a good idea to avoid products that have this ingredient.


Commonly Found In… 


Unfortunately, many skincare products and personal care products contain phenoxyethanol - some of which you most likely already have in your bathroom cabinet, including:

  • Soap, including liquid and bar soap
  • Cosmetics, like foundation, mascara, eyeliner, lip gloss, and blush
  • Creams, moisturizers, baby lotions
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Perfume
  • Hair products, like hair spray and hair color
  • Shaving cream and deodorant
  • Different types of gel, like ultrasound gel

If you want to avoid phenoxyethanol, look for ingredients like ‘2-Phenoxyethanol,’ ‘Euxyl K 400,’ and ‘PhE.’


4. Baking Soda


Can you believe that baking soda can be bad for your dermis? Although baking soda is a common household item and many folks have implemented this ingredient into their cleaning routine, it might not be so good for your dermis.

Also known as sodium bicarbonate, this ingredient has anti-inflammatory properties and is alkaline, so it’s also used to stabilize certain products’ acidity.

Now, baking soda isn’t totally bad. In fact, this ingredient can have some benefits for dermal health, particularly for people who suffer from eczema. Even the National Eczema Association recommends creating a paste out of baking soda or adding it to bathwater as a way to soothe and treat an outbreak.6

Unfortunately, some people have also started using it to try to address acne on their face and body. And this can end up drying out moisturized body parts, making acne worse, and creating other dermal issues.

skin care ingredients to avoid baking soda


Negative Effects of Baking Soda


The dermis is naturally acidic because this helps keep beneficial oils intact. An acidic environment also helps keep away certain bacterias and keep moisture in place. When that acidity is taken away or neutralized, we start to run into problems like acne and infection.

Baking soda is a powerful alkaline substance, which means that it can overpower the natural acidity of the dermis. This leads to an imbalance of the natural oils in our dermis and ends up stripping away all of the natural bacteria. With this in mind, the use of baking soda has been shown to cause certain problems like:

  • Early wrinkle onset
  • Severe breakouts
  • Skin irritation, dermal inflammation, and dryness
  • Dying cells or a peeling/flaking dermis 
  • Elimination of dermal flora


Commonly Found In… 


Since most people have a box of baking soda sitting in their kitchen cupboards, it’s common for women to find natural home remedies online and mix up their own skincare concoctions. Nowadays, you can find instructions online to create almost any skincare product, from shampoos to face washes. But, unless you were specifically instructed to do so by your dermatologist, developing your own baking soda skincare products isn’t a very good idea.

Not only is it a popular ingredient for DIY skincare products, but now baking soda is a common ingredient in some cosmetics like facial exfoliants, pore cleansers, spot treatments, anti-aging creams, and skin repair treatments that you can find at drugstores and beauty retailers. So, make sure you check the list of chemicals on the back of your cosmetics to keep your dermal oils intact by keeping baking soda out of your skincare routine.

If you really want to improve your skin health, opt for a solution like our Taut Intensive Recovery Face Serum, instead of reaching for that box of baking soda.

Formulated with 7 powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory botanical herbal extracts, the serum is able to repair stressed, environmentally-damaged skin and reinforce your epidermis. Not only does it promote skin radiance, clarity, and firmness, but it also fights free radicals and creates a stronger skin defense against stress, giving you a more youthful appearance and radiance. 


More helpful reading: What are free radicals?


5. 1, 4 Dioxane & Polyethylene Glycol


Some chemicals on this list may sound harmless, but they are actually dangerous, toxic skin care ingredients that can produce severe complications. 1,4-Dioxane is one of these bad skin care ingredients and it’s found in a wide variety of cosmetics.7 You can find 1,4-dioxane in polyethylene glycol (PEG). Polyethylene glycol is often included in products like cleansers, sunscreens, and moisturizers as an emollient.

It's important that you check the label on skincare products as you buy them. Moreover, you should review the ingredients in the cosmetics that are already in your cabinet to confirm that they do not contain this harsh synthetic chemical. 


