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April 15, 2014

Potentially toxic ingredients in cosmetics

Certain ingredients contained in cosmetics and body products are currently under scrutiny, since they may be harmful (potentially carcinogenic, allergenic or “endocrine disrupting”) to human health. And some manufacturers are starting to take this warning seriously.


What are these ingredients? In which products can they be found? The following non-exhaustive list answers these questions.
  • ALUMINIUM: Aluminium chloride tightens pores. That’s the reason it can be found in many deodorants, antiperspirants and antitranspirants.
  • COLORANTS
  • FORMALDEHYDE: A preservative and hardener found in nail polish.
  • SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS): Emulsifier, surface active agent used in shampoos, shower gels, toothpastes, for example (it lathers and dissolves oils).
  • MUSKS (nitro, polycyclic, aromatic nitro, macrocyclic): Synthetic musk compounds used in perfumes and soaps.
  • PARABENS (methylparaben or methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate; ethylparaben or ethyl 4-hydroxybenzoate; propylparaben or propyl 4-hydroxybenzoate; isopropylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, benzylparaben): Preservatives (antibacterial and antifungal) used in many cosmetics, medications and foods.
  • PARAFFIN WAX: A moisturizing fatty substance; it is a petroleum by-product widely used in cosmetics and body products.
  • PERFUMES, FRAGRANCES
  • PHENOXYETHANOL: A preservative present in various cosmetics and body products.
  • PHTHALATES (DEHP, BP): A plasticizer, which boosts a product’s ability to penetrate skin. It can often be found in fragrances and is also used to prevent nail polish from chipping.
  • POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL (PEG, polyethylene oxide or PEOX): A solvent (or humectant used to help skin retain its moisture and keep products from drying out). It can be found in shampoos, shower gels, soaps, etc.
  • SILICONE (dimeticone): A petroleum by-product; it is an anti-foaming, softening and moisturizing agent found in many lipsticks and hair products.
  • SULFATES: Emulsifiers found in most shampoos.
  • TRICLOSAN: An antibacterial agent, deodorizer and preservative: used in toothpastes and soaps, among other products.

Pharmacy services

To find out which products and brands comply with some of the existing recommendations on chemical composition, talk to a pharmacist or beauty consultant. They can point you in the right direction. 

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