Effective, Nontoxic Alternatives to Dirty Ingredients

Dirty 30


We share our planet with well over 75,000 different chemicals and at least 5,000 of these identified harmful chemicals are used in the cosmetic industry alone. We don’t know all the effects of exposure to every chemical. We learn about the health effects of many chemicals from human exposures and animal studies, and any chemical exposure can be poisonous or cause health effects.

People are generally concerned about chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxin which can be found at some hazardous waste sites. Products that we are exposed to daily, such as household cleaners, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, gasoline, alcohol, pesticides, fuel oil and cosmetics, can also be toxic. Any chemical can be toxic or harmful under certain conditions.

Health effects: toxic or hazardous?

Chemicals can be toxic because they can harm us when they enter or contact the body. Exposure to a toxic substance such as gasoline can affect your health. Since drinking gasoline can cause burns, vomiting, diarrhea and, in very large amounts, drowsiness or death, it is toxic. Some chemicals are hazardous because of their physical properties: they can explode, burn or react easily with other chemicals. Since gasoline can burn and its vapors can explode, gasoline is also hazardous. A chemical can be toxic, or hazardous, or both.

How can toxic substances cause harm?

Since chemicals can be toxic, it is important to understand how they can affect health. To determine the risk of harmful health effects from a substance, you must first know how toxic the substance is; how much, and by what means, a person is exposed; and how sensitive that person is to the substance.


All people are not equally sensitive to chemicals, and are not affected by them in the same way. There are many reasons for this.

  • People’s bodies vary in their ability to break down or eliminate certain chemicals due to genetic differences.
  • People may become allergic to a chemical after being exposed. They may react to very low levels of the chemical and have different or more serious health effects than nonallergic people exposed to the same amount. People who are allergic to bee venom, for example, have a more serious reaction to a bee sting than people who are not allergic.
  • Factors such as age, illness, diet, alcohol use, pregnancy and medical or nonmedical drug use can also affect a person’s sensitivity to a chemical. Young children are often more sensitive to chemicals for a number of reasons. Their bodies are still developing and they cannot get rid of some chemicals as well as adults. In addition, children absorb greater amounts of some chemicals (such as lead) into their blood than adults.

Why is it so important that you are aware of what you put on your skin? Our skin absorbs up to 60% of what comes in contact with, allowing harmful chemicals to more freely move past the outside layer of the skin. These chemicals can circulate throughout our bodies damaging our skin and putting us at risk for developing serious health concerns.

Do you know your DIRTY 30? This list is just the tip of the ice-berg; these are the most toxic of the chemicals presently being used in the skin care and cosmetic industry.


Acetone – active ingredient in nail polish remover.

Artificial colors (synthetic) – labeled FD&C or D&C with a color and then number.

Benzalkonium chloride – a preservative.

Benzene – used in aftershave and is an additive in skin care products.

Benzoyl Peroxide – used to treat acne.

Coal Tar – primarily in products used to treat psoriasis and dandruff.

Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA) – used as emulsifiers and foaming agents.

Ethylenediamine – used in moisturizers, sunscreens, and deodorants.

Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) – a common preservative.

Formaldehyde – created when other synthetic ingredients are used including quanternium-15, DMDM, and ureas.

Fragrances (synthetic) – made of up thousands of different chemicals to create one compound.

Isopropyl alcohol – most dangerous in skin care cleansers.

Lanolin - only the pure form should be used.

Mineral Oil - derived from petroleum.

Monoethanolamine (MEA) – adjusts skin pH.

Nitrosamines – toxic impurities formed when chemicals such as DEA and TEA are used in cosmetics and skin care products.

Octyl dimethyl PABA (also known as padimate-O or p-aminobenzoic acid) – often used in sunscreens.

Parabens (methyl-, propyl-, butyl- and ethyl-) – most common preservatives used in skin care.

Petrolatum (petroleum jelly) – suffocates the skin.

Phenylenediamine (PPD) – used in hair dyes.

Phthalates - simply labeled as “fragrances” or used in nail polish, hair spray, and perfumes.

Polyethylene glycol (PEG) – a chemical used to make things thicker or stickier.

Propylene glycol (PG) – commonly found in moisturizers.

Quaternium 15 - a preservative that also creates toxic by-products such as formaldehyde.

Sodium lauryl (laureth) sulfate – often disguised in “natural” products, as coconut derivative, extracted using harmful petroleum solvents.

Sodium cyanide - toxin used create EDTA.

Stearalkonium chloride - often used in hair conditioners and creams.

Talc/talcum powder - proven to cause respiratory problems.

Triclosan - often used in antibacterial cleansers and toothpaste.

Ureas (imidazolidinyl, diazolindinyl, and/or DMDM) – most commonly used preservatives after parabens.



Essential Oils, Herbal, Floral, and Natural Food Aroma Extracts.

D-Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Plantservative from Honeysuckle, Vitamin C (and high levels of other antioxidants), L-Ascorbic Acid.

Tee Tree Oil, Sulphur, Zinc, Lemongrass.

Plant Waxes, Xanthan Gum, Cetearyl Oliva.

Lecithin, Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Organic Vegetable Glycerin.

Sugar Compounds and Natural Coconut Oil Compounds.

Enzymes, Amino Acids, Oregano, Fruit Extracts.


Source MyChelle + Department of Health


  1. Cecil B says:

    Love your community. Can’t wait to read more soon.

  2. Isabella C says:

    I’m glad the public is paying more attention to ingredients – I’m always looking for skin care products that are free of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate. Keep up the blog entries.

  3. Richard says:

    Great resource. Please place a bar so anyone can share this on FB (I’d love to for sure). It’s very overwhelming to research information on nontoxic products, please post more.


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