Cancer Causing Ingredients in Skincare & Cosmetics

Turns out some of the ingredients found in beauty products aren’t that pretty. In fact, the cosmetics industry uses thousands of synthetic chemicals in its products, in everything from nail polish and lipstick to shampoo and deodorant.

What’s even scarier is that many of these substances are used in industrial manufacturing processes to clean industrial equipment, stabilise pesticides and grease gears.

Imagine what that does to your skin, health and not to mention the environment! It’s no wonder these ingredients have been linked to breast cancer.

Alarmingly, millions of people around the world use a number of mainstream products everyday and are therefore exposing themselves to hundreds of chemicals (before they even walk out the door of a morning!)

Please keep reading to learn about some of the main offenders that are most likely lurking in your everyday beauty products…

Nastie #1: Phthalates

Phthalates are a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are used as solvents in many cosmetics.

This means they may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects. Phthalates can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled.

Found in: Nail polish, perfume, hair spray, deodorant and any synthetic fragrance (including perfumes and fragrance ingredients in other cosmetic products).

Phthalate exposure has been linked to early puberty in girls, a risk factor for later-life breast cancer. Some phthalates also act as weak oestrogens in cell culture systems.


Nastie #2: Triclosan

Triclosan is a common antimicrobial agent used to limit the growth of bacteria and mold. The chemical, which is classified as a pesticide, can affect the body’s hormone systems—especially thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism—and may disrupt normal breast development.

Found in: A wide variety of antibacterial soaps and detergents, deodorants, toothpaste and cosmetics.

Triclosan was initially developed as a surgical scrub for medical professionals, but in recent years it has been added to a host of consumer products.


Nastie #3: 1,4-dioxane

1,4-dioxane is a byproduct caused during manufacturing. Through a process called ethoxylation, ethylene oxide is combined with other chemicals to form emulsifiers used in cosmetics. This process is what forms the contaminant 1,4-dioxane.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has ranked 1,4-dioxane as a possible carcinogen, and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) has identified it as a reasonably anticipated carcinogen.

1,4-dioxane is formed as a byproduct and therefore the FDA does not require manufacturers to list the contaminant as an ingredient on product labels. Without labelling, there is no way to know for certain how many products contain 1,4-dioxane. This means there is no guaranteed way for consumers to avoid it.

Most commonly, 1,4-dioxane is found in products that create suds such as: shampoos, liquid soap, body wash, bubble bath, children’s bath products and other sudsing cosmetics.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate is commonly found in the above products, and any products that “bubble”. Therefore, this ingredient may be contaminated by 1,4-dioxane. Sodium Laureth Sulfate