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Potentially Harmful Ingredients Often Used in Commercial Facial Moisturizers:

  • Synthetic Fragrances - An unspecified mixture of chemicals that are known human immune system toxicants; Found in majority of moisturizers; Moderate evidence of human neurotoxicity
  • Lecithin - A skin conditioning and emulsifying (binding) agent; also penetration enhancer - alters skin structure, allows other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin; Waxy substance in nervous tissue of all living organisms; forms carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds if mixed with nitrosating agents
  • PEG (aka: Ingredients starting with the following and proceeded with a number: Oleth; Nonoxynol; PEG; Octoxynol; Ceteareth and Ceteth - Most commonly used are Ceteareth 20, Ceteareth 30 and PEG 8) - A humectant (promotes moisture retention) cleansing agent and solubilizing agent - Not safe for use on injured or damaged skin; eye and skin irritant; penetration enhancer - alters skin structure, allows other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin; may be contaminated with harmful impurities like Ethylene Oxide (highly hazardous; known carcinogen; immune, respiratory, cardiovascular and skin toxicant; neurotoxin; reproductive system, nervous system and developmental toxicant; toxic to the liver, etc.) and 1,4 Dioxane (probable carcinogen; respiratory, skin, eye and lung toxicant/irritant)
  • Benzyl Alcohol - A fragrance ingredient, preservative, solvent and viscosity decreasing agent; strong evidence as a neurotoxin; causes allergenic effects to skin and lungs; mutagenic; skin sensitizer and irritant
  • Triethanolamine (TEA) - A fragrance ingredient, pH adjuster and emulsifying agent; strong evidence as an immune, respiratory and skin toxicant; possible immune system toxicant; forms carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds if mixed with nitrosating agents; may cause asthma
  • BHT - An antioxidant and fragrance ingredient; skin and lung irritant; endocrine disruptor and brain and nervous system effects at low doses
  • BHA - An antioxidant and fragrance ingredient; potential human carcinogen; liver effects at very low doses; Prohibited in Europe - Should not be used as a fragrance ingredient (Based on the depigmenting effect); mutagenic
  • Tocopherylacetate - An antioxidant and skin-conditioning agent; skin sensitizer - can instigate immune system response that can include itching, burning, scaling, hives, and blistering of skin; strong skin toxicity; broad systemic effects at moderate doses on organs; May be contaminated with toxic impurities such as Hydroquinone which has been linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, organ system toxicity and endocrine disruption
  • Propylene Glycol - A fragrance ingredient, skin-conditioning agent and viscosity decreasing agent; Has been found to provoke skin irritation and sensitization in humans as low as 2% concentration, while the industry review panel recommends cosmetics can contain up to 50% of the substance; may provoke allergic reactions; reproductive effects at moderate doses; mutagenic; penetration enhancer which alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin
  • FD&C Color Pigments - Synthetic colors derived from coal tar that are continously tested on animals due to their carcinogenic properties; Contain heavy metal salts that deposit toxins onto the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation; Animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic
  • Paraben Preservatives - Used as inhibitors of microbial growth and to extend shelf life of products; Widely used even though they are known to be highly toxic; Skin sensitiser - Known to cause allergic reactions and skin rashes and can instigate immune system response that can include itching, burning, scaling, hives, and blistering of skin.

NOTE: This is a non-inclusive list of harmful ingredients found in many commercial products. There are numerous other toxic and potentially damaging ingredients, but were not listed as they are less frequently utilized.

How Safe Is Your Facial Moisturizer?

For more information or to find out what's lurking in your products, search the Cosmetics Database at Skin Deep by Environmental Working Group at You will be amazed and disgusted!

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