Negative Effects of 1, 4 Dioxane & Polyethylene Glycol


1,4 dioxane is classified as an industrial chemical and known carcinogen, according to the EPA.8 In addition to potentially causing breast cancer in healthy people, exposure to a large amount of 1,4 dioxane can cause headaches, drowsiness, respiratory system irritation, vertigo, and other side-effects. But, even though it’s an extremely harmful chemical, the FDA does not regulate the amount of 1,4 dioxane in cosmetics, so it’s up to you to protect your dermis and your health.


Commonly Found In… 


There’s a huge variety of cosmetic and skincare products that contain this ingredient as a stabilizer, including:

  • Baby lotion
  • Shampoos
  • Hair products
  • Detergents
  • Anti-aging cosmetics
  • Various other personal care products


Additionally, polyethylene glycol and 1,4 dioxane are common ingredients in dish soaps, sanitizing gels, body wash gels, toothpaste, deodorant, laundry detergent, and dyes.


6. Glycerin


Is glycerin bad for your dermis? Well, the answer to that question really depends on where it’s sourced from. Glycerin is a type of sugar alcohol that is commonly generated from vegetable sources like coconut and soybean, among other raw materials. This substance is used because it can keep your dermis hydrated when combined with other compounds.9

However, glycerin can also be sourced from synthetic materials like chlorine, crude oil (like mineral oil and petroleum jelly), as well as propylene, and this is the form you want to avoid in your skincare. Chlorine and propylene may release harmful compounds into your bloodstream, while petroleum jelly and mineral oil create a barrier that doesn’t let your skin breathe. 


Negative Effects of Glycerin


Synthetic glycerin contains chlorine and other chemicals that produce free radical damage. Free radicals are loose molecules that damage cells in your body and produce premature tissue aging. Not only this, but the petroleum content often found in synthetic glycerin creates a barrier that doesn’t let your dermis breathe, trapping pollutants, and forcing them into your body.


Commonly Found In… 


Glycerin has many different uses across a wide variety of industries. It’s often used as a preservative in the tobacco industry, but it’s also a common ingredient in cosmetic products. Glycerin is commonly found in:

  • Soaps
  • Moisturizing products
  • Shampoos
  • Toilet cleaning solutions
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Shaving cream
  • Toothpaste
  • Facial treatments
  • Dish detergent


Not only this, but it’s often added to makeup like eyeliner, making it one of the so-called “make-up toxins” you should steer clear from.

skin care ingredients to avoid makeup


7. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate 


Known respectively as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and SLES, these ingredients are dangerous compounds that can cause a variety of health concerns.10 While severe symptoms require extensive exposure, these compounds can’t be metabolized by the liver once they enter the body, making it one of the key harmful chemicals in beauty products to avoid. This means that coming in contact with this compound on a regular basis can still result in long-lasting complications.


Negative Effects of SLS & SLES


Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and SLES are carcinogenic chemicals, so large amounts can significantly increase our chance of developing breast cancer and other life-changing conditions. Both of these usually contain dioxane, so they can also cause all of the effects associated with this harmful compound.

Additionally, sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are believed to disrupt the endocrine and adrenal systems, so they can produce fatigue as well as hormone disruption. And, mentioned before, sodium lauryl sulfate SLS and SLES can’t be metabolized, so they tend to cause more harm than others on this list.

When a drug is metabolized, its chemical composition is altered by the liver. In most cases, the resulting compounds are either used up by the body or excreted through urine or feces. Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate can’t be altered by the body, so these hazardous compounds stay in the body and their effects are magnified in intensity.


Commonly Found In… 


SLS and SLES are chemicals in skin care products usually found in exfoliant creams, baby wash, mascara, face washes, body wash gels, shampoos, and conditioners, so pay close attention when picking up any of these products from the shelves.


8. Chlorine


Our list of ingredients to avoid would not be complete without chlorine. You’re probably familiar with this harsh chemical because it’s the active ingredient found in bleach. We’ve all been in a pool that had a bit too much chlorine and some of us even ended up with green hair, but this chemical can do much more than that.


Negative Effects of Chlorine


If you’re asking yourself “is chlorine bad for your dermis?” or “is bleach bad for your dermis?” The answer is a resounding yes. For starters, chlorine can irritate your external layer, causing redness, mild inflammation, and itchiness.11 It also causes free radical damage, so your dermis will age and show signs of damage early on.

