Certified Organic

20 Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid

The beauty industry has many ugly secrets.  Many skin care products contain harmful chemicals that could potentially harm your health and even make aging worse.

Your makeup, face cream, skin moisturizer, or cleanser may deliver short-term smoothness and brightness. But over the long term it may also may also

  • disrupt your hormones,
  • expose you to cancer-causing chemicals, and
  • deliver dangerous toxins that age your skin.

In the United States beauty products are regulated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines beauty products as, “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.”

In the UK and Europe products are regulated under the EU Cosmetics Directive. Many Asian countries are regulated by the ASEAN Directive.

However while companies must ensure that their products are safe, they are not required to do any premarket testing or to submit safety data to the FDA, EU Directive or other regularory bodies.

Therefore, even though cosmetic and beauty products are regulated by the FDA, there is no FDA approval required for any ingredient or combination of ingredients, other than colour additives.  The FDA and UE has banned a few specific chemicals from cosmetic products. These are listed on their website.

When it becomes apparent that a particular chemical is harmful to health or the environment, it is up for consumers to demand changes. Consumer pressure is the only thing that leads companies to remove certain chemicals from their products. You often see companies advertising their products as paraben-free or phthalate-free, for example. But this would not have happened if the early organic beauty brands like Organic Apoteke did not educate consumers about the harmful effects of parabens.

So here we go again. This article is to educate you about which ingredients are harmful and why you should avoid them. And if you agree with us, then please help us by joining our fight to clean up the beauty industry – lets rid it of all those ugly secrets.

Organic Apoteke products do not contain any of these toxic ingredients.

20 Ingredients to Avoid


BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are antioxidant preservatives. They are added to beauty products and some foods. According to the U.S. National Toxicology Program BHA is likely a carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).

It is added to cosmetic products that contain fatsand oils, especially lipstick and eyeshadow.

Studies show that animals exposed to BHA developed stomach and liver damage as well as dysfunction of their thyroid glands and reproductive organs. BHT which is a similar compound to BHA was not found to cause cancer. However, it did cause liver and kidney damage, as well as other toxic effects.

Some companies are proactively removing BHA and BHT from their products.


Borates are boron-containing chemical compounds. The most common are sodium borate (borax), boric acid, sodium perborate and perboric acid. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral, and it is used as a preservative and emulsifying agent which stabilizes the combination of ingredients in creams, lotions, shampoos, and bath products. Because it occurs naturally, many natural skincare companies use this group of ingredients. Borates are sometimes used in teeth whitening toothpaste.

In several laboratory experiments, Borax and its chemical cousin, boric acid, led to shrunken testes (testicular atrophy) and reduced sperm count in males and birth defects in females.

Exposure to sodium perborate caused chromosomal rearrangements and mutations in hamster cells. Borates have been banned in the European Union.  The Canadian government advises individuals against using borax.  But it may be found in American products.

Coal Tar & Coal Tar-Derived Colours

Coal tar is used in anti-dandruff shampoos, as well as in creams treating skin conditions like psoriasis. Studies found that coal tar caused skin, lung and liver cancers as well as DNA mutations. Coal tar is comedogenic, which means it blocks the skin pores and increases the skin’s sensitivity to light.

Many hair dyes contain coal tar usually. This is labelled as D&C or FD&C followed by the colour and a number, e.g., D&C Red 33). Avoid these.

Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde and its cousin formalin are found in nail polish, nail polish remover, eyelash glue, hair gel, soap and other products.

You may also be exposed to inhalation of formaldehyde during a Brazilian blowout hair smoothing treatments.

There are also many formaldehyde-releasing preservatives – including DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate – in products, including baby shampoos.

The clear link between formaldehyde and cancer is enough to encourage you to avoid products that contain these compounds altogether.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) Compounds

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) is used in cosmetics to create a cream base. They are used to thicken, soften or moisturize.

PEG compounds are petroleum-based and include propylene glycol, polyethylene glycols, and polyoxyethylene.

There is evidence that PEG compounds are harmful to DNA. Depending on the manufacturing process, PEG compounds may also be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a chemical the FDA warns may cause cancer. It may also be contaminated with o ethylene oxide, a compound that interferes with foetal development


Exposure to even a small amount of mercury is toxic to the brain and nervous system, as well as the digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys.

It has therefore been banned in cosmetics in the U.S. since 1974. But mercury-containing cosmetics made overseas can be imported into the U.S., UK and Europe.

Beware! These products may release mercury vapor, which not only causes mercury poisoning to you, but to people around you.

To avoid hidden mercury, steer clear of products with the following ingredients:

  • calomel
  • mercurio
  • mercurio chloride
  • mercury


Hydroquinone is used to lighten skin pigmentation. However, its use sometimes results in a disfiguring skin disorder called ochronosis. This results in a blue-black pigmentation that is difficult to treat. Animal studies have found that regular exposure leads to tumour development, DNA mutations, and reduced fertility in males.


Sunscreens contain oxybenzone to absorb UV light. While the American Academy of Dermatology says oxybenzone is safe, the Environmental Working Group, an environmental non-profit that publishes the Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database warns of its endocrine-disrupting properties.

One study found that oxybenzone caused the excess creation of reactive oxygen species, which can cause DNA mutations, cell death, and lead to cardiovascular problems. Synonyms for oxybenzone include benzophenone and phenyl-methanone.


Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal substance. It is found in many hand soaps and hand sanitizers, as well as deodorants, skin cleansers, and toothpaste.

At very low doses, triclosan is an endocrine disruptor.  It can affect your thyroid and reproductive hormones.

