How Toxic Are Skin Care Products?

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How Toxic Are Skin Care Products | Real Food RN

Does Beauty Have to Mean Toxins? What’s in Your Skin Care Products?

We, women, use makeup to make us beautiful—to give us a “fresh” look and to bring out our best features. We lacquer our eyelids, plaster our lips with the season’s most popular lip color and varnish our faces with moisturizer, all in the name of beauty. But did you know that even though the FDA controls the contents allowed in skin care products, there are dangerous chemicals that seep into our skin each time we apply them?

What’s even more terrifying is that our skin is our largest organ and absorbs 60% of what we put on it. There are over 80,000 different ingredients found in skin care products, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. And, 2014, a cosmetic ingredient review panel released the fact that 89% of ingredients in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety. How toxic are skin care products? Below is a shortlist of the chemicals we should avoid when purchasing skin care and makeup products.

Heavy Metals

Common makeup and other personal care products contain heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and mercury—in other words, poisons. The reason these metals continue to be added to makeup is because they are naturally occurring in some of the raw materials cosmetic companies use. But you won’t find these ingredients listed on the jars because companies aren’t required to disclose these contaminants. These heavy metals cause localized skin issues, but also have systemic effects once they are absorbed into our skin.

DMDM Hydantoin and Urea (Imidazolidinyl)

These preservatives can often be found in shampoo, conditioners, skin care products and even baby wipes. They release formaldehyde, which can cause headaches, depression, chronic fatigue, chest pain, joint pain, cancer, dizziness and insomnia.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

These chemicals are found in approximately 90% of personal-care products that foam. This is a major concern, considering how popular foaming products such as face cleansers and hand soap have become. And even scarier is that they are also used in garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers! They have been found to cause eye damage, depression, diarrhea, skin irritation and labored breathing.

PEG (Polyethylene glycol)

Though it has been determined that this compound doesn’t easily absorb into the skin and is actually safe, it is often contaminated with chemicals that are harmful and are absorbed easily, such as ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. PEG is often found in cosmetic cream bases.


This is a synthetic antibacterial ingredient that the EPA registers as a pesticide which poses risk to humans and the environment. It is classified as chlorophenol, which are chemicals suspected of causing cancer in humans. Since antibacterial products are all the rage, you can find it in many products.

Obviously, we can’t depend on the FDA to keep us safe. (Of course, we knew this already.) It’s important to carefully read the ingredients on all of our skin care products, including the ones we use on our children. Labels are misleading—don’t trust a brand name just because it is marketed as “all natural” or “safe for babies.” We must be vigilant in choosing skin care products for our families because children’s skin absorbs 40-50% more chemicals than adults’ do, which can lead to health issues as they mature.

So what are we to do if we want to continue looking our best? Does beauty have to mean toxins? There are reliable companies who produce safe, high-quality skin products. I started a Safe Skin Care Facebook group where we continue this discussion and offer solutions, join the group HERE.

Do you have a favorite, toxic-free skin care regiment? Please add to the conversation by leaving a comment below!

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How Toxic Are Skin Care Products | Real Food RN
Learn More About Kate, Founder of Real Food RN

Hi! I'm Kate.

Registered Nurse. Mom. Real Foodie.

Welcome to Real Food RN! A blog with the mission to empower you to live your healthiest life possible, starting today.



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I am an RN, not an MD. The information on this blog is not intended to be taken as medical advice. The statements made here have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. You can find out more in my Terms of Use & Disclosure and Privacy Policy.