I have recently seen an advertisement of a high-street products that ensured of its natural ingredients. 96% is a botanical concept, but what about remaining 4%? I run quickly through listed 4% and realised that rest of it is simply chemicals. The advert was so misleading.

Beauty industry has an ugly secret. Most of the skin care products – both regular and “organic”- contain toxic substances. When it comes to cosmetics, no one regulates what “natural”, “organic” or “botanical” really means.

To protect your skin and keep it looking young, healthy, firm and bright, look for these chemicals in all skin care products and of course AVOID them.

Used to lighten skin, BHA and BHT are considered by the National Toxicology Program as a likely carcinogen. In studies, animals exposed to these chemicals developed stomach cancer and liver damage, and developed problems with their thyroid and reproductive organs. Banned in Europe.

2. Sodium Borate / Boric Acid
These chemicals interfere with hormones and cause infertility in men. Regular exposure is linked to low sperm counts. It absorbs easily through the skin and is used in diaper creams. Banned in Europe and Canada, and the cosmetic industry states it is unsafe for infants.

3. Coal Tar
You can find coal tar still used in hair dyes and dandruff and psoriasis shampoos. It is recognized as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. On ingredient lists, it goes by aminophenol, diaminobenzene, and phenylenediamine.

4. Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
Another known cancer causing agent, formaldehyde also harms the brain, interferes with growth and development in children, and induces asthma. These preservatives slowly release formaldehyde to keep the skin care product from spoiling. These often trigger allergic reactions on the skin. If you have ever experienced a contact allergy after using a skin lotion, it probably had one of these ingredients: DMDM Hydantoin (very common), diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, and quaternium-15.

5. PEG Compounds
These go by many names like Propylene glycol, polyethylene glycols, or polyoxyethylene as they are petroleum-based compounds. However, they are known by other names too; If you see a word with “–eth” or “–oxynol” in it, it’s likely one of these PEGs. These chemicals can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a chemical the FDA says may cause cancer.

6. Mercury
You know mercury is bad, but some cosmetics use it to lighten the skin. It absorbs easily through the skin and with enough use can develop into mercury poisoning. Steer clear of products with “calomel”, “mercurio”, “mercurio chloride” or just plain old “mercury”.

7. Hydroquinone
Another skin lightener, it causes a skin disease called ochronosis that features black and blue lesions that can become permanent. In animals, studies have found enough exposure leads to tumour development.

8. Oxybenzone
Sunscreens use oxybenzone to absorb UV light. In humans, this chemical causes skin irritation and allergic reactions. Animal studies report it acts as an endocrine disruptor and interferes with hormone activity.

9. Triclosan
You’ll find this one in many antibacterial hand soaps and hand sanitizers. But it’s also used in deodorants, skin cleansers, and toothpaste. It’s another endocrine disruptor that harms thyroid and reproductive hormones.

10. Parabens
You have probably seen a slew of products marketing themselves as “paraben-free”. These chemicals mimic estrogen leads to hormone imbalance. Now, CDC reports suggest their presence in every American’s body. Whether they are or aren’t, avoid products with parabens to prevent reproductive problems such as infertility or slowed growth and developmental disorders in children.

11. “Fragrance”
Also called perfume, these terms indicate a mixture of ingredients that cosmetic companies don’t have to legally tell you about. Three thousand or more chemicals may be used to create a fragrance. Some “Unscented” products contain fragrances with masking agents. Some fragrances have been linked to allergic reactions, asthma, and breathing difficulties while others have links to cancers.

12. Phthalates
A common ingredient in “fragrances”, phthalates block testosterone and damage a man’s reproductive system. These dangerous chemicals have also been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

13. Petroleum distillates
Used in mascara, these ingredients come from oil refineries and often contain impurities linked to cancer.

14. Siloxanes
These, and similar ingredients labeled as “methicones”, soften and smooth skin. They also disrupt hormones and interfere with fertility and libido.

15. Sodium Lauryl (Laureth) Sulfate
You will find this one in most shampoos, soaps, and cleansers. It may contain 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen, and ethylene oxide, a chemical known to harm nervous system. The California EPA has even identified it as a possible developmental toxin.

16. Toluene
Used in nail polish, toluene is also used in paint thinners. Research suggests it interferes with the human immune system and may be tied to the development of malignant lymphoma.

17. Retinol, or Retinyl Palmitate/Acetate
These vitamin A compounds are not safe for skin use. Sunlight breaks them down and creates free radicals that increase the risk of skin cancers. Avoid all skin and lip products with any of these vitamin A chemicals.

18. Fungicides
Used in dandruff shampoos, these ingredients wreak havoc when rinsed down the drain and into nature. Researchers report that one fungicide, climbazole, kills tiny organisms like algae and stops growth in larger plants and fish.

19. Nanoparticles
Many cosmetics now use nanoparticles to deliver chemicals to the surface or even into the skin. Many of these products have not been evaluated for safety. Some are even used in sprays that make it possible for particulates to enter the lungs and blood stream.

Even though the cosmetic industry is largely unregulated, with a few mindful steps, you can protect, heal and restore your skin. Many natural products include active ingredients such as olive oil, coffee berry, Aloe Vera, can treat and prevent premature ageing of the skin from UV exposure. Remember to read the label. Do a little research online. Take a time and find products that not only claim to be natural, organic, but also have ingredient lists that support their marketing.

There is a great tool available- Think Dirty® app. It is an unbiased product-comparison app for personal and skincare products. It educates and empowers consumers about the potential toxic ingredients. All you need to do is to scan the product barcode and the app will give you easy-to-understand info on the product, its ingredients, and “shop cleaner” options.