The Five Most Harmful Ingredients in Cosmetic Products

The cosmetics sector is worth billions of dollars, expanding each day. With the rise of social media influencers and celebrity endorsements, more people than ever are interested in finding the right products to help them look their best. 

Regrettably, a lot of these items comprise potential hazards. The chemicals do more harm than good, especially when regularly used. This article lists five ingredients that might be lurking in your bag now.

Cosmetics Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

The cosmetics industry has been thriving for years and is still booming at an astonishing rate. It’s expected to pull in USD 571.10 billion by 2023. What’s driving this skyrocketing growth? 

Well, people are obsessed with beautification and grooming these days. People fancy attractive appearances that come with using cosmetic products. But they neglect the health hazards. 

They are detrimental in a variety of ways, both physically and mentally. While there are many ingredients in cosmetic products that pose a severe threat, here are five among them to start with.  


Formaldehyde is used in many cosmetic products, including eyelash glue, nail glue, and hair straighteners. It is also found in some permanent-press clothing and carpeting. The chemical harms human health. Here’s just one example:

A waitress who had an eye extension procedure developed a severe allergic reaction to the glue. She ended up with zombie eyes: bloodshot and full of goop. Sadly, she suffered further with gooey eyes and burns and could not keep her eyes open for days.

The waitress was also unable to work. She had to undergo several eye treatments, but even so, her eyes remained swollen and red for months afterward. Luckily, she healed eventually.

But not everyone can get lucky since formaldehyde can also cause long-term and fatal diseases like cancer. But how does it cause cancer? Usually, cosmetic products are non-swallowable. Let’s understand this by taking hair straightener products as an example.

A chemical solution is applied to your hair during the hair straightening treatment. The solution contains formaldehyde, which kills bacteria and fungi that cause dandruff and other skin conditions. It also helps the hair straightening process last longer than usual.

However, the chemical leeches into your scalp and enters your body. Once inside the body, it attacks cells and further causes cancer. Several such incidents have actually happened since many women filed the hair straightener cancer lawsuit.

This sort of lawsuit is usually against the manufacturer. The case argued that they should have informed users of the chemicals in their products and the risks associated with long-term use. 


You may have heard in October 2022, Unilever recalled 19 dry shampoos. It took the step because these 19 dry shampoos contained benzene, a volatile organic compound (VOC). 

It appears that the manufacturer purchased ingredients containing benzene from another supplier without knowing that they had this chemical. After discovering benzene’s possible presence in their product line-up, they immediately issued a voluntary recall to protect customers’ safety.

However, benzene is also found in many cosmetic products like shampoo, body wash, and hair dye. This means you are still at risk of the harmful effects of benzene and, therefore, should avoid using benzene-containing cosmetics. 


Toluene is a solvent that can cause neurological damage and liver damage. It’s also known to be a carcinogen. The health effects of toluene are caused by its ability to penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream, where it can reach the brain, liver, and kidneys. 

Toluene is one of the most common ingredients in nail polish removers, but you may not realize how much exposure you’re getting from them. The EPA guidelines allow for no more than 100 parts per million. And one teaspoon of nail polish remover contains 10,000 per part million of toluene.

If you apply two coats of polish every time you do your nails, you end up putting more than 20 times more toluene on your hands than the EPA allows. And it’s quite a bit. 

Mercury Compounds

You may have heard about the dangers of mercury and its compounds in seafood. But this is an ingredient you’ll find in many cosmetic products, too. It’s been shown that this chemical can cause reproductive problems and damage the nervous system and kidneys. 

The most common sources of mercury in cosmetics include mascara and eye makeup. However, you might also see it listed on your skin-lightening products due to their use of a thimerosal compound. Since you are directly applying the cosmetic onto your skin, mercury easily seeps into your body and starts affecting your health.

Di(2-Ethylhexyl)Phthalate DEHP

DEHP is an endocrine disruptor (ED) and plasticizer found in toys, medical devices, and personal care products. DEHP has been linked to hormone disruption, reproductive toxicity, asthma, delayed neurobehavioral development in children, behavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and early puberty. 

More prolonged exposure to DEHP also leads to death. Thousands of people in America die from DEHP exposure each year. It causes 91-107 thousand early deaths annually among those aged 55-64 in the US. If you wish to live longer, then it’s best in your interest to avoid cosmetic products that contain DEHP.

Switch to Organic Cosmetic Products

If you are concerned about the side effects of chemicals in your cosmetics, then switching to organic cosmetics is a wise choice. Because of the rising need for natural and non-toxic products, this sector is experiencing a huge boom. 

In 2021, it was worth 35 billion USD globally, which is expected to surpass 59 billion by 2030. Market growth may be linked to customers being more aware of the detrimental consequences of the chemicals in ordinary cosmetic supplies.

Also, organic ingredients are safer for your health and better for your skin since they are made from naturally occurring materials like fruits, vegetables, or flowers rather than chemical syntheses that may have unknown consequences on the body over time.


It’s prudent to read the label and ingredient list on the product package. And it’s more important to research the ingredient before buying and using the products. However, the effort is not worth it; therefore, you should switch to organic or natural products.

While these ingredients are not always harmful, they can cause severe damage and should be avoided if possible. Hopefully, this post has provided you with enough information to make an educated cosmetic purchase decision.

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