We all know there are ingredients we need to avoid when going to the beauty counter, but what are they exactly? For those of us without chemistry degrees, what are these ingredients called, what are they most commonly used for, and are there any other names that they may be hiding under?

Well, we’ve compiled an easy-to-reference list. Just print it out and keep it handy! We haven’t included every nasty ingredient but we have tried to include the most common.

Take a look and let us know how your next beauty purchase goes.

Ingredient Is or is Suspected To Be Found In Used for Also Look for on Labels
Formaldehyde Carcinogen Preservative Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15
Parabens Estrogenic Body care products, cosmetics and food Inhibiting microbial growth and extending shelf life methyl-, propyl-, butyl- and ethylparaben
Petrolatum Derived from non-renewable crude-oil Mineral oil, petroleum jelly, lipstick Emollient, lubricant
Phenylenediamine (PPD) Linked to bladder cancers in frequent users Hair dyes, especially darker shades P-diaminobenzene, FD&C or D&C followed by a number
Phthalates Hormone disrupter. Have been shown to cause birth defects and low sperm count in adult men. Synthetic fragrances can also cause such things as headaches, dizziness, rashes and skin irritation Many products Cover the smell of the product “Fragrance”, DEHP, DINP, BzBP, DBP, DEP or DMP
Sodium lauryl/ laureth sulfate (SLS) Skin irritant, causes dryness Shampoo and toothpaste Foaming agent “Comes from coconuts”
Talc NIH recommended that talc be categorized as a probable carcinogen; this was vetoed by another government body Everything from eye shadow to blush to baby powder Powder
Toluene Affects the nervous system, liver and kidneys over the long-term Nail polish Solvent
Triclosan Allergies & possible endocrine disrupter soaps (0.10-1.00%), deodorants, toothpastes, shaving creams, mouth washes, and cleaning supplies Antibacterial and antifungal agent
Stearalkonium chloride Ammonium compound that can cause allergic reactions Hair conditioners and creams An alternative to proteins and herbals , it was originally developed as a fabric softener

Suite 101
Ecoholic, Adria Vasil, 2007, p.7