Ingredients Database

Toxic Ingredients to AVOID

This list is an ever-changing document that is regularly updated and revisited as new research studies emerge. While every toxic ingredient is not included here, we hope you find this to be a useful resource for learning about some of the more common toxic ingredients to avoid in your products. Please note we have also included a few ingredients that have no scientifically backed evidence of toxicity but are often mistaken as toxic when they are actually safe for use. Please refer to our Hazard Level Key for a simple way to assess the degree of toxicity for each listed ingredient.

*Please note we are not chemists or in the field of conducting chemical research, however, we have thoroughly assessed the listed ingredients across a range of resource databases. Be sure to look into any suspected toxin for yourself to make an informed decision that best suits you. 


Hazard Level Key

Based on current research and scientific studies, we have established a general hazard rating key to help you assess the level of hazard for any given ingredient. These levels correlate to the established hazard levels found on EWG’s Skin Deep Database (which we highly recommend as another resource for learning about ingredients in your products).

7-10 = High Hazard

3 – 6 = Moderate Hazard

1 – 2 = Low Hazard


Ammonium Chloride:

– Definition: an inorganic salt

– Concerns: causes irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), suspected to be an environmental toxin

– Hazard Level: 2


Ammonium Hydroxide (Ammonia):

– Definition: a solution of ammonia hydrate in water

– Concerns: wildlife and environmental toxin, persistent or bio-accumulative and moderate to high toxicity concern in humans, suspected to be a toxin to humans organ systems, occupational hazards related to handling

– Hazard Level: 3


Artificial Dyes:

– Definition: chemical additives that change the color/shade of a substance (food, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soaps, makeup, lotion, face cream, etc.)

– Concerns: causes irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), a suspected carcinogen, dyes are made up of a variety of synthetic chemicals, data gaps

– Hazard Level: 1 – 6


Aspartame:

– Definition: a white, crystalline, odorless, slightly water-soluble noncarbohydrate powder, synthesized from amino acids, that is used as a low-calorie sugar substitute; flavoring or masking agent

– Concerns: none at this time

– Hazard Level: 1


Borax/Boric Acid:

– Definition: a white, water-soluble powder or crystals, hydrated sodium borate, Na2B4O7 ⋅10H 2O, occurring naturally or obtained from naturally occurring borates; tincal: used as a flux, cleansing agent, in the manufacture of glass, porcelain, and enamel, and in tanning.

– Concerns: short-term irritant, a hormone disruptor

– Hazard Level: 8


Carrageenan:

– Definition: a colloid extracted from various red algae (such as Irish moss) and used as a stabilizing or thickening agent in medications, food (chocolate milk, yogurt, cream, etc.), toothpaste, fragrance, hair conditioner, and weight loss products

– Concerns: organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)

– Hazard Level: 1


Chlorhexidine:

– Definition: an antiseptic compound used in skin cleansers, mouthwashes, etc.

– Concerns: it kills good and bad bacteria in your mouth and has been linked to high blood pressure and heart problems

– Hazard Level: 3 – 4


DDEC – Didecyl Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride:

– Definition: an antiseptic/disinfectant; antistatic agent; hair conditioning agent; emulsifying; surfactant

– Concerns: human immune and respiratory toxicant or allergen, occupational hazards, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive, ecotoxicology, data gaps

– Hazard Level: 1 -3


DEA – Diethanolamine:

– Definition: a chemically modified form of coconut oil; used as a foaming agent; is an aliphatic amine (adjusts pH levels)

– Concerns: immune and respiratory toxicant or allergen, skin toxicant or allergen (irritation of skin, eyes, or lungs), possible human carcinogen, known human respiratory toxicant, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), occupational hazards

– Hazard Level: 10


DEGME — Diethylene Glycol Monomethyl Ether:

– Definition: a colorless, slightly viscous liquid with a mild pleasant odor that is used to make soaps, dyes, cleaning solvents, and other chemicals; a polyethylene glycol ether of Methyl Alcohol

