Top 5 Toxic Skincare Ingredients To Avoid

Detox is a word that’s used on the regular these days. We know the reality of toxic buildup in our bodies, that it’s not good for us and that it needs to get out. Toxins build up because our bodies don’t know how to absorb + assimilate these foreign ingredients, so they continue to circulate, putting strain on our bodies, rather than becoming food and nourishment for our cells.

Believe it or not, conventional beauty + body products can actually be one of the biggest contributors to our toxic load. But before we get into some technical terms and the top toxic skincare ingredients to avoid, let’s look at the WHY behind it all.

There are countless pollutants in our environment that we can’t control, so it’s important to be conscious of the choices we can make and to avoid contributing to the toxic buildup in our bodies – with what we put on our plates and apply to our skin. Our bodies can handle occasional chemicals but when exposed consistently and daily, disease and health conditions are more likely to occur.

Since the beauty industry is largely unregulated (the last legislation passed to regulate safety of cosmetics was over 80 years ago!), it’s up to you to do your own research to find the safest products. There are no legal standards for personal care products labeled as “pure,” “natural” or “organic,” so it’s time to look beyond the marketing claims and start to read labels carefully.

We know it’s a lot to take in – so we’ll simplify what to look for on your product labels and help you detox your beauty bag. The following are five specific chemicals you absolutely want to avoid in your skincare products.


We get it, we all want to smell fresh + floral! But these engineered scents can contain any combination of 3,000+ chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens. Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore can remain undisclosed. That smells a little fishy to us, rather than floral.

MEA (Monoethanolamine), DEA (Diethanolamine), or TEA (Triethanolamine)

These acronyms act as emulsifiers (prevents separation of ingredients) and surfactants (foaming agents). In our mind, any ingredient that needs an acronym on a product label is toxic material. Often found in cleansers, fragrances and makeup, they are linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruption and birth defects.


PEG compounds have several functions in skincare such as humectants (attracts moisture), surfactants, emulsifiers and penetration enhancers (increases product absorption into skin). Sounds like all good things, right? Well, when these chemical compounds may be contaminated with carcinogens, they actually help to carry these impurities through the skin and into the bloodstream with the possibility of contributing to birth defects and infertility.


These plasticizing chemicals make products pliable and fragrances stick to skin, so we can smell good all day long. But with dangers of endocrine disruption, respiratory toxicity, birth defects and infertility, we don’t want this sticking to our skin, ever. Look for these acronyms (alert!) on labels: DBP, DEHP, DMP, DEP. It’s also commonly hidden under “fragrance” or “parfum” – remember, those are code words for “chemical cocktail”.


Often contaminated with asbestos (a highly toxic mineral), it’s health concerns are high and can include skin irritations, organ system toxicity, respiratory distress and serious cancer risks. Found in everyday powder products such as baby powder, deodorant, dry shampoos and mineral makeup, it helps to absorb moisture and prevent caking – but we really don’t think the risks are worth it.

With ingredient lists containing chemicals like these listed above and their link to a number of health conditions + diseases, it’s no question why hormone imbalances, infertility, cancer, birth defects, acne and allergies are SERIOUSLY on the rise. Be kind to your body by avoiding these top toxic ingredients in skincare.

So, now for some good news!

Safe alternatives are available and there are steps you can take to detox + reduce toxic exposure on your skin and in your body. The benefits? Expect to experience a positive difference in hormone health, energy, adrenal glands, pms symptoms and clearer skin – just to name a few!

We’re meant to put ingredients in (and on!) our body that nourish, strengthen and repair, so look for pure, simple, short ingredient lists on labels – with words you can actually pronounce and understand! We are firm believers that fewer is better. And that real + recognizable ingredients really do provide lasting results without sacrificing your health or well-being.

Detox Challenge: Swap out one beauty or skincare product you use daily with a non-toxic option. Here’s a great place to start!

Detox Tip: To find out whether your go-to products are safe or not, try Think Dirty’s Shop Clean App. This easy-to-use resource ranks the safety of specific products on a scale of 1-10.

Have you made any clean beauty swaps lately? Tell us about it with a comment!


Conventional beauty products can be one of the biggest contributors to our toxic load. In this post, you'll find our top toxic ingredients to avoid and why.  Click here for all the details! | Primally Pure Skincare

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Courtney O’Connor

Courtney Joy O’Connor is Primally Pure’s In-House Holistic Esthetician and Content Curator. Being in the beauty industry for over a decade, her experience + expertise with pure products, the healing power of touch and holistic skincare rituals are at the core of all she creates. She has trained extensively with industry experts across the country to offer her community the most educational content and transformative treatments. Courtney lives at the beach with her plant babies and loves road tripping, blending superfood bliss balls and exploring our big, beautiful world.