10 Harmful Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics - Beo and Bella

10 Harmful Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics

Despite of the fact that people tend to ignore it, cosmetics and personal care products may contain numerous harmful ingredients that are not good for us. For this reason, you should carefully consider what to use on a daily basis. Discover what you should avoid based on the ingredients listed on the labels.

Harmful Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics

But you might think cosmetics are quite safe. After all, otherwise they wouldn't be selling them at stores, right? Well, it is actually not that simple. A lot of responsibility falls on the shoulders of the consumer because still to this day, many cosmetics contain some of the following harmful ingredients:

1. SLS and SLES

SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) are very common sulfates that you may spot on the labels of your shampoo bottles and other personal care products.

These can irritate your eyes and skin and cause allergies and redness and dry skin. They are fairly harsh detergents that remove the natural oils from your skin and can even be the cause of dandruff and other skin issues. They may also have links to more serious illnesses.

Look out for: sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium dodecyl sulfate, SLS, SLES

2. Triclosan

Triclosan can be found in some soaps, skincare products, and detergents. Many companies still use it because of its anti-bacterial properties.

However, triclosan is linked to skin and eye irritation and more importantly, it may cause hormone disruption. 

Look out for: triclosan (TSC), triclocarban (TCC).

3. Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is common in sunscreens and makeup products with an SPF protection. Studies have shown that oxybenzone is capable of mimicking the hormone estrogen, possibly leading to very serious conditions. It can also cause skin allergies and irritation.

However, we don't want to encourage anyone to stop using sunscreen since it is still the best anti-aging cream out there and also the best protection against skin cancer. We carry great sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone, and you can check them out here.

Look out for: oxybenzone, benzophenone-3, BP-3

4. Phthalates

Unfortunately avoiding these chemicals is not easy since they are used in many cosmetics and personal care products. You will really need to look for the 'no phthalates' slogan or ensure the ingredients list does not mention 'fragrance'. The reason for this is that it is not compulsory for manufacturers to list the specific chemicals that make up fragrances. They are able to mask many ingredients under the 'fragrance' label.

Phthalates may cause a number of health issues. They've been known to disrupt hormones, and have been linked to insulin resistance and diabetes, too. Some studies even mention a cancer link.

Look out for: DEP, DBP, DEHP, fragrance, phthalate

5. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

You can find PEG in many types of cosmetics, especially in moisturizers and shampoos.

PEG is often contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane which is linked to respiratory problems and a carcinogen called ethylene oxide.

Look out for: polyethylene glycol, PEG followed by a number; ex: PEG-40

6. Parabens

Parabens are present in many beauty and personal care products because they are an inexpensive way to keep the product fresh.

Cumulative exposure to parabens may contribute to health problems, e.g. hormone disruption as some studies show that parabens mimic estrogen.

Look out for: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben

7. Alcohol in Cosmetics

Not all alcohol in cosmetics is bad for you. Alcohol can help the skin to absorb cosmetics better, which is why it is used in some products, especially in moisturizers.

However, if you have a sensitive skin, be wary of alcohol based products, as some alcohols can cause skin to dry.

For these type of alcohols, look out for: ethanol, SD alcohol, methanol, denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol. 

8. Formaldehyde & formaldehyde-releasers

You might have heard that some nail polishes and nail polish removers contain formaldehyde but it might also be found in hair products (even in baby shampoo) and soap.

It is not very common anymore but it is still worth checking those labels as formaldehyde is a known carcinogen linked to asthma and neurotoxicity.

Look out for the following endings: formaldehyde, -formalin, -bromopol, -glyoxal. In addition, the following ingredients either contain or release formaldehyde: quaternium 15, bronopol, diazolidinyl urea, 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3 dioxane, and hydroxymethylglycinate, methylene glycol, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea

9. Fragrance

Fragrances are used everywhere in cosmetics, not just in perfumes. Artificial fragrances often include petroleum- or coal-derived chemicals which are known nose and skin irritants and potentially dangerous for people with respiratory issues. 

Essential oils extracted from natural ingredients are a healthier choice but they are often more expensive than the artificial fragrances and that is why many manufacturers choose the latter option.

Look out for: fragrance, aroma, perfume, parfum

10. Diethanolamine

Banned by European Union but still used in the US, diethanolamine is a foaming agent that is found in shampoos, cleansers, shower gels and bath products.

Unfortunately, it is has been linked to cancer and respiratory issues.


This is not a comprehensive list since there are, unfortunately, other harmful ingredients too. The best thing to do is to educate yourself on this topic and be cautious about the products you use. Furthermore, be mindful about the fact that The European Union has banned many more chemicals which are still permitted in the US. The products containing these might be sold anywhere, even at the pharmacy.

It's not easy to avoid harmful ingredients in cosmetics but there is something you can do. Look for brands that are transparent and disclose their full list of ingredients. We at Beo and Bella always display the full ingredients lists for every single product, for all the brands we carry - and if the brand is not open about the ingredients, then we don't want them in our store. You can find the full list of ingredients in the 'Ingredients' section of the product page for each and every product we carry.

Learn More About Harmful Ingredients in Cosmetics

We recommend the following websites (we are not affiliated with them in any way) that can help you learn more about harmful ingredients in cosmetics.

Search for ingredients:

European Chemicals Agency (As mentioned, EU is more strict than the US when it comes to the chemicals in cosmetics)

CosIng - the EU database for info on cosmetic substances & ingredients

Cosmetics Info

Databases for scientific studies:

Science Direct 


Info about cosmetics' safety: 

Safe Cosmetics

We hope this post helps you decide what goes into your skin and body. If you have any questions about the products we carry on our website, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here for you, and we want you to make informed choices.