Chlorine damages your skins’ natural oils and the good microorganisms that help keep your dermis in great condition - it's definitely one of the chemicals to avoid in skincare.


Commonly Found In… 


Chlorine is known as a common ingredient in cleaning products, but it’s also present in a variety of skincare products. These include perfumes, skin lightening creams, sunscreens, gel soaps, hand sanitizers, antiseptic cream, moisturizers, blemish control products, and hair dyes, among others.


9. Benzoyl Peroxide


Does benzoyl peroxide age the skin at an accelerated rate? The short answer is yes, it does. This chemical is often used as an antibacterial that can help reduce the oil content in your dermis.12 

Although it is not nearly as toxic as the ingredient triclosan (triclosan is another antibacterial that has been linked to a decrease in thyroid hormones and skin cancer), it is used similarly to benzoyl peroxide in personal products, as an antiseptic.13

How does benzoyl peroxide different from triclosan? Triclosan is considered to be much stronger than benzoyl peroxide, but it is not used as frequently.

Benzoyl peroxide is easy to wash away, so it’s often used to make skincare products like acne creams, blemish treatments, and goods for oily skin.

In addition to its potential side-effects, benzoyl peroxide-based products may also cause allergic reactions that require immediate attention. If you notice any discomfort or other signs of allergies, stop using benzoyl products and seek medical attention right away.


Negative Effects of Benzoyl Peroxide


Benzoyl peroxide may cause painful symptoms if applied in large quantities to sensitive skin. It can cause dryness, pain, and discoloration at the application site in people who are not allergic. Some people also report a burning sensation when exposed to benzoyl peroxide, so discontinue the use of any product that causes any of these side-effects that contain this compound.

Benzoyl peroxide is very harsh and is considered an antiseptic because it can help destroy microorganisms, regardless of whether they are good or bad. The good microscopic organisms living on the epidermis can help fight off fungal infections and bad bacteria, but cosmetics that contain benzoyl peroxide often eradicate these completely.

The dermatologic effects of benzoyl peroxide have been well-documented and they also include mild stinging, scaling, hives, itching, peeling, and swelling. In large quantities, benzoyl peroxide may even cause difficulty breathing and throat tightness as well as eye irritation and hypersensitivity. It's definitely one of the harmful chemicals in cosmetics and skincare to avoid.


Commonly Found In… 


Benzoyl peroxide has the ability to sterilize surfaces. For this reason, it’s found in personal cleaning products, professional and at-home tooth whitening treatments, and acne-fighting body wash. It’s also the active ingredient in many skincare products like anti-acne creams and facial treatments due to its antibacterial properties. But, these cosmetics may cause severe irritation if they contain more than 5% benzoyl peroxide concentration. 


10. Formaldehyde


Although formaldehyde is produced in small amounts by most living organisms, it's definitely one of the top toxic ingredients in skin care. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers are colorless, tasteless, and extremely flammable.14 If you ever dissected an animal in biology class, it was probably preserved in formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is used in a large number of industries and not only in skincare products. It's used in the production of wooden goods, adhesives, some types of fabrics, coated paper, and some insulation materials. It’s also an active ingredient in many herbicides, pesticides, and disinfectants, plus it’s sometimes used in morgues to keep corpses preserved in good condition.


Negative Effects of Formaldehyde


The effects of products containing formaldehyde vary depending on each person’s sensitivity and how concentrated the product is. In animal studies conducted a few decades ago, experts found that formaldehyde caused a variety of negative effects in rats, including nasal cancer, so it has been listed as a known carcinogen to humans.15

Other human and animal studies have been conducted since then. One of these animal studies showed formaldehyde as potentially neurotoxic.16

More immediate complications associated with harmful chemicals like formaldehyde include hormone disruption, burning sensation, dryness, hives, rashes, and eye irritation. People who are allergic or hypersensitive may experience wheezing, coughing, and similar respiratory symptoms.


Commonly Found In… 


Considering that formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, it has been banned from personal care items, nail products, and other consumer cosmetics in some parts of the world. 

Unfortunately, it's one of those harmful cosmetic ingredients to avoid that’s commonly found in keratin hair products, hair restoration solutions, facial treatments, bath lotions, bubble bath solutions, shampoos, deodorants, makeup, soaps, and even lotions and creams meant for babies.

