The Toxic Twenty is list of 20 toxic ingredients that we believe are the beauty industries top offenders. We at Glory do not allow any of these ingredients in our carefully curated products. Read more to learn about the Toxic Twenties' potential health and environmental risks. 

  • BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
  • BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
  • Coal Tar
  • Formaldehyde (and formaldehyde "releasers")
  • Heavy Metals
  • Hydroquinone 
  • Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)
  • Oxybenzone
  • Parabens 
  • Parabens Dioxin (or chlorinated dioxin)
  • Petroleum
  • Phthalates
  • Progesterone
  • Retinol (Retinyl palminate)
  • Resorcinol
  • Selenium Sulfide
  • Synthetic Fragrance
  • Toluene
  • Triclosan and Triclocarban
  • Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP)

 

BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)

BHA is a synthetic antioxidant that is derived from petroleum. It is a preservative that is commonly used in processed foods, snacks, cereals, pet foods, and in your makeup products.

The US National Institutes of Health reported that based on animal studies, BHA is speculated to be a human carcinogen and The National Toxicology Program has recognized BHA as a possible human carcinogen. 

Health concerns: Endocrine disruption, environmental toxicity, cancer, organ toxicity (non-reproductive) 

Types of products: Makeup (mainly lip products), hair products, deodorant, sunscreen

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)

Similar to BHA but is derived from toluene, also used an antioxidant that is used as a preservative and a fragrance ingredient. 

Health concerns: Endocrine disruption, environmental toxicity, cancer, organ toxicity (non-reproductive) 

Types of products: Makeup (mainly lip products), hair products, deodorant, sunscreen

Coal Tar

A byproduct of coal processing that is a known carcinogen and still used in North America. It is typically used as a colorant, anti-lice, and anti-dandruff agent. Synthetic colors can be made from coal tar and can contain heavy metal salts that can leave toxins on the skin. 

Health concerns: Cancer, neurotoxicity

Types of products: Hair dye, shampoo, scalp treatments 

Formaldehyde (and formaldehyde "releasers")

It is less likely that you will find formaldehyde as a direct ingredient in your products. But companies often add formaldehyde releasers that, over time, release consistent amounts of formaldehyde to keep your products "fresh" and bacteria free. 

In its gas form, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Although gaseous formaldehyde is not present in products, it still presents many health risks like skin irritations/allergies and cancer

Health concerns: Allergies & immunotoxicity, cancer, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity/birth defects 

Types of products: Baby soaps and shampoos, nail products, soap and shampoo 

Heavy Metals

The most common heavy metal found in personal care products is lead. It and other heavy metals are often naturally occurring elements and can be found in places like the Earth's crust. You are mainly exposed to heavy metals through human activity like the burning of fossil fuels. 

A study called Poison Kiss was done testing 30+ lipstick brands for lead, finding that 61% of the lipstick did in fact contain lead. The FDA responded by doing a follow-up study which also found lead in every single product they tested. It was concluded that the amount of lead found was not harmful, but after prolonged use the accumulation of lead in your body would be alarming. 

Health concerns: Allergies & immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity/birth defects

Types of products: Lipsticks, eye products

Hydroquinone 

Hydroquinone is used to treat skin pigmentation issues and is mostly marketed towards women of color. It works by increasing or decreasing the production of melanin in the skin to balance out pigmentation. Hydroquinone products are also marketed towards consumers looking to reduce acne scars and age spots. 

Because it affects skin’s melanin production it increases the risk of skin cancer due to the skin's increased susceptibility to hard UV rays. 

Health concerns: Allergies & immunotoxicity, cancer, organ toxicity (non reproductive) 

Types of products: Skin lighteners, moisturizers, nail products

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is a preservative that is added to liquid personal care products but is most typically found in shampoos and soaps. MIT is used as a preservative because it inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi in products. MIT is recommended to only be used in wash-off products. Places like Canada and the EU have banned the use of MIT in leave-on products and restrict it in wash-off products.

Both animal and clinical studies have shown that MIT can cause contact allergies and can be a major threat to species like the rainbow trout. 

