Short list of harmful cosmetic ingredients

A short list of cosmetic ingredients that can cause allergies, irritation and sensitivisation.

The negative effects of cosmetics are directly proportional to their concentration and to the time in which they are in contact with the skin, since they contain chemicals that sediment on the skin and inside follicles. If used too often cleansers and shampoos can be harmful for your skin too.


Damages are not evident immediately after you apply these products but, on the contrary, consequences can be observed over time.


Following, a list of the most common ingredients as you find them on the labels, divided according to their specificity of action.


Additives, emulsifiers Some ingredients, contaminated by substances such as the cancer-causing 1.4 dioxane, can contribute to the development of harmful effects. These include the ingredients beginning with PEGEth.


  • Polyethyleneglycole (PEG) It is a category of synthetic emulsifiers. They are used in cleansers and shampoos to obtain viscous emulsions and in creams to obtain soothing and moisture emulsions. Their effect seems good because, actually, they only hide the appearance of the skin. In particular, those who have sensitive or damaged skin should avoid PEG6, PEG20, PEG 75.


  • Propylen glycol, Butylen glycol, Polypropylene glycol These are used as solvent or diluting substances in emulsions to avoid the separation of components in the emulsions. They penetrate the skin, that’s why they are used as vectors to transport active ingredients. By frequently using these substances, the skin is more sensitive and permeable. Propylen Glycol is also used to extract active ingredients from plants.


  • Ethylene glycol Synthetic solvent. Irritating, toxic. It causes ozone pollution in the environment.




  • Kathon It is a synthetic preservative and a broad-spectrum bactericide, effective even if a low dose of it is used and it is considered a sensitising agent. It is not employed in pharmacology.


  • Quaternium 15 It is a quaternary ammonium salt used as a preservative and antiseptic but even as a disinfectant and deodorizing in many detergents and deodorants. It releases formaldehyde and it is a sensitising agent.


  • Imidazolidinyl urea It is a synthetic preservative that releases formaldehyde. It is employed in cosmetics but it isn’t used in pharmacology. It causes sensitisation and allergies.


  • Diazolidinyl urea It’s the same as the previous one but heavier.


  • Methyl paraben, Propyl paraben, Butyl paraben, Ethyl paraben. Parabens are the most widely used types of preservatives in cosmetics. They can cause intolerance, mainly to those people with sensitive skin.



  • MEA/TEA/DEA (amine and amine derivatives) These substances contain Monoethanolamine (MEA), Triethanolamine (TEA), Diethanolamine (DEA). By penetrating the skin, they can cause the development of nitrosamines (cancer-causing substances) and residual deposits. These are synthetic or coconut oil-derived fatty acids and they are used as emulsifiers and/or foaming agents. They are used to produce cosmetics, detergents, shampoos and hair conditioners and they are often combined with each other or with other surfactants or emulsifiers easily absorbed by the skin. They cuase sensitivisation, dehydration and they are toxic. They may trigger acne breakouts and dandruff. This category includes: Cocamide DEA, Oleamide DEA, Lauramide DEA, Cocamide TEA, Oleamide TEA, Lauramide TEA, Cocamide MEA, Oleamide MEA, Lauramide MEA, Linoleamide DEA, Myristamide DEA, Stearamide DEA, DEA-Cethyl Phosphate, DEA-Oleth-3 Phosphate, TEA-Lauryl Sulfate, Thiethanoamine.


  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Amonium Lauryl Sulfate, TEA-lauryl sulfate, Magnesium Laureth sulfate, MEA Laureth Sulfate These are synthetic surfactants derived from ethylene oxide, they are used to produce detergents, soaps, shampoos and body washes. They cause irritation, dehydration and they are comedogenic ingredients, i.e. they tend to cause blackheads by blocking the pores of the skin. Their negative effect depends on their concentration in the product and to the time in which they are in contact with the skin. They are responsible for long-term skin alteration and irritation. They sediment on the skin and follicles.


  • Sodium laureth sulfate and Amonium laureth sulfate These are synthetic surfactants derived from ethylene oxide and they have emulsifying and foaming effects. They increase the solidity of the product. This family of surfactants can cause irritation, particularly eye irritation, proportionally to its concentration in the product.

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