Know dangerous cosmetic ingredients and their health risks

Every day we use products such as shampoos, perfumes, body creams, sunscreen or makeup. But sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we don’t stop to analyze what they are made of.

Many use ingredients that can be considered toxic, causing allergic reactions or exposing the body to disease.

Although there is a regulation by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), which determines the safe parameters for the use of each substance, the debates are still great about the real guarantee of these limits.

In addition, there are brands and companies that do not comply with the requirements, which further exposes consumers to risks.

Therefore, we have selected some of the most common ingredients in cosmetics so you can keep an eye on the products you use and take better care of your health. Check out!



Paraben is a substance used as a preservative in cosmetics, preventing the growth of bacteria and fungi in the composition of products.

Anvisa establishes that, within the determined amount, parabens do not represent health risks. However, research shows that the component has the potential to cause allergies and premature skin aging.

In addition, despite little known metabolism of the substance, there are indications that parabens may affect hormones, focusing on greater risks of breast cancer and fertility problems.

On labels, paraben can be found by the term paraben or with other names ending with the term, such as: ethylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben .

And it is not difficult to find it. Just look at the packaging of some products like sunscreen, shampoos, deodorants, moisturizers and toothpastes .


Mea, dea, tea are the initials of the compounds monoethanolamine (MEA), diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA). Responsible for producing foams in cosmetic products, these compounds give rise to nitrates and nitrosamines, considered carcinogenic.

Tests have shown that these substances affect the kidneys, liver and blood and are harmful to health.

On the labels, it is possible to search for the components by the English names diethanolamine , monoethanolamine and triethanolamine . In general, they are common in soaps, shampoos and bath salts .


This metal is common to be found in antiperspirants , responsible for leaving the armpits dry by preventing sweat.

However, there are possibilities for aluminum to be related to breast cancer. This is because studies have identified high concentrations of the substances in the breast tissue of patients, especially in the region close to the armpits.

In addition, aluminum is a generator of free radicals, which cause accelerated aging of the skin and wrinkles, in addition to skin problems that are associated with contact with aluminum, irritations, blemishes and cases of infertility.


It is a chemical compound used as a preservative in cosmetic products, such as body lotions, deodorants, toothpastes and soaps .

In 2017 its use was banned in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on the grounds that prolonged use can cause resistance to bacteria and hormonal changes.

However, in Brazil the substance continues to be used with a limit of 0.30% by Anvisa, even though there are indications that the substance can accumulate in the body and cause allergies and endocrine changes.

On product labels it is possible to locate triclosan by the terms 2,4,4′-trichloro-2′-hydroxy diphenyl ether, triclosan and 5-chloro-2- (2,4-dichlorophenoxy) – phenol.

Tocopherol Acetate

It is a chemical compound used in a variety of cosmetics and which is often advertised as vitamin E . However, it is worth mentioning that it is the artificial version of the nutrient – the natural is only called tocopherol.

The synthetic version of vitamin E can cause allergy , burning, flaking and blistering of the skin.

The compound can be found on the labels by the name tocopheryl acetate , and it is common to find it in eye shadows , blush, powder, foundation and moisturizers .


Ammonia is a chemical compound widely used in hair treatments, such as dyes, bleaching powders and straightening compounds .

This compound can cause irritation to the skin, eyes and, if inhaled, it ends up causing a feeling of suffocation and burning of the airways.


Currently, the use of formaldehyde as a straightener is prohibited by Anvisa.

The legislation allows the substance to be added to cosmetics only during manufacture, in the amount of 0.2% in cosmetics for hair and 5% for nails (which works only as a preservative).

However, it is not difficult to find brands that exceed this limit and, also, salons that use the product to act on the progressive brush straightening, for example.

When inhaled, it can cause burns in the respiratory tract, irritation of the eyes and skin, in addition to having carcinogenic potential.

It can be found on the packaging by other names, such as: glyoxylic acid, methylene oxide and formic aldehyde .

Sodium sulphate

Sodium sulfate is a type of detergent used in cosmetic products for cleaning actions, such as soaps, shampoos, soaps, exfoliating products, make-up removers and hair dyes .

In contact with the skin, it can cause allergies, itchy scalp or burning eyes.

There have already been rumors that sulphate could be carcinogenic, but Anvisa has published a technical opinion stating that until today no relationship has been found with carcinogenic activity (capable of stimulating cancer).

But in the long run, the use of cosmetics with sodium sulfate can cause dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes, in addition to a possible relationship with cases of cancer due to contamination by the 1,4-dioxane solvent.

On product labels, sodium sulfate can be identified by sodium lauryl sulphate or SLS .

Petroleum products

Petroleum is used as an ingredient in cosmetics because it is an inexpensive material and for its versatility, being used in different types of products.

The most common derivatives are petroleum jelly, petrolatum and mineral oil.

These oil derivatives are harmful to health, as they create a layer capable of clogging the pores, which ends up preventing the skin or hair (depending on the product) from breathing.

Not only that, these derivatives can be contaminated with cancer-causing impurities.

On the labels it is possible to identify petroleum products by the names Petroleum, Petrolatum, Mineral Oil . They are common in the composition of creams, body oils and some make-up .

Propylene glycol

Propylene glycol is a type of alcohol diol, being one of the ingredients that come into deep contact with human skin.

The substance has sensitizing potential, that is, it can cause allergies and irritations, such as contact dermatitis, contact urticaria and subjective irritation (tingling or pain in the skin without apparent lesions).

On the labels it is possible to identify propylene glycol by propylene glycol . Its use is common in the composition of exfoliants, shampoos and shower gel .


Toluene is a solvent used in nail polish , which allows an effective application and adhesion of the varnish to the nail. Studies have associated high exposure to the substance with damage to the central nervous system, heart, breathing and reproductive system.

When inhaled, it is quickly carried to the lungs and bloodstream, impairing well-being and can immediately cause irritation of the airways and headaches, in addition to damage to the body.

On the labels it is easily found by toluene .


A perfume is made up of three components, the essence or essential oil, thinner and the fixative.

Many of the cosmetics use fragrances made with synthetic oils, which are derived from petroleum. Therefore, they can cause allergies, changes in hormones, migraines and even a possibly carcinogenic element.

Some manufacturers do not describe the type of essence used and just put on the perfum or parfum labels .


Lead is a heavy metal that accumulates in the circulatory system and can damage health, causing anemia , intoxication, kidney dysfunction and burns, in addition to being possibly carcinogenic.

This metal is so strong that it can contaminate the baby during pregnancy, being sent through the mother’s bloodstream.

Anvisa has regulated that the amount of lead in products must be less than 0.6% in hair dyes and less than 20ppm in other cosmetics, such as lipsticks – products that often have the component in the formulation.

Although some packages say they do not contain lead, on the labels it is possible to find the metal in other terms, such as PABA or aminobenzoic acid, sometimes with a higher percentage than recommended.

With so many ingredients that can harm your skin and health, you need to keep an eye on the labels. Try to choose those that do not contain these ingredients in their composition or in the least amount possible.

Share this article with your friends and family so they know about the ingredients used in cosmetics that can affect your health!