Health concerns: Allergies & immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity (non-reproductive)

Types of products: Shampoo + conditioner, lotion, liquid detergents, mascara and makeup removers. 

Oxybenzone 

Oxybenzone is an ingredient you will commonly find in sunscreens. Closely related to benzophenone, it is used for extra protection from the suns' harsh UV rays. As people have become more aware of skin damage from sun exposure, sunscreens have become increasingly more protective with the addition of ingredients like oxybenzone.

In clinical studies, oxybenzone has the highest rate of dermal absorption in humans. Although there are not as many reports on the actual toxicity of it, it is doing much more damage to the important ecosystems in our environment. 

One ecosystem that is seeing some extreme effects are coral reefs. The toxic ingredients in our sunscreens and warming temperatures in the ocean make corals unable to obtain food through their photosynthesizing microorganisms and ultimately cause the corals to starve and die (coral bleaching). 

Health concerns: Allergies & immunotoxicity, cancer, endocrine disruption, environmental toxicity, reproductive toxicity/birth defects 

Types of products: Sunscreens, lip products, foundation and makeup 

Parabens 

Parabens are preservative-aids added to your personal care products to keep mold and bacteria from developing thereby increasing their shelf-life. 

The term paraben refers to a family of similar chemicals including methylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. Labels will often list multiple parabens as ingredients. They will also be in combination with other preservatives for better product protection.

Parabens have several risks including endocrine disruption, developmental harm, and cancer. Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen and disrupt the functions of the body's hormone system resulting in development harm  

Health concerns: Cancer, endocrine disruption

Types of products: Shampoo + conditioner, lotions, facial and shower cleansers/scrubs

Parabens Dioxin (or chlorinated dioxin)

Chlorinated dioxin is a chemical that is often created as a byproduct or contaminant during a manufacturing process. It is more typically an air pollutant but can be found in household products and personal care products like tampons and other feminine hygiene products. 

Health concerns: Endocrine disruption, cancer 

Types of products: Feminine care products

Petroleum 

Petroleum jelly and mineral oil (also known as petrolatum) are ingredients used in personal care products. They are marketed as moisturizing and healing aids, but in reality simply form a barrier on your skin that keeps anything from getting in or out. It is created by refining petroleum oil. When properly refined, there are no supposed health concerns so it is a popular ingredient. But petroleum jelly is not always properly refined, and can be contaminated with toxins called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Dioxane is a common PAH found in skincare. 

When absorbed through the skin, these toxins can be potentially carcinogenic and disrupt the endocrine and nervous system. 

Petroleum jelly and mineral oil are byproducts of oil, which in a non-renewable resource, so it is automatically not eco-friendly. The oil refining process creates pollution. It does not break down once in the environment and can lead to ecosystem toxicity, especially aquatic. 

Health concerns: Allergies & immunotoxicity, cancer  

Types of products: Lotion, cosmetics 

Phthalates 

Phthalates are a group of chemicals derived from phthalic acid. They were originally developed to make plastic products more flexible, but they made their way to the personal care industry as plasticizers and fragrance components. 

The two main phthalates you can find in personal care products are:

dibutyl phthalate (DBP) - plasticizer to keep nail polish from cracking 

diethyl phthalate (DEP) - fragrance component used to help scent linger

Because they are present in such a wide range of products, they are easily leached into the environment. They cause the most harm to aquatic ecosystems

Health concerns: Cancer, endocrine disruption, environmental toxicity, reproductive toxicity/birth defects 

Types of products: lotion and body wash (fragrance component), nail polish, cosmetics 

Progesterone 

Progesterone is a hormone that is naturally occurring in our bodies. It can also often be found in hair care products to promote hair growth and anti-aging products because it stimulates collagen production and skin hydration. But increased exposure to hormones and synthetic hormones can seriously harm the reproductive system and lead to cancer later in life. 

