The Ugly Truth

Skin Absorbs 60% of Products Used Topically – Natural or Chemical

I am in the process of trying to make a switch from makeup that contains harmful chemicals and using only makeup products that are not toxic. It’s really hard to do as most of my collection consists of makeup that is not natural or toxic free. Once you learn about the harmful effects of certain ingredients it is hard to go back to using them.

Your skin is the largest and the thinnest organ.  Only 1/10th of an inch separates you from all kinds of toxins and chemicals. Your skin is highly permeable, allowing what you apply to your skin access to your bloodstream and the rest of your body.

According to EGW Skin Deep Cosmetic Database these are some of the common ingredients that you should avoid


Benzalkonium chloride: Biocide, preservative and surfactant associated with severe skin, eye, and respiratory irritation and allergies, benzalkonium chloride is a sensitizer especially dangerous for people with asthma or skin conditions like eczema. It is found in many household disinfectants and cleaning supplies. Regular use of products containing antimicrobials such as benzalkonium chloride could lead to development of resistant bacteria.

BHA: The National Toxicology Program classifies butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” It can cause skin depigmentation. In animal studies, BHA produces liver damage and causes stomach cancers such as papillomas and carcinomas and interferes with normal reproductive system development and thyroid hormone levels. The European Union considers it unsafe in fragrance. It is found in food, food packaging, and personal care products sold in the U.S.

Coal tar hair dyes and other coal tar ingredients (including Aminophenol, Diaminobenzene, Phenylenediamine): Coal tar, a byproduct of coal processing, is a known human carcinogen , according to the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Hair stylists and other professionals are exposed to these chemicals in hair dye almost daily. While FDA sanctions coal tar in specialty products such as dandruff and psoriasis shampoos, the long-term safety of these products has not been demonstrated.

DMDM hydantoin & bronopol (2-Bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol): Cosmetics preservatives that decompose and release formaldehyde , which the International Agency on Research on Cancer lists as a known human carcinogen. The preservatives and their decomposition products, including formaldehyde, can trigger allergic reactions. About one-fifth of U.S. cosmetics and personal care products contain a chemical that releases formaldehyde. Not surprisingly, more Americans develop contact allergies to these ingredients than Europeans.

Formaldehyde: A potent preservative considered a known human carcinogen by the International Agency on Research on Cancer. Formaldehyde, also an asthmagen, neurotoxicant and developmental toxicant, was once mixed into to many personal care products as antiseptic. This use has declined. But some hair straighteners are based on formaldehyde’s hair-stiffening action and release substantial amounts of the chemical. Many common preservatives also release formaldehyde into products (like DMDM hydantoin, quaternium, and urea compounds).

Fragrance: It may help sell products from face cream to laundry detergent, but do you know what’s in it? Fragrances are in everything from shampoo to deodorant to lotion. Federal law doesn’t require companies to list on product labels any of the chemicals in their fragrance mixture. Recent research from EWG and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found an average of 14 chemicals in 17 name brand fragrance products, none of them listed on the label. Fragrances can contain hormone disruptors and are among the top 5 allergens in the world. Our advice? Buy fragrance free.

Hydroquinone: A skin bleaching chemical that can cause a skin disease called ochronosis, with blue-black lesions that in the worst cases become permanent black caviar-size bumps. In animal studies, hydroquinone has caused tumor development. The National Toxicology Program is conducting reproductive toxicity and dermal carcinogenicity studies of this chemical.

Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone: Preservatives, commonly used together in personal care products, among the most common irritants, sensitizers and causes of contact allergy Lab studies on mammalian brain cells suggest that methylisothiazolinone may be neurotoxic.

Oxybenzone: Sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber, found in nearly all Americans , according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In human epidemiological studies, oxybenzone has been linked to irritation, sensitization and allergies. A study of 404 New York City women in the third trimester of pregnancy associated higher maternal concentration of oxybenzone with a decreased birth weight among newborn baby girls but with greater birth weight in newborn boys. Studies on cells and laboratory animals indicate that oxybenzone and its metabolites may disrupt the hormone system.

Parabens (Propyl, Isopropyl, Butyl, and Isobutylparabens): Parabens are estrogen-mimicking preservatives, found in breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied. The CDC has detected parabens in virtually all Americans surveyed. According to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, longer chain parabens like propyl and butyl paraben and their branched counterparts, isopropyl and isobutylparabens, may disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders.

PEG/Ceteareth/Polyethylene compounds: These synthetic chemicals are frequently contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which the U.S. government considers a probably human carcinogen and which readily penetrates the skin. Cosmetics makers could easily remove 1,4-dioxane from ingredients, but tests documenting its common presence in products show that they often don’t.

Petroleum distillates: Petroleum-extracted cosmetics ingredients, commonly found in mascara. They may cause contact dermatitis and are often contaminated with cancer-causing impurities. They are produced in oil refineries at the same time as automobile fuel, heating oil and chemical feedstocks.

Phthalates: A growing number of studies link this chemical to male reproductive system disorders. Pregnant women should avoid nail polish containing dibutyl phathalate. Everyone should avoid products with “fragrance” indicating a chemical mixture that may contain phthalates.