– Concerns: contamination concerns, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)

– Hazard Level: 3


1,4 Dioxane:

– Definition: an unwanted byproduct of an ingredient processing method called ethoxylation used to reduce the risk of skin irritation for petroleum-based ingredients

– Concerns: possible human carcinogen, known human respiratory toxicant, an irritant (skin, eyes, lungs), occupational hazards related to handling, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)

– Hazard Level: 10


Disodium Diaminostilbene Disulfonate

– Definition: optical brighteners aka synthetic chemicals that make fabrics appear to glow in the presence of ultraviolet light; they are added to laundry detergents to make fabrics appear brighter and whiter than they really are

– Concerns: allergic reactions known as phytotoxicity (symptoms similar to sunburn/skin rash), wildlife and environmental toxicity

– Hazard Level:1


Disodium Distyrylbiphenyl Disulfonate:

– Definition: optical brighteners aka synthetic chemicals that make fabrics appear to glow in the presence of ultraviolet light; they are added to laundry detergents to make fabrics appear brighter and whiter than they really are

– Concerns: allergic reactions known as phytotoxicity (symptoms similar to sunburn/skin rash), wildlife and environmental toxicity

– Hazard Level:1


Distearyldimonium Chloride:

– Definition: a quaternary ammonium salt used as an antistatic agent and hair conditioning agent

– Concerns: human toxicant or allergen, an irritant (skin, eyes, or lungs), organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), wildlife and environmental toxicity

– Hazard Level: 3


DMDM Hydantoin Ethanolamine:

– Definition: a small-molecular weight, nitrogen-containing buffering agent (pH adjuster) used in hair color and bleaching, shampoo, and hair treatments/serums

– Concerns: human immune and respiratory toxicant or allergen, human skin toxicant or allergen, occupational hazards

– Hazard Level: 5 – 6


Ethanolamines (mono-, di- and triethanolamine):

– Definition: a small-molecular weight, nitrogen-containing buffering agent

– Concerns: occupational hazards, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), a human irritant (skin, eyes, or lungs), human immune and respiratory toxicant or allergen, use restrictions, data gaps

– Hazard Level: 5 – 6


Ethylene Oxide:

– Definition: a colorless, odorless, gaseous, toxic, ring compound, C2H4O, usually obtained by the oxidation of ethylene: used chiefly in the synthesis of ethylene glycol

– Concerns: known human carcinogen, use restrictions, human immune and respiratory toxicant or allergen, possible human development toxicant, a human irritant (skin, eyes, or lungs), occupational hazards,

– Hazard Level: 10


Fluoride:

– Definition: inorganic salt of fluorine used to prevent cavities, as an oral care agent, and as an anti-plaque agent

– Concerns: Multiple, additive exposure sources, irritant (skin, eyes, or lungs), occupational hazards, possible organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)

– Hazard Level: 5


Formaldehyde/Formalin:

– Definition: a carcinogenic impurity released by a number of cosmetic preservatives, including diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, and sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate

– Concerns: known human carcinogen, immune and respiratory toxicant or allergen, skin toxicant or allergen, respiratory toxicant, environmental toxin

– Hazard Level: 10


Fragrance:

– Definition: an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate

– Concerns: known human immune system toxicant or allergen, ingredients not fully labeled/disclosed, possible human respiratory toxicant, a human respiratory irritant, wildlife, and environmental toxicity

– Hazard Level: 8


Methylparaben:

– Definition: a preservative used by the food, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries

– Concerns: human endocrine disruptor, human immune toxicant or allergen, interferes with gene expression

– Hazard Level: 4


Methyl Salicylate:

– Definition: an anti-inflammatory ingredient common in pain relief creams for muscles and joints

– Concerns: use is restricted in Canadian cosmetics, subject to concentration or use limitations

– Hazard Level: 3


Optical Brighteners: 

– Definition: (fluorescent whitening agent-FWA’s) chemical compounds that absorb light in the ultraviolet and violet region of the electromagnetic spectrum, and re-emit light in the blue region by fluorescence

