The Olea Guide to Safer Products

The Olea Guide to Safer Products

Common Toxic Ingredients

I first became aware of toxic ingredients in personal care products when I was studying nutrition in grad school. The program I was in did a great job of connecting the link between chronic disease and toxic, hormone-disrupting chemicals in everyday personal care products. 


You’d be surprised to learn how ubiquitous these chemicals really are. I’m happy the market is moving in a cleaner direction, but, in my opinion, we shouldn’t really have to fight that hard for our health. 


Sadly, in our modern world, good health isn’t automatically given to us. I encourage everyone to do their own research with the products they use and foods they choose to eat, be their own advocate, and make the best informed decision for their own self. 

Here are eight ingredients in personal care products I recommend avoiding when you can:


Common names: Ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, and any other compound with the name ending in -paraben.

Found in body scrubs, moisturizers, body washes, and cleansers.

Why to avoid: parabens can cause endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, and are also linked to cancer. There are limitations in the EU for paraben use. 

Source: PMCID: PMC8834979 PMID: 35162895


Common names: Fragrance, DBP, DEP, DEHP, pthalate

Found in moisturizers, color cosmetics, and body washes

Why to avoid: similar to parabens, phthalates have been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, cancer, and the disruption of our delicate hormonal system



Common names: hydroquinone or tocopheryl acetate

Found in skin lightening creams (similar to those that help heal scars)

Why to avoid: they can cause respiratory tract irritation, organ toxicity, and cancer.

Source: PMID: 9176553


Common names: Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxyethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal.

Found in soaps, color cosmetics, body washes

Why to avoid: can cause skin irritation and skin cancer



Common names: Benzophenone, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, sulisobenzone sodium, and ingredients containing the word benzophenone

Found in foundation, moisturizers, and fragrances

Why to avoid: may lead to cancer, reproductive and organ toxicity, skin irritation, and toxicity to the ecosystem


Sodium Laurel Sulfate

Common names: 1,4 dioxane, sodium laurel sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and PEG

Found in shampoos, soaps, and cleansing products

Why to avoid: linked to skin irritation and weakening

Source: PMID: 8917825


Common names: fragrance, perfume, parfum

Found in skincare products, body wash, moisturizers, cleansers

Why to avoid: can lead to dermatitis, breast cancer, hormonal problems, birth defects

Source: PMID: 28478814

Products that come in BPA plastic:

Always look for products that come in glass or bpa-free plastic. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used to make plastics and resins and has negative impacts on the brain, prostate gland, the cardiovascular system, blood pressure, metabolism, reproductive system, and even has been linked to behavioral problems in children. 

Source: PMCID: PMC6864600 PMID: 30848227



Disclaimer: The information in this blog is not intended for medical use. Please consult your healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement, medication, lifestyle, diet, exercise, or other routines.

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