Resorcinol: Common ingredient in hair color and bleaching products; skin irritant, toxic to the immune system and frequent cause of hair dye allergy. In animal studies, resorcinol can disrupt normal thyroid function. The federal government regulates exposures to resorcinol in the workplace, but its use is not restricted in personal care products.

Retinyl palmitate and retinol (Vitamin A): Vitamin A is an essential nutrient, but excessive amounts can cause severe birth defects if women are exposed during pregnancy New evidence shows that when applied to sun-exposed skin, for instance, in sunscreens, lip products and daytime moisturizers, these compounds can break down and produce toxic free radicals that can damage DNA and cause skin cancer. Recent date from the federal Food and Drug Administration indicate that when retinyl palmitate is applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, it speeds the development of skin tumors and lesions.
Toluene: Volatile petrochemical solvent and paint thinner and potent neurotoxicant that acts as an irritant, impairs breathing and causes nausea A pregnant woman’s exposure to toluene vapors during pregnancy may impair fetal development. In human epidemiological and animal studies, toluene has been associated with toxicity to the immune system. Some evidence suggests a link to malignant lymphoma.

Triclosan & Triclocarban: Antimicrobial pesticides in liquid soap (triclosan) or soap bars (triclocarban), very toxic to the aquatic environment. often found as contaminants in people due to widespread use of antimicrobial cleaning products. Triclosan disrupts thyroid function and reproductive hormones. American Medical Association and the American Academy of Microbiology say that soap and water serves just as well to prevent spread of infections and reduce bacteria on the skin. Overuse may promote the development of bacterial resistance.

If you doubt that your skin is so absorbent, try rubbing the cut side of a clove of garlic on the sole of your foot and within seconds you will TASTE the garlic….NOT just smell it. That should tell us all something about how easily our bodies are absorbing what we put on it.


I suggest checking out this site as well, it has a lot of useful information.

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Blog of Britanie Faith. Conscious and Unapologetic Living. Beauty & Skincare Addict. Curve/Plus Size Model and Self-Love Advocate. Creator of Concoctions. Lover of Herbalism, Photography, Fashion, Flowers, Glitter, Books, Dogs, Coffee. This blog features original and inspired concoctions, makeup and skincare reviews and step by step tutorials, recipes, tips, product reviews, life updates, musings, makeup looks, fashion, vintage finds, and my everyday life and all of it's joys and struggles.

9 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth

  1. Thank you for having such a detailed post about such an important and not very talked about topic! The statistics in the photo were really interesting to see and really brought it to reality because they’re such common products that most people use, sometimes multiple times a day. And that bit about garlic is crazy. It makes me rethink all of the stuff in my bathroom.

  2. Reblogged this on budziak and commented:
    Britanie Faith had a really interesting post complete with statistics of products most of us use (shampoo, body lotion, deodorant, perfume, hairspray… etc). It identifies individual chemicals/ingredients in these products that are unsafe and why. I know a most reader don’t really care, its easy to ignore the bad side when you currently see the good but it may catch up to all of us… That’s the scary part. After reading this, it really made me rethink everything I have purchased over the years and if I’m spending so much money on all this stuff, shouldn’t it at least be safe for me? As a mid-year resolution, I’m going to start trying to be safer when it comes to what my body is encountering. On a side note, I think I’m quitting drinking coffee for a while, which is so so hard because I love coffee and I make it every morning for my boss. But for my oil pulling teeth whitening experiment, I figured I’ll at least give it a reasonable chance to prove itself.

    Here’s a stat that I found at the end of the Britanie’s post: “If you doubt that your skin is so absorbent, try rubbing the cut side of a clove of garlic on the sole of your foot and within seconds you will TASTE the garlic….NOT just smell it. That should tell us all something about how easily our bodies are absorbing what we put on it.” Isn’t that weird and kinda gross but also really interesting?!

    1. I’ve been using Human Nature foundation, blush on and lip balm for a year now and I am saiifsted with the quality of the product plus it is not as expensive as the other brands

  3. I’m in the process of making the painful albeit necessary switch to safer cosmetics & skincare products. In the grand scheme of health, it’s such a small consideration yet in the scheme of beauty, it’s terribly hard to do. I appreciate this post. : )

  4. I am sorry but I have to cast a pall over this post. A lot of what you write is myth, starting with the opening line “Skin absorbs 60% of what you use….” This is simply not true. If you say it is, then back it up with studies that prove this. As someone who has studied the skin for years, this is yet another marketing myth promulgated by the eco/green movement.

    1. This is a good article to read on the subject:

      I am not sure where you are coming up with the statement that there are no studies proving that the skin does indeed absorb what we put on it topically. Furthermore, have you ever tried slicing a piece of garlic and rubbing it on the bottom of your feet? You will taste the garlic within minutes. Explain to me how nicotine patches work. How about progesterone creams?

  5. Thank you for this post, I’m currently working on ditching all toxic products so this has helped a lot! I do have one question though; if a product has ‘perfume’ as an ingredient, is that harmful? Is perfume better to have in a product than fragrance? Sorry if its a dumb question but I dont really know. Thank you 🙂 x

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