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The Dirty Dozen Toxic Chemicals in Skin Care

The Dirty Dozen Toxic Chemicals in Skin Care


According to National Geographic's Green Guide, the average adult uses at least nine personal care products a day, which contain approximately 120 chemicals. The "Dirty Dozen" of skin care products refers to a list of chemicals found in personal care products that should be avoided. Although one or two exposures to these chemicals are not likely to cause harm, a lifetime of exposure may do more harm than you realize.

The Dirty Dozen

The "Dirty Dozen" chemicals are found in a variety of self-care products. The 12 most hazardous chemicals are antibacterials, coal tar, diethanolamine or DEA, 1,4-Dioxane, formaldehyde, fragrance, lead and mercury, nanoparticles, parabens, petroleum distillates, P-Phenylenediamine and hydroquinone. Self-care products that these chemicals may be found in include shampoo, foot-odor powder, mascara, bath soaps, facial moisturizers, skin lighteners, sunscreens, toothpaste, deodorant, hair dyes, baby bath soap and nail polish.

Health Risks

Each "Dirty Dozen" chemical presents one or more health risks if you are exposed to it for a prolonged period of time. The overuse of antibacterials makes your body more susceptible to germs that cause diseases such as E. coli and salmonella. The chemicals coal tar, 1,4 Dioxane, formaldehyde and petroleum distillates show evidence of being carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents. Other health risks from the "Dirty Dozen" include brain cell damage, nervous system damage, toxicity of the immune system, severe allergic reactions, lung irritation and respiratory irritation.

Watching for Ingredients

When you go shopping for products take a list of the "Dirty Dozen" chemicals and avoid buying items that contain the dangerous ingredients. Also be aware that some of the chemicals are sometimes listed with different names on labels or can be contaminating other listed ingredients. 1,4-Dioxane can appear as a contaminant in sodium laureth sulfate or other ingredients that include the terms "PEG," "xynol," "certeareth" and "oleth." P-Phenlyenediamine is also referred to as 1,4-Benzenediamine, p-Phenyldiamine and 4-Phenylenediamine.


Begin by taking inventory of your personal care products. Read the labels, and get rid of the products you can live without. This will also save you money, since you won't have to buy as many items. Give your skin and body a break from the chemicals by using only the essentials like toothpaste, soap and deodorant for a few days.


If you begin to realize that many of your essential self-care products contain dangerous chemicals, do not panic. Many companies are now producing products that are free of toxic chemicals. Some of those companies include: Bert's Bees, Aubrey Organics, Ecco Bella, Terressentials and Miessence.

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