Formaldehyde is also an active compound in other bad ingredients in skin care products like formalin, formic aldehyde, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and DMDM hydantoin.


11. Fragrances


We all love facial creams and other cosmetics that smell like lemon or carry another delightful, luxurious fragrance. The problem is that not all fragrance ingredients come from natural sources. Worse yet, because a product’s fragrance is regarded as a “secret” ingredient, cosmetic manufacturers don’t usually reveal the ingredient list.

In many cases, a powerful fragrance that reminds us of apple or cinnamon may actually be composed of hundreds of different chemicals. Even if there is a small percentage of natural fragrance, things like phthalates and other harmful ingredients in makeup and skincare usually make up a large portion of the product’s content.17

skin care ingredients to avoid fragrance


Negative Effects of Fragrance


Is fragrance considered a bad addition to your personal care product? This would depend on where the fragrance comes from. But since most manufacturers don’t proactively share their formulas, your best bet is to avoid beauty products that have any type of fragrance and treat it as if it came from a synthetic source - unless it specifically says otherwise.

A synthetic fragrance produced from chemical sources can contain neurotoxins, compounds that cause free radical damage, and unidentified carcinogens. The negative effects vary depending on each product’s formula, but they can include coughing, premature aging, and an irritated dermis, making it one of the bad ingredients in cosmetics that are best to avoid.

And, just because a cosmetic’s fragrance comes from an ‘all-natural’ source, like an essential oil, doesn’t mean that it won’t cause dermal reactions like irritation or breakouts.


Commonly Found In… 


Fragrance is present in almost every single type of cosmetic product, even if it doesn’t actually have a particular smell or fragrance, if you will. The reason for this is that fragrance can help conceal certain chemical odors or unpleasant smells, so this ingredient is also present in cosmetics you wouldn’t expect.

In the vast majority of cases, fragrances are found in cosmetics, ointments, body wash gels, soaps, perfumes, colognes, shampoos, conditioners, almost all skincare products for babies, and things like detergent. You can also find fragrances in makeup like lipstick, mascara, base, and blush to help conceal other odors.

While shopping for cosmetics, make sure to look for skincare products labeled ‘fragrance-free’ instead of ‘unscented.’ This can be confusing for many people because these statements seem very similar.

When a cosmetic is labeled as ‘fragrance-free’ it quite literally means that all of its ingredients are free of synthetic and natural odors. Cosmetics labeled ‘unscented,’ however, could mean that it uses certain chemicals to mask the scent of other ingredients in the formula. You’ll see these statements used in cosmetics like moisturizers, face wash, and soaps.

If you want to be extra careful about not buying scented cosmetics, check the label for words like ‘essential oil,’ ‘perfume,’ ‘parfum,’ and, of course, ‘fragrance’.


New mom? Read our guide to newborn skincare here.


Improve Your Skin From Within


So, how can you improve your skin without having to worry about added fragrances? Choose a product that works from within, like our Taut Premium Collagen Powder.

Each sachet contains 1,500mg of our Premium Marine Collagen Peptides, hyaluronic acid, and grape seed extract, to support your skin’s structure and promote healthy, youthful, glowing skin. Supplement your skin daily to give your natural collagen a boost and slow down the aging process to reveal healthy, radiant skin.


12. Hydrogen Peroxide


Is hydrogen peroxide bad for your dermis? Does hydrogen peroxide eat away at your dermis? 

Hydrogen on its own is extremely flammable, so it usually comes in a water-based solution called hydrogen peroxide. You may be familiar with this compound because of hair bleach, which often contains pure hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is also commonly used in paper dying companies and other industries that require bleaching.

Like others on this list, hydrogen peroxide is a transparent liquid that doesn’t have any particular smell. It’s actually used in water treatment plants to kill bacteria as well as in rocket fuel manufacturing and cosmetic applications. However, this harmful chemical is a mutagen that can cause damage to your dermis, which is why some people say that hydrogen peroxide will eat away at your dermis if you don’t wash it off right away.


