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5 of the Most Toxic Chemicals Found in Beauty Products

It’s hard to avoid the media hype around skin care and beauty products and think that you need to buy what you see. But do you really know what’s in these products and the health havoc they can actually cause? There are actually many chemicals in beauty products to avoid.

I recently shared with you my favourite natural beauty products. Now, here are 5 harmful chemicals in beauty products, plus where you’ll find them and their potential health effects.

Note: A great place to discover and purchase natural beauty products (that are free of toxic chemicals!) is Nourished Life. Where possible, the following products are linked to Nourished Life so you can easily check them out further and read other people’s reviews for yourself.


1. Phthalates

Phthalates are a big one. These are a chemical in synthetic fragrance which can be found in almost anything that smells good. Think fake tans, deodorants and nail polish. Phthalates are an endocrine (hormone) disruptor and have been linked to early puberty and breast cancer. This is possibly due to their weak oestrogen action.

2. Triclosan

Triclosan is found in antibacterial soaps, deodorants and even tooth pastes. Virtually any product that boasts about being ‘anti-bacterial’ probably contains Triclosan. Triclosan can pass easily though the skin and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. The scary thing about Triclosan is that it’s classed as a pesticide and it’s stored in your fat cells, meaning Triclosan can accumulate. An accumulation of Triclosan can damage the liver, kidneys and lungs.

See also Why You Should Choose Chemical-Free Products For You & Your Baby


3. Parabens

Parabens are a type of anti-fungal and preservative and are found everywhere. Parabens are an endocrine disruptor and have been found in biopsy samples of breast tumours, indicating a link between the use of cosmetics containing parabens and cancer. In addition, studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin causes a reaction that leads to increased skin ageing and DNA damage.

4. Lead

We’ve heard about lead in lipsticks, but did you know lead can be found in over 650 different beauty products? Everything from sunscreen, foundation, nail polish, toothpaste and yep lipstick. Yep, toxins in cosmetics are definitely not uncommon. Lead is a neurotoxin and has been linked with learning, language and behavioural problems. Lead has also been linked with reduced fertility in both men and women and a delay in the onset of puberty.

See also Your Ultimate Guide To A Healthy Detox

5. Sodium Laureth Sulphate

Sodium Laureth Sulphate, otherwise referred to as SLES or Sodium Laurel Sulphate is what makes products bubble and foam. You’ll be looking at shampoos, body wash, bubble bath and facial cleansers for this one. SLES can cause irritation to the skin and eyes and is linked with liver toxicity. SLES is also toxic to marine life, now that’s not so cool when we wash it down the drain.

So what products are safe? To get to know which chemicals in beauty products to avoid and to look out for, start reading the ingredients panel on your cosmetics and do your research to know exactly what you are putting onto your body. If you’re unsure about a particular ingredient, a quick search will give you some answers. There are great apps and books that list all additives and the potential hazards; one I particularly like is Bill Stratham’s The Chemical Maze. The toxic chemicals in cosmetics can be easily avoided, the more you make a conscious effort to understand what you’re putting onto your body. If you want to know some of the safest cosmetics, you’ll find a list of my favourite, clean beauty products here.

Do you avoid other toxic chemicals in beauty products? Let me know via the comments below. 

P.S. Don’t forget to check out Nourished Life and purchase products available there, than those toxic ones at the chemist and supermarket!

P.P.S. Do you know someone who might find this article helpful? Spread the love and share it with them now, helping us to create a community passionate about health, beyond food and exercise.

Karina Pike Naturopath

Karina is the Principal Naturopath at Sowelu, based on Hackney road in Adelaide. With over six years clinical experience, she is passionate about gut and liver health, hormonal balancing and supporting detoxification. Karina believes that when you treat the gut, support detoxification and balance hormones true wellness follows.

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