Ten Synthetic Cosmetic Ingredients to Avoid

1. Synthetic Fragrances

These artificial ingredients can have as many as 200 substances. There is no way to know what the chemicals are, since on the label is will simply say “fragrance.” Some problems caused by these chemicals include headaches, dizziness, rashes, hyper-pigmentation, coughing, feeling sick and skin irritation. Advice: Don’t buy a cosmetic product that has the word “fragrance” on the ingredients label.

2. Synthetic Colours

These are added to make cosmetics pretty. But synthetic colours, along with synthetic hair dyes, should be avoided. They well be labelled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a colour and a number. For example, FD&C Red No6 or D&C Green No 6. These substances can by carcinogenic. So you should not use them.

3. Petrolatum

Also known as petroleum jelly, this mineral oil derivative is used for its emollient properties in cosmetics. It has no nutrient value for the skin and can interfere with the body’s own natural moisturising ability, leading to dryness and chapping. It often creates the very conditions it claims to alleviate. Its a popular ingredient because it is so cheap.

4.Propylene Glycol

This is usually a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol – both of which are natural. But it can also be a synthetic petrochemical used as a humectant. Amongst the adverse reactions that it can cause are allergies, hives and eczema. Look out for PEG (polyethylene glycol) or PPG (polypropylene glycol), as both are related synthetics.

5. Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl Parbens

Used to preserve cosmetics and prevent bacteria, they are the cause of many allergic reactions and skin rashes. Studies have shown that they are also estrogenic and can be absorbed by the skin. They are still widely used even though they are potentially toxic.


6. Diethanolamine (DEA) & Triethanolamine (TEA)

Used in emulsifiers and foaming agents, these can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and dryness of hair and skin. DEA and TEA are ammonia compounds and have the potential to cause cancer-promoting nitrosamines when they come into contact with nitrates. If used over a long period they can cause toxicity.

7. Sodium Laurly/Laureth Sulphate

A cheap and harsh detergent used in shampoos and usually derived from petroleum. Causes eye irritation, scalp scurf similar to dandruff, skin rashes and other allergic reactions.

8. Stearalkonium Chloride

A compound of a ammonia it was developed as a fabric softener and is used in hair conditioning formulas because it is cheap. It causes allergic reactions and is toxic.

9. Diazolidinyl Urea/Imidazolidinyl Urea

Used as preservatives but the American Academy of Dermatology has found them to be one of the primary causes of dermatitis. Two trade names for these products are Germall ll and Germall 115. These chemicals release formaldehyde which can be toxic.

10. PVP/VA Copolymer

Another petroleum-derived chemical used in hairsprays, styling aids and cosmetics. Inhaled particles can damage lungs in sensitive individuals.