Negative Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide


Why is hydrogen peroxide bad for the skin? In simple terms, this chemical is a mutagen, or a compound that causes mutations in cells and other living tissue. When it comes into contact with your epidermis, hydrogen peroxide may alter the genetic composition of your cells, leading to cancer and increasing your chances of developing serious conditions.18

High concentrations of this substance can also produce blisters, chemical burns, and dermal irritation. When inhaled, it also causes respiratory problems as well as eye and nose irritation, so, if possible, you should not handle hydrogen peroxide. Lastly, when it enters an open wound, this chemical can penetrate into the deep muscle layers and create oxygen bubbles that may hinder circulation and cause severe consequences.


Commonly Found In… 


In addition to hair bleach, hydrogen peroxide is used in cosmetics like sterilizing liquids, some facial treatments, deodorants, makeup removers, conditioners, shampoos, hair restoration treatments, and tooth whitening solutions. It’s also found in other dental health products like mouthwash, toothpaste, and whitening strips.

You may also find acne treatments and all-natural cosmetics that use hydrogen peroxide as the main ingredient, so you should take the time to review all your cosmetics for this mutagen.


13. Quaternium-15


Quaternium-15 is a type of compound known as an ammonium salt. This chemical was developed to be used as a preservative in order to extend the shelf life of cosmetic products. It’s known to cause allergic reactions in high concentrations and it has a variety of additional disadvantages that makes it one of the scariest on our list.19

Known to be one of the more dangerous chemicals in cosmetics for hairdressers and other professionals that are exposed to large quantities of this chemical, this toxic substance is also used in other applications that include the production of paint, metal-penetrating fluids, glues, liquid floor polishers, and many more. With this in mind, it’s also important to note that this compound is so toxic that it was banned in many parts of the world in 2017 including the European Union.


Negative Effects of Quaternium-15


This harsh chemical negatively affects the human body in many different ways. First of all, it’s a known allergen that can cause rashes, redness, itching, inflammation, and other symptoms of dermatitis. It may also affect the respiratory system and the eyes depending on its concentration. 

Remember formaldehyde, number 10 on our list? Well, quaternium also releases formaldehyde into the body, so it may increase the risk of cancer and result in premature aging of the skin. Similar to other harmful, dangerous ingredients in cosmetics, quaternium is used because it can prevent the development of bacteria, but it can also damage dermal flora and produce dry patches.


Commonly Found In… 


Because it can be used as an antibacterial solution, quaternium is usually present in products like:

  • Creams
  • Lotions
  • Hairstyling gels
  • Face cleansers
  • Wipes
  • Shaving cream
  • Aftershave
  • Some eye drops


It can also be found in products such as makeup, for example, eyeliner or blush, as well as plant-based conditioners, rinses, shampoos, and other hair products.

A large portion of manufacturers have also started using quaternium in their self-tanning lotions and baby products to give them a longer shelf-life, so be careful when choosing your personal care products and always check for this harmful chemical.


14. Parabens


Parabens are another harmful substance that we've included on our list of cosmetic ingredients to avoid. According to the Environmental Working Group, they are another form of preservative found in skincare products that ensure that your cosmetics last longer. They stave off harmful bacteria, fungus, and mold for months and even years, making them popular ingredients, even for some of the most well-known, high-end cosmetic brands.

You’re more likely to find parabens in water-based beauty products, as opposed to oil-based ones because oils don’t need the same level of protection against harmful bacteria. In fact, moisturizers and creams that come in jars are more likely to contain parabens because of how they are applied. Think about it, by dipping your fingers into a jar you’re introducing a whole world of microorganisms into your personal care product (yes, even if your hands are ‘clean’).20


Negative Effects of Parabens


Parabens are still being researched since experts don’t yet know all of the negative effects that they can have. They do know, however, that they are able to penetrate the skin and breast tissue. And, even though nobody knows for sure whether or not parabens can cause cancer, the fact that parabens are able to penetrate the skin and remain in the body for a long period of time is definitely a cause for concern.

Additionally, parabens act as an endocrine disruptor. This means that they can mimic estrogen in the body. And, when these ingredients mimic estrogen in the body, they are able to interfere with proper hormone function.21

In general, an endocrine disruptor can cause birth defects and other side effects like tumors and developmental disorders. Some other endocrine disruptors that you can find in cosmetics and common household products include bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and atrazine. Parabens, in this case, can increase a woman’s risk of certain cancers, especially reproductive and breast cancers because of the perceived increase of estrogen in the body.


