Cosmetics industry is one of the largest global industry. Cosmetics are part of routine life. Both male and females routinely use these personal care products. If not too much, everyone uses at least two to three cosmetics daily such as shampoo, soaps, sanitizes etc. The manufacturing of these cosmetics involves verity of chemical and synthetic agents. Have you ever felt irritation, skin infection or something like that after using a personal care product? This is because of these chemical agents present in these cosmetics.

Most of us use a new cosmetic product when recommended by some friend or family member. Sometimes their advertisement attracts our attention. In most of the cases, we do not read the ingredients noted on a shampoo bottle or a body wash while shopping.


Organizations such as food and drug administration (FDA), National Industrial Chemical Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), Ministry of Health and Welfare are some of them which determine the safety of cosmetics. The organizations keep in check these ingredients in every cosmetic along with their recommended levels. This is to ensure the safety of these personal care products to use.

Even though these cosmetics are kept in check, many of them consists of one or more toxic and harmful agent. These toxic chemical leads to skin infections and eye irritations etc. Some may be carcinogenic that they cause cancer in users. Here is list of five harmful agents present in cosmetics: 


These are widely used preservatives in various shampoos, deodorants and facial cleaners. The purpose of parabens in cosmetics is to prevent the microbial growth. This sounds great. But the issue is they do more than this. In fact, he properties of parabens resemble with oestrogen hormone in human body. Increased level of parabens is linked with increased chances of breast cancer. Biopsy samples of breast tumour prove its toxic properties. Parabens get absorbed in skin and consequently cause breast cancer.


This is synthetic chemical agent and its sources are petroleum and coal tar. Its common names on cosmetics are Benzene, methylbenzene and toluol etc. Toluene is an organic solvent. It is usually present in nail polish, hair colour products and in bleach. It vaporizes and creates a pungent smell. The vapours cause respiratory infections, skin irritation. In pregnant females, it may lead to fetal abnormalities as well as immune system toxicity.


This is an antimicrobial agent. It is harmful for body as it messes with endocrine glands. Furthermore,it effects the normal release of thyroid and reproductive hormones. Also, this is skin irritant as well. Frequent uses and high levels of triclosan in cosmetics such as soaps, tooth paste and deodorants is detrimental to health. There are also raising concerns that triclosan increases the antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria.


Almost every hair dyes as well as many other cosmetics involve synthetic colours in their formula. Usually, these are labelled on cosmetics with a registration number approved by FDA. Petroleum and coal tar are sources of synthetic dyes. Studies reveal the association of these synthetic colour with increased chances of skin cancer and Attention deficit hypersensitivity disorder (ADHD)- a type of nervous disorder, in teens. European Union and many other countries has banned its use in cosmetics.


It is present in many cosmetics in the form of Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP’’s). Various cosmetics such as nail polish, eye shadows, conditioner and shampoo contain formaldehyde or its derivative. The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens has declared it as carcinogenic. It causes nasal and nasopharyngeal related cancers. Formaldehyde is not only a skin allergen but also weakens the immune system.    


This is a surfactant agent and commonly present in cosmetic including sanitizers, shampoos and in cleansers as well. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or its derivative Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a part of more than 90% of the cosmetics. Both are skin irritant and cause respiratory infections.

Studies reveal the potential of SLS to react with other chemicals to form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines is a potent carcinogenic agent which causes skin cancer.   

The list of harmful and toxic chemicals present in cosmetics is large. It is impossible for us to avoid every single chemical in cosmetics. Not until their use in manufacturing is controlled. However, it is possible to limit their exposure. One must read the ingredients carefully while shopping. Life is precious and so is your health. So, take some time for yourself while selecting personal care product. Most importantly, check the list of harmful chemicals in cosmetic, which are carcinogenic or toxic.