Health concerns: Cancer, reproductive toxicity/birth defects 

Types of products: Hair products, anti-aging products, contraceptives

Retinol (Retinyl palminate)

Retinol, also known as Vitamin A, is an essential part of our diet that we receive through consuming animal and plant products. Retinol is also well known in the beauty community for its anti-aging properties and is used in countless anti-aging topical products.

It is able to reduce wrinkles, fine-lines and other aging impurities because it stimulates collagen growth and blood vessel production. But it is best to avoid retinol products due to their health risks. Overall high doses and day-time use should be avoided at all cost. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel suggests that it only be present in night-time products, as sun exposure after using products containing retinol can be linked to skin cancer

Health concerns: Cancer, reproductive toxicity/birth defects, allergies & immunotoxicity 

Types of products: Anti-aging products, moisturizers, foundations 

Resorcinol 

Resorcinol was originally used in the rubber industry, but is also found in personal care products. It functions both as an antiseptic in products targeting skin conditions like acne and as a bonding agent in hair dyes--helping the product stick to your hair. 

The World Health Organization notes that hairstylists and people who often get their hair dyed are at the biggest risk for exposure.

Using facial products that have resorcinol as an ingredient can also put you at risk for irritation due to direct contact with your skin. 

Health concerns: Endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity 

Types of products: Facial products, hair dye

Selenium Sulfide 

Selenium sulfide is often used in hair products because it can help control dandruff, increase the overall suppleness of the hair, and enhance the hair's overall appearance. Safety of this ingredient is still be tested by the FDA, but it is allowed at limited concentrations. 

Health concerns: Organ toxicity (non-reproductive), cancer

Types of products: Anti-dandruff products, shampoo + conditioner 

Synthetic Fragrance 

It is likely that one or more of your personal care products has the word “fragrance” listed in the ingredients. Fragrance is just a term used for any combination of over 3,000 chemicals that make up the scent in that product. But using the word fragrance, manufacturers create a disclosure gap as the consumer does not know what chemicals are truly present. 

Fragrance is considered a trade secret so companies do not have to disclose what chemicals are used. 

Most of the thousands of chemicals combined to create scents have not been tested for toxicity, and it is known that many “fragrances” can easily irritate allergies and asthma.

Health concerns: Allergies & immunotoxicity, environmental toxicity, cancer, neurotoxicity

Types of products: Perfume, soaps, lotions 

Toluene 

Toluene is an oil found in crude oil and in the tolu tree. You will typically find it in personal care products like hair dyes and nail polish/treatments. But you will also find this toxic chemical in things like gasoline and paint thinners. 

Toluene can be a skin irritant but is considered "safe" to use because it is only intended for use in products that should not be directly applied to the skin i.e. nail products. Its vapor is of more concern. Long exposure can lead to confusion, nausea, etc. In pregnant women exposure to toluene can cause developmental issues in the fetus. 

Health concerns: Allergies & immunotoxicity, reproductive toxicity/birth defects 

Types of products: Hair products, nail products 

Triclosan and Triclocarban 

Triclosan and triclocarban are preservative-aids that are commonly found in products like antibacterial soaps and detergents. 

Antibacterial products were originally developed for medical purposes but they are now widely available for consumer use. Antibacterial products contain active antimicrobial substances while regular soaps do not. However, research has shown that antibacterial soaps are not any more effective than regular soap, and are therefore unnecessary ingredients in personal care products. 

Triclosan has been linked to endocrine system disruption and could possible affect your thyroid functions. These types of effects can alter estrogen production, metabolism/obesity issues and other hormonal problems. 

They are also present in our watershed and bioaccumulate once in our environment. 

Health concerns: Endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity/birth defects 

Types of products: Bacterial soaps and detergents, toothpaste, deodorants

Triphenyl Phosphate 

Triphenyl phosphate is most commonly used as an ingredient in nail products as a plasticizer. This means it allows the nail products to have better flexibility and durability on the nail. It is allowed in low concentrations and is claimed to not have a huge affect on human health. But this does not take into account prolonged use or exposure to products containing this ingredient and any ingredient found on this list. 

Health concerns: Neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity/birth defects, allergies & immunotoxicity

Types of products: Nail products