Commonly Found In...


Parabens can often be found in skincare products and cosmetics like serums, hair care products like shampoo and conditioner, makeup, face wash, and moisturizer. It’s also a sunscreen ingredient that can be found in both mineral sunblock (containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) and chemical sun protectors.

Nowadays, it’s easier to avoid these toxic ingredients considering that more and more brands tout ‘Paraben-Free’ in bold letters on their product’s labels. And, many natural cosmetic brands have found a way to preserve their products without the use of parabens or are able to produce and sell skincare products with a shorter shelf-life (anywhere from 6 months to 1 year).

That said, it never hurts to check the list of ingredients on your personal care product to confirm that you aren’t accidentally exposing yourself to parabens. Parabens can be disguised with names like ‘propylparaben,’ ‘methylparaben,’ ‘ethylparaben,’ and ‘butylparaben.’


15. Toluene


Toluene is a harsh chemical in skincare products and is sourced from petroleum and coal. Another product that comes from petroleum is mineral oil. Mineral oil is a highly refined product that is used in many skincare products as a way to maintain moisture in the skin. But, unlike mineral oil which is highly purified and refined, toluene is only partially refined.

Toluene has a strong odor, similar to paint thinner. Although it’s mostly found in nail polish and hair products, it can also be found in certain glues, paints, degreasers, and stain removers.


Negative Effects of Toluene


Toluene can often cause short-term side effects like headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and irritation in the nose and eyes. But, what’s even more concerning are the long-term effects from frequent exposure to this ingredient. People who work in places like nail or hair salons who breathe in this toxic chemical are more likely to experience issues with their kidneys, liver, heart, and central nervous system.

Pregnant women should be even more cautious to use products like nail polish and hair treatments containing toluene because the vapors may harm the fetus.


Commonly Found In…


Toluene can be found in nail polish and other nail products, but you can also find it lurking in hair dyes. Toluene used to be in almost every nail polish, but fortunately, there are other types of non-toxic nail polish available these days without toluene and other harmful ingredients.

skin care ingredients to avoid nail polish


16. Retinol & Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A)


Vitamin A products are some of the most popular beauty products on the market at the moment and it may have to do with the fact that many of the stronger forms have been somewhat-recently approved for over-the-counter purchase.

How these skincare products and treatments work is by binding to receptors in the cell DNA in your skin and increasing cell turnover. In a sense, they quite literally ‘rejuvenate’ your skin by creating new dermal cells.

Due to this process, these skincare products have shown to improve even the most stubborn acne, uneven skin texture, pigmentation, and fine lines, so they can be an excellent choice for improving these issues. 

But, the same way that they are able to provide benefits to the skin, they can also cause harm.


Negative Effects of Retinol


There are a lot of myths surrounding retinoids that are simply not true (they are called ‘myths’ for a reason, after all). Some of these myths include that you can’t apply it to wet skin and that you shouldn’t take it on vacation. Now, although these myths have been debunked, this doesn’t mean that these skincare products are good for your health.22

Products containing these ingredients can cause a wide range of problems that can not only affect your skin’s health but your overall health. According to the Environmental Working Group, retinol and other forms of vitamin A in skincare products may lead to exposure to harmful amounts of the vitamin.23

And, when we absorb or ingest too much vitamin A, it can lead to problems like brittle nails, hair loss, liver damage, and osteoporosis. Additionally, pregnant women who are exposed to excessive retinol and retinyl palmitate may also be harming their fetus. Vitamin A exposure may lead to birth defects, so it’s imperative to avoid vitamin A-containing cosmetics during pregnancy.

Plus, how vitamin A works on the skin is by changing the DNA. But, as a result, this may increase the rate at which tumors grow. For that reason, it's important that people who are more prone to skin cancer avoid products with this ingredient.


Commonly Found In…


Although some of the strongest forms of vitamin A are only available by prescription from your dermatologist, you can easily find over-the-counter treatments at your local drugstores and beauty retailers.

