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5 Common Harmful Beauty Ingredients

We’ve compiled a list of the most common no-no ingredients to make shopping for natural beauty products a little easier.

Updated April 04, 2019 by Amanda Dixon

5 Common Harmful Beauty Ingredients

Did you know—legally, beauty products can be labeled as “natural” and still contain up to 30 percent synthetic ingredients? Pretty confusing, right? It turns out there’s a variety of risky ingredients included under this umbrella. Here at b-glowing, we’re setting the bar higher. We've done our research and have zero tolerance for what we’ve deemed blacklist ingredients.

You deserve to know exactly what’s in the skincare and beauty items you choose to purchase. Luckily, none of the products in our Clean + Natural category contain any of these blacklisted ingredients. So you can shop with peace of mind (::breaths sigh of relief::).

Alternatively, many popular beauty brands on the market today contain several of these potentially harmful ingredients. So what should you look out for? We’ve compiled a list of the most common no-no ingredients to make shopping for natural beauty products a little easier.

Coal Tar

Coal tar is a complex mixture of chemicals containing known carcinogens derived from burning coal (yuck). While I think we can agree that it sounds incredibly unappealing, coal tar is frequently used in a variety of cosmetic and hair care products to treat dandruff and damaged skin. However, studies show that exposing skin to coal tar can result in skin tumors, neurological damage, and even cancer over time. To avoid this toxic ingredient, be vigilant when reading labels for shampoos, scalp treatments, hair dyes, and lotions.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)

Another not-so-nice ingredient to avoid? Butylated compounds—often known as BHAs and BHTs. These chemicals are used as a preservative in a variety of beauty products, including lipstick and eyeshadow. And like many of the blacklisted ingredients on this list, BHA and BHT have been identified as carcinogens that can lead to endocrine disruption, as well as developmental and reproductive toxicity. Unsurprisingly, this makes pregnant women among the most vulnerable individuals. Fortunately, BHA and/or BHT will be clearly listed on the ingredient list—so you can easily spot these red flags.


You’ve probably heard of this one. Parabens are preservatives found in beauty products to prevent the growth of microbes and extend shelf life. For this reason, parabens are commonly used in products containing water such as shampoos, cleansers, and lotions. Parabens are known to cause endocrine disruption, and because they aren’t water soluble these chemicals are absorbed into skin, blood, and eventually the digestive system (Yikes!). Since there are many types of parabens, look for any ingredient ending in “-paraben” to ensure a product is safe.


Another blacklist ingredient we see far too often: phthalates. These chemicals are commonly added to lotions, cleanser, hair care, nail polish, and can show up as “fragrance” in many perfumes. The danger here? Again, endocrine disruption, along with developmental and reproductive toxicity, and even cancer. Research suggests that phthalates alter hormones which can lead to issues during pregnancy. If that wasn’t enough, the European Union has banned phthalates from being used in cosmetics, while these chemicals remain prevalent in the US. You can spot these toxins on labels listed as: phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP, or fragrance.


There’s been a lot of back-and-forth discussion about sulfates over the years. So why do they get such a bad rap? It turns out that sulfates can be a little too good at cleansing hair and skin resulting in redness, pain, and itching. Sulfates are a common ingredient in cleansers due to their ability to create a frothy, foamy, lathery wash. But stripping skin of its natural, barrier-protecting oils can leave skin vulnerable and irritated. If you have a sensitive scalp or sensitive skin, you’ll want to avoid sulfates such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) to ensure happy, healthy skin.

For skincare and beauty products free from any Blacklist Ingredients, shop our entire Clean + Natural Collection.

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