Top 10 Toxic Ingredients To Avoid In Personal Care Products

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One area that I revisited as I learned of choosing natural remedies and solutions for my family is the use of personal care products. It can be hard to know where to turn with so many options and marketing campaigns at each turn – everybody knows what is best and what isn’t, and we are lost on which voice to listen to.

Because of this, it’s empowering to learn the details for yourself, to learn and to study, rather than to rely on somebody else to tell you how to think.

This is where many of us begin to research everyday things, and make a choice to find natural solutions for our family. Congratulations! You are a new-to-natural mama, one who is research-oriented, who wants to go back-to-the-basics, and to rid of all the static surrounding our everyday consumer choices.

One of the most empowering ways to take charge of your family’s own health is to learn what goes into the products we use. And one category we may overlook is that of personal care products. We all know to eat fresh foods grown from dirt, to choose more sustainable options for everyday, and more of the like. But what about the ingredients in your shampoo or beauty products?

A lot of people realize that the products they are using aren’t the best options, but aren’t entirely sure why that is, or how to switch. Sometimes we need more direct help. The other day I shared a list on household items to ditch and switch, which is a great starting point… but what do you do with that information? While it’s easy to simply stick with what you know, it’s also important to realize when new information comes along which causes a shift in your own understanding of the situation, or product.

In this fallen world we live in, stuff easily gets messy. This includes the ingredients in the products we use and consume. Detergent, toothpaste, soap, moisturizer, air freshener, you name it – all of them can have very toxic ingredients in them.

Read: it only takes 26 seconds for chemicals[ingredients] to absorb into your bloodstream through the skin.

Ingredients which disrupt hormone balance, cause allergy issues or acne breakouts, disrupts gut health and the microbiome, a multitude of issues… Many of which are slow-coming, prolonged over time, where we may not see the effects until years down the road. This makes it even harder to see the root, but even more pertinent to be proactive into what you allow into your lives – the products you use and consume.

Enter this list of the top 10 toxic ingredients to avoid in your personal care products…

P.S. This goes alongside my article the other day on household items to ditch and switch for the new year – and is another great reference point to simplify your home with more natural and sustainable options – no more harsh, toxic ingredients and materials!

P.P.S. This also goes alongside my article about greenwashing and why you need to know about it to avoid it!

Here are the top 10 toxic ingredients to avoid in your personal care products (+ why you’d want to):


Parabens are a class of widely used preservatives in cosmetic, food, and pharmaceutical products. They can cause allergy and skin reactions, and are also known endocrine disruptors, affecting hormones, which is especially pertinent information for expecting mothers to know, as this affects their pregnancy and growing child. In many products they are named methylparaben or propylparaben.

Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS)

This is a harsh detergent which is known to cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. It’s widely used in soaps, shampoos, and even toothpaste. It is very inexpensive, which translates to being widely used in place of safer options. It is an effective foaming agent, which explains its use in soaps and shampoos. The EWG rates sodium lauryl sufate as a moderate hazard which has been linked to skin irritation, organ toxicity, and encodrine disruption. The kicker? There are over 40,000 studies in the PubMed science library which includes information on the effects of this chemical.

Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is a cleanser often found in soaps and shampoos. It irritates the skin, and breaks down skin cells – which enhances aging. Kind of counter-productive in skincare products, right? It’s even been named Allergen Of The Year in 2018… what? There are nearly 6,000 studies in PubMed on the effects of propylene glycol, which is enough to cause a double take for this truth-seeking mama.


Phthalates are used to make plastics more flexible, and you can find it hidden in furniture, food packaging, toys, and more. It’s everywhere. Because it’s used in plastic, this means it can also seep into products such as food (if you store food in plastic storage) and cause a multitude of issues. One of the best known functions is as an endocrine disruptor; Another less known link but equally as important point is its effects on the cardiovascular system – and an array of issues because of it.


“Fragrances” are used to scent products. It is a very general umbrella term, which is surprisingly all that’s required when listing ingredients. Each company’s fragrance (or parfum) are considered proprietary, and the company is not required to say what’s in it. That’s a lot of mystery and unknown – which is used in your skin and personal care products. Some “fragrances” are actually chemicals known to be carcinogenic or endocrine disruptors.


Aluminum is usually found in antiperspirants, or deodorants. It’s been linked to an array of illnesses and ailments, namely those which are rooted in neurological damage. This article quickly reviews it well, and there are over a dozen studies (to start your own researched) referenced for support in seeking aluminum-free products, especially deodorants ( P.S. Find my favorite natural deodorant here)


Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal component which is commonly added to soaps, toothpastes, hand sanitizers, deodorants, and more. This disrupts the microbiome, which causes an array of issues (because it’s disrupting your gut health – which is also known as your second brain). It also affects the endocrine system, which includes your thyroid (which affects energy production for every cell of the body) and reproductive hormones – areas which can lead to a vast array of health issues. There is good reason to stay away – in 2016, the U.S. banned triclosan in personal antibacterial products because of a study which found evidence of liver damage in mice, per this component.


Derived from (and sometimes mistaken for) petroleum, this is used often in soaps, lotions, and creams. It coats the skin and prevents the skin from “breathing,” which means that it clogs the pores and makes breakouts more likely. Kind of counterproductive in skin care, right? It is also known to cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. It’s most often used in mascara – and you can search the Skin Deep database to find if your products contain it.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

PEG increases the permeability of the skin, which means that more can be absorbed into the skin – which is not always a good thing! It’s commonly found in lotions and cleaners, and is used to create a cream base, to moisturize, soften, or thicken the skin. It actually alters the DNA, and oftentimes in manufacturing includes another harmful compound – 1,4 dioxane – which is known to interfere with fetal development. (source)


Dimethicone is a type of synthetic silicone-derived oil that coats skin and hair, clogging pores and leading to increased acne and skin irritation. It’s commonly found in conditioners and makeup, has proven to cause allergies – and surprisingly bizzare, is a known food additive. (It’s also responsible for that “transition period” when you switch to natural – your hair has to get rid of all of this before it can be healthy again.)

Take a few minutes to look at the labels of your shampoos, detergents, and lotions, next time you use them. Do you spot any of these ingredients, and if you do, what are you going to do about it, now that you know? Take some time to ditch and switch!

Also be sure to research your labels yourself, taking your wellness into your own hands, by using these websites/databases:

P.S. When you find them, here is a family-owned company that makes plant-based care products to replace those!

~Katherine Newsom writes at Simple Natural Mama

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