If you’re shopping for age-reversing serums, lotions, and creams, you’ll want to keep an eye out for retinol in these skincare products (if you want to avoid it), since they will most likely contain at least some form of vitamin A.

Fortunately, cosmetics containing vitamin A derivatives are more likely than not to advertise the ingredient on their label. It may be disguised with names like ‘retinyl palmitate,’ ‘retinaldehyde,’ or ‘retinyl retinoate.’


Learn More About the Cosmetics You Need to Avoid


Despite the fact that the cosmetics ingredients to avoid on our list should not harm your dermis, there are many chemicals that can produce long and short-term issues. Instead of simply trusting cosmetic companies, your best bet is to learn about the different chemicals they contain and find out which ones you should avoid when looking for your next anti-aging product.

The list of ingredients that are toxic is huge, but we’re hoping the ingredients listed above gives you a good idea of the main chemicals you need to avoid. Remember, you also want to be diligent when purchasing personal care products that have an impact on your family’s overall health!

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, you may also want to look out for coal tar, titanium dioxide, and lead, all of which can cause skin irritation as well as more complex health issues.


The Solution to Protecting a Damaged Dermis from Harsh Chemicals


A great alternative that helps maintain your skin’s health and appearance without relying on harsh chemicals is Taut’s Premium Collagen Drink Advanced Formula. Our collagen drink uses natural ingredients and is completely free of chemicals and preservatives to help you maintain that fresh, rejuvenated glow while nurturing, restoring, and protecting your skin.

The magic behind the formula is the 100% marine-sourced collagen peptides derived from wild red snapper fish scales from the Indian Ocean. Each bottle contains 13,000mg of premium marine collagen peptides that are small enough to be effectively absorbed when ingested, triggering your body’s own production of new collagen, which in turn creates radiant skin results. The collagen is broken down into super tiny pieces thanks to a process called hydrolysis which restores, protects, and promotes a firmer, fuller, and more youthful complexion.

Our luxurious collagen solution also contains additional clinically studied ingredients that work synergistically with the marine collagen to create even better results. There are elastin peptides that support the skin’s natural elastin and fibers but also help with the synthesis of new elastin to support elasticity and fight the effects of gravity. You can also find Grape Seed Extract which is packed with OPCs and bioflavonoids to help protect the dermis from free radicals.

All of these ingredients are paired with the natural ‘moisture magnet,’ Hyaluronic Acid, which hydrates and strengthens the epidermis, and Vitamin C, an essential cofactor, which supports the body’s production of collagen.

See Our Transformation Collections here:


Experience an Age-Defying Transformation Today


To experience a truly radiant, age-defying transformation, we’ve created our Ms. Magnifique Transformation Program which not only includes 3 boxes of our best-selling liquid collagen drink but also features our popular Taut Bright daily supplement and Taut Collagen Masks.

Still wondering why this transformation program is so life-changing? You’ll absolutely love the way your skin will look and feel when you include Taut Bright into your daily routine. It helps to fight age spots, uneven skin tone, and hyperpigmentation, which all develop from excess production of melanin caused by aging, stress, sun, and pollutants.

The proprietary formula is designed by combining 7 key active ingredients (Glutathione, L-Cysteine, Olive Leaf Extract, Artichoke Leaf Extract, Grape Seed Extract, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and Vitamin C) that all work together to minimize cellular damage and reduce the effects of aging pigments.

Not only does Taut Bright have the ability to detoxify and protect your cells from free radicals and oxidative stress, but it also repairs and reduces cell degeneration and stimulates collagen production for a lighter, fairer, and brighter, complexion.

Finally, we’ve also included our invigorating and revitalizing Taut Collagen Masks which are enriched with Hydrolyzed Marine Collagen Peptides, Hyaluronic Acid, Squalene harvested from olives, and Vitamin C, to tone, hydrate, brighten, and smooth fine lines and wrinkles in minutes. After just one application, you’ll emerge with a jaw-droppingly gorgeous glow and an undeniable ‘red-carpet-ready’ radiance.

Ready to transform your skin? Contact our team today and we’ll be glad to help you learn more about our high quality, marine collagen-based, anti-aging solutions, so you can avoid harmful ingredients in cosmetics and beauty products.


More helpful reading: