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12 Common Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare Products


Whether you're just starting your skincare journey or consider yourself an enthusiast, there's an abundance of misinformation about what ingredients are considered safe or clean. Despite the regulations, many questionable ingredients can still be found lurking in everyday skincare products. Constant exposure to these ingredients can increase your toxic burden and potentially lead to adverse effects on your skin and overall health. While safe limits are imposed by governing bodies, the cumulative effect of daily use and interaction of ingredients remains relatively unknown and untested 

Contact dermatitis from skincare and cosmetic products is a common dermatologic complaint, accounting for 2-4% of all visits to the dermatologist, with approximately 60% of cases being allergic in origin. Fragrances are the most common cause of allergies to cosmetics, followed by preservatives and hair dyes. Even natural ingredients, including essential oils, can act as sensitisers.

To help you navigate ingredient labels, here’s a list of our top 12 questionable ingredients and the studies that highlight their potential bio-accumulative effects on organisms and the environment:

1. Ethoxylated Ingredients

These ingredients are produced through ethoxylation, which contaminates them with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct linked to organ toxicity and birth defects. Common ethoxylated compounds to look for on labels include Phenoxyethanol, Butoxyethanol, Ethanolamines (DEA/TEA/MEA/ETA), and Polysorbates (e.g., PEG-20, PEG-40, PEG-60, Polysorbate-20, Polysorbate-40) .

2. BHA and BHT

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives. They have potential carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting properties and may damage the liver, thyroid, kidneys, and lungs .

3. Formaldehyde (Resin and Releasing)

Used as a preservative, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and neurotoxin linked to allergies and immunotoxicity. It can be found in nail polish, hair smoothing products, baby shampoo, and body wash. Ingredients to avoid include Benzylhemiformal, Diazolidinyl Urea, DMDM Hydantoin, Glyoxal, Methenamine, and Quaternium-15 .

4. Hydroquinone

This skin-lightening chemical reduces melanin production and hyperpigmentation but is linked to organ toxicity and skin irritation. It’s commonly found in facial creams, skin lighteners, and hair conditioners .

5. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT)

These preservatives have been linked to contact dermatitis, lung toxicity, and possible neurotoxicity. They are often found in liquid body care products, hand sanitisers, and wipes .

6. Parabens

Used as preservatives, parabens are known endocrine disruptors that mimic oestrogen and may be linked to breast cancer. They can also trigger skin allergies and are found in shampoos, conditioners, facial creams, and body lotions .

7. PEGs (Polyethylene Glycols)

These petroleum-based compounds are used as thickeners and solvents. They are penetration enhancers contaminated with carcinogens like ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, found in a wide range of personal care products .

8. Petrolatum

Derived from crude oil, petrolatum can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and organ toxicity. Common names include Vaseline, mineral oil, paraffin wax, and liquid petrolatum .

9. Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DMP, DEP)

Known endocrine disruptors and respiratory toxicants, phthalates may cause birth defects, male infertility, and skin allergies. They are often used in personal care products, perfumes, cosmetics, and nail polishes .

10. Synthetic Fragrance/Parfum

Fragrances are made up of hundreds of synthetic compounds, often not listed individually due to trade secret protections. They can disrupt the endocrine system, cause birth defects, and lead to neurotoxicity and cancer .

11. Toluene

A known neurotoxin and petrochemical solvent, toluene is linked to reproductive harm, developmental toxicity, and respiratory complications. It’s commonly found in nail polish and hair dyes .

12. Triclosan

Used as a preservative and antibacterial agent, triclosan is an endocrine disruptor affecting thyroid function and causing organ toxicity. It’s found in deodorants, toothpaste, antibacterial soaps, and cosmetics .

Navigating skincare ingredient labels can be daunting, but being aware of these common harmful ingredients can help you make safer choices for your skin and overall health. Always opt for products that are free from these harmful chemicals to reduce your exposure and potential adverse effects.


About Dársy

Dársy is a natural Australian skincare and haircare brand committed to crafting high-quality, results-driven products inspired by nature and backed by scientific expertise.

Our formulations are handcrafted with the most exquisite oils, blending ancient wisdom with modern sensory delight. We’re inspired by amplifying natural beauty in harmony with the body's own processes.

At Dársy, we believe in transparency and sustainability, handcrafting our products in small batches right here in Australia to ensure freshness and potency while minimizing our environmental impact.



  1. Contact dermatitis and its prevalence
  2. Ethoxylated ingredients and their contamination
  3. Potential carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting properties of BHA and BHT
  4. Formaldehyde as a known carcinogen and neurotoxin
  5. Hydroquinone's link to organ toxicity and skin irritation
  6. Preservatives MIT and CMIT and their adverse effects
  7. Parabens as endocrine disruptors and their potential link to breast cancer
  8. Petroleum-based compounds PEGs and their contamination with carcinogens
  9. Petrolatum and its potential contamination with PAHs
  10. Endocrine-disrupting effects of phthalates and their potential health risks
  11. Synthetic fragrances and their endocrine-disrupting and allergic effects
  12. Toluene as a neurotoxin and its links to reproductive harm
  13. Triclosan's endocrine-disrupting effects and organ toxicity


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