After finding evidence of liver damage in mice and reviewing extensive evidence of its endocrine disrupting properties, in 2016, the U.S. FDA banned triclosan in personal antibacterial products and is working on getting them out of hospitals.


Research indicates that Parabens are endocrine disrupting chemicals. In other words, they mimic oestrogen and can lead to hormone imbalances in the body. Although the FDA still considers them safe for use in cosmetics, they are so widespread in products and the environment that these chemicals are in the urine of almost every person in the U.S.

According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database, some parabens are worse than others. However, I advise avoiding all products with parabens.

“Fragrance” or “Perfume”

Fragrances are added to lotion, body wash, soap, and many beauty products. However, cosmetic companies don’t have to legally disclose which chemicals are in their fragrance because they are considered trade secrets.

Fragrances and perfumes emit volatile compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals. Many of which have been linked to cancer.

Also, products labelled “unscented” may also contain fragrances with masking agents. Masking agents are often phthalates which are known endocrine disruptors. Choose fragrance-free options.

Some fragrances are also linked to allergic reactions, asthma, and migraine headaches.


A common ingredient in fragrances, phthalatesare endocrine-disrupting chemicals that mimic human oestrogen and cause homone imbalance in both women and men.

Several studies have found phthalates to be obesogens, chemicals that alter metabolism and result in weight gain. Phthalates have also been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

Petroleum Distillates

Petroleum distillates are mixtures of volatile hydrocarbons created from petroleum; they are used in mascara. They are categorized by the European Union as a possible carcinogen and possible mutagen, which is a chemical that mutates DNA.

Siloxanes and Cyclomethicone

Siloxanes are used in cosmetics to soften and smooth skin, to help deodorants glide on more easily and for hair products to dry more easily.

There are three in particular – cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) and Cyclopentasiloxane (D5) cyclohexasiloxane (D6) that are harmful to the environment. D4 is also a known endocrine disruptor which interferes with fertility. Cyclomethicone is a mixture of D4, D5, and D6.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate

You will find sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in most shampoos, soaps, and cleansers. SLES may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen, and ethylene oxide, a chemical known to harm the nervous system.

Because of skin irritation and skin leaching properties, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board recommends SLS should not exceed 1% in any product that stays applied to the skin.

However, it is best to avoid products that contain them altogether.


Toluene is commonly found in nail polish. Research suggests that it affects the nervous system. It interferes with learning and performance as well as brain development. Fertility and foetal development are also affected by exposure to toluene. Pregnant women, in particular, should take every effort to avoid exposure to toluene, as it can affect the brain development of babies in utero.

Retinol & Retinyl Palmitate/Acetate

Retinol, retinyl palmitate, and retinyl acetate are forms of vitamin A, but they may not be safe to put on your skin. A few studies have found that when retinyl palmitate or retinol are applied to skin that was exposed to UV light, it broke down into harmful by-products. This included a reactive oxygen species which caused damage to cellular DNA, leading to cell death.

Although it’s unlikely to occur from skin application, high doses of vitamin A (>30,000 IU) is also linked to developmental defects.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) aka Teflon

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is the chemical name for Teflon. This substance is most commonly used as a non-stick coating on pots and pans.

However, it might also show up in your cosmetics. PTFE is found in pressed and loose powder, blush, mascara, eyeshadow, lip balm and anti-aging cream.

The chemical itself is relatively safe but has potential to be contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) during the manufacturing process. PFOA is linked to thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, as well as testicular and kidney cancer.


Nanoparticles – particles less than 1/1000th the width of a human hair – are relatively new but already widely used in cosmetic products especially sunscreens.

A number of recent studies have questioned their safety. Studies indicate that various types of nanoparticles caused problems in human cells, including DNA damage, oxidative stress, and cellular toxicity.

Products do not necessarily say that they contain nanoparticles, but if you see “ultrafine” or “microfine” listed in the packaging, these are a giveaway. You can also search the Consumer Products Inventory database for nanotechnology-based products to find out which ones to avoid.


Microbeads are those tiny plastic beads added to lotions, creams, and soaps to exfoliate the skin. These end up washing down drains and into the oceans, lakes, and rivers, where they make their way into the food chain.

Facts About Organic Skin Care

Most consumers who spend the extra money to buy organic skin care products feel they are getting higher quality, more pure and natural products. This is not always the case. Some organic skin care products still contain some toxic chemicals. It is critical to read labels and avoid products with these harmful ingredients.

With that said, a high-quality organic skin care product can do wonders for your skin. Studies have shown many organic ingredients have antioxidant properties that protect against damage caused by UV radiation and environmental pollution.

A study found that several natural compounds have a positive impact on skin health. Green tea can help hyperpigmentation, acne, and rosacea.

Oatmeal and aloe vera can help reduce the effects of psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.

Acai berry, turmeric, and pomegranate balance damage caused by the sun.

Natural plant oils –including olive oil, borage oil, and argan oil are high in essential fatty acidsthat promote healthy skin through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Organic skin care products also help the environment. If you buy products that are developed from natural sources and which do not contain toxic chemicals, it reduces environmental pollution.

Best Options for Natural Skin Care

Even though the cosmetic industry is largely unregulated, with a few mindful steps, you can protect, heal, and restore your skin in a way that keeps you healthy and helps the environment. Look for natural and organic products that avoid the harmful ingredients and do their utmost to protect the environment. There are a few good products on the market. Take the time to research the products that you are interested in buying. Don’t fall for marketing traps. Read the fine print and the ingredient lists. If they claim to use natural, organic ingredients, make sure their ingredient lists support their marketing.

Organic Apoteke has a seal of approval. The company is committed to creating the highest quality, pure and environmentally conscious skincare.