12 Ingredients in Skincare for Everyone to Avoid (Part 3)

a "dirty dozen" series - part 3
assorted bottles of personal care products
© Can Stock Photo / robbiverte

*This is the third in a series of three posts on the most toxic cosmetic ingredients and how to easily recognize them.

Here it is! The final 4 toxic cosmetic ingredients to avoid. Do you remember the first 8 ingredients? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you need a refresher. It may seem overwhelming to keep track of all of them all, but using the pocket guide by the Environmental Defense is a great way to keep the information at your fingertips and easily accessible while out shopping. Rest assured that the effort put into avoiding these toxins is worth it for your own health and the health of your family.


Also known as petroleum jelly or mineral oil jelly, petrolatum has a barrier function, which means it is used to lock moisture into the skin. A great natural alternative to petroleum jelly is shea butter, which also has a strong barrier function. Petrolatum is restricted in skincare products in the European Union. Petroleum products are frequently contaminated with PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). PAHs are chemicals associated with petroleum products that are known to cause cancer.


Siloxanes are silicone-based compounds that are used to smooth, soften and moisturize skin and hair. They are commonly found in both skin and hair care products. The main offenders to look for are: cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane and cyclomethicone. The European Union classifies siloxanes as hormone disruptors and reproductive toxicants that may impair fertility, and researchers are finding that they are bioaccumulating in the environment.  As an alternative, skin can be softened and moisturized with lotions and butters that contain cocoa, shea, and natural oils.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Commonly referred to as SLS, this ingredient helps to make products bubble and foam. It is typically found in cleansers, shampoos and shower gels. Like PEGs, it can be contaminated with 1,4-dixoane. Fun fact: SLS was used during WWII to degrease the floors of ships — it’s strong stuff! SLS is also well known to be irritating to the skin, which is probably not what you were looking for in your facial cleanser. This is another case of “more lather isn’t better”. You don’t need toxic cosmetic ingredients just to make a lather! To make a natural cleanser lather, mix it with a bit of warm water and rub vigorously between your hands.


Found in antibacterial products, antiperspirants, toothpaste, cleansers and hand sanitizers, triclosan is a suspected hormone disruptor. Using too much triclosan can also result in the formation of antibiotic resistant bacteria! Try natural antimicrobials in cleansers and sanitizers like grapefruit seed extract, and many essential oils. The bonus is that they smell great too!

I hope you found this series of articles about toxic cosmetic ingredients eye-opening and not too mind-boggling. Know that the efforts you make to choose safer skincare products will benefit your family’s health and the environment for many years to come.  

*Originally published on July 9, 2016