– Concerns: wildlife and environmental toxicity (non-biodegradable), human immune and skin toxicant or allergen, data gaps

– Hazard Level:6-9


Parabens:

– Definition: preservatives used by the food, pharmaceutical, and personal care product industries; mimics estrogen

– Concerns: use restrictions, known human endocrine disruptor, human skin toxicant or allergen, interferes with gene expression

– Hazard Level: 7 – 8


Pesticides:

– Definition: any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest; any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant; any nitrogen stabilizer

– Concerns: known human carcinogen, banned or found unsafe for use in cosmetics, strong evidence of human neurotoxicity, human immune system toxicant or allergen, developmental/reproductive toxicity

– Hazard Level: 10


Propylene Glycol:

– Definition: a small organic alcohol commonly used as a skin-conditioning agent

– Concerns: skin irritant, expected to be toxic or harmful, enhanced skin absorption

– Hazard Level: 3


Quaternium-15:

– Definition: a quaternary ammonium salt used as a preservative; it acts as a formaldehyde releaser

– Concerns: known human toxicant or allergen, expected to be toxic or harmful, chemical release concerns, recommended to be restricted in cosmetics – use, concentration, or manufacturing restrictions

– Hazard Level: 8


Quaternium-22:

– Definition: a quaternary ammonium salt; antistatic agent; film former; hair conditioning agent

– Concerns: contamination concerns, known human toxicant or allergen, data gaps

– Hazard Level: 4


Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (quats – e.g. benzalkonium chloride):

– Definition: biocide, preservative, and surfactant associated with severe skin, eye, and respiratory irritation and allergies; a sensitizer especially dangerous for people with asthma or skin conditions such as eczema; found in many household disinfectants and cleaning supplies

– Concerns: known human toxicant or allergen, restricted use in cosmetics, data gaps

– Hazard Level: 6


SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate):

– Definition: the sodium salt of lauryl sulfate; denaturant; surfactant – cleansing agent; emulsifying, foaming

– Concerns: irritation of the skin and eyes, organ system toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, ecotoxicology, biochemical or cellular changes, possible mutations and cancer

– Hazard Level: 2-3


SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate):

– Definition: an ingredient derived from ethoxylated lauryl alcohol and used as a surfactant; may be contaminated with potentially toxic manufacturing impurities such as 1,4-dioxane

– Concerns: contamination concerns, human irritant (skin, eyes, or lungs), organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Data gaps

– Hazard Level: 8


Sulfuric Acid:

– Definition: an inorganic acid

– Concerns: known human carcinogen, human immune and respiratory toxicant or allergen, expected to be toxic or harmful, occupational hazards related to handling

– Hazard Level: 4-6


Synthetic Dyes:

– See Artificial Dyes*


Synthetic Fragrances:

– See Fragrances*


Tinopal:

– See Optical Brighteners*


Triclosan:

– Definition: an antibacterial agent and preservative used in personal care and home-cleaning products; persistent in the environment and may be associated with endocrine (hormonal) toxicity

– Concerns: contamination concerns, use restrictions, endocrine disruption, possible immune or allergenic effects, persistent and bioaccumulative in wildlife, expected to be toxic or harmful, a known irritant, wildlife, and environmental toxicity

– Hazard Level: 7


Triethanolamine:

– Definition: a strongly alkaline substance used as surfactant and pH adjusting chemical

– Concerns: contamination concerns, human immune and respiratory toxicant or allergen, restricted in cosmetics (recommendations or requirements) – use, concentration, or manufacturing restrictions, expected to be toxic or harmful

– Hazard Level: 5


2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol:

– Definition: an antimicrobial preservative that works by forming formaldehyde in cosmetic products

– Concerns: known human skin toxicant or allergen, known human lung and skin toxicant, chemical release concerns, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), wildlife and environmental toxicity, data gaps, an occupational hazard

– Hazard Level: 7-9

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