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Updated: Apr 22, 2020

The ingredient called “fragrance,” or “parfum” or “scent,” is found in many perfumes, face creams, common hand sanitizer, and hair products (and even many household cleaners).

These “fragrances” contain many harsh chemicals. In some perfumes, up to 95% of ingredients are synthetic. Toxic ingredients include acetone, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, camphor, ethanol, ethyl acetate, limonene, linalool, methylene chloride as well as phthalates, stearates, and parabens.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfates or Sodium Laureth Sulfates (SLS’s):  This is used as surfactants found in hair products, toothpastes, skin products, dishwashing soap, many lathering soaps, car wash soaps, garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers. It causes the body to absorb nitrates at higher levels than eating nitrate contaminated foods.

Petroleum by-products:  This potentially carcinogenic substance is also known as mineral oil, petrolatum, liquid paraffin, toluene, xylene, found in shampoos and soaps.

Mineral Oil:  Baby oil contains mineral oil, a petroleum ingredient that coats the skin like plastic wrap.  The skin’s natural immune barrier is disrupted as this plastic coating inhibits its ability to breathe and absorb natural moisture and nutrition.  The skin’s ability to release toxins is impeded, which can promote acne and other skin disorders. This decreases the normal cell development of the skin, causing the skin to age prematurely.

Other chemicals found in personal care products:

Isopropyl alcohol and Parabens:

DEA(diethanolamine)  MEA(monoethanolamine) TEA(triethanolamine):  These ingredients are usually listed with names such as Coco Amide DEA or MEA, Lauramide DEA, etc.

PEG:  This is an abbreviation for polyethylene glycol

Propylene Glycol (PG), Ethylene Glycol: This is a surfactant or wetting agent, and solvent used in industrial antifreeze, brake fluid and hydraulic fluid.

Listerine Breath Strips.

FD&C Color Pigments

Fluoride: A neurotoxin in high doses or chronic use.

Chlorine:The fumes from chlorine contains chloroform.

Fragrance:  Chemicals that contain toxic, volatile organic compounds

Nanoparticles:  Extremely small particles that penetrates cell walls, found in lotions, moisturizers, make-up, sunscreen.

Formaldehyde:  This chemical is a carcinogen, found in nail polish, bath products, and some over the counter products.  It is a strong disinfectant and preservative.

Imidazolidinyl Urea and DMDM Hydantoin:  These are preservatives that release formaldehyde (formaldehyde donors).

Benzene, Xylene,Toluene: These are poisonous hydrocarbons obtained from coal tar or petroleum.  They are used in making dyes, detergents, nail polish and polish remover, and solvent-based adhesives used in homes. They are also used in the formica industry, home pesticides, solvents, antiseptics.

Phthalates:  Found in plastics and some fragrances and is linked to sperm damage and poor reproductive outcomes in humans. Phthalate exposure is has been linked to lower IQ in children whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy.

Styrene: This organic compound has a sweet scent at lower concentrations, so it’s very commonly used in fragrances. However, it increases the risk of cancer in humans.

Triclosan: It is found in anti-bacterial soaps and similar products.

Lead:  This is found in several brands of lipstick and hair coloring kits.

Mercury:  This is sometimes listed as thimerosol, and can be found in some cosmetics such as mascara.

Methylene chloride: This chemical was used for many years as industrial paint thinner. It is still used in food processing and can be found in fragrances.


Committee of Science and Technology.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Consumers Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients

American College of Toxicology

Natural Moisture Factor

Material Safety Data Sheets

“Dangerous Beauty” by Mark Fearer – on SLS’s

“Is This Your Child’s World?” by Doris J Rapp, MD - on chlorine

Dr Samuel Epstein, Professor of the Environmental health at the

University of Illinois – on DEA, MEA, TEA

“Home Safe Home” by Debra Lynn Dudd – on FD&C color pigments

Mayo Clinic – on Imidazolidinyl Urea and DMDM Hydantoin – product safety ratings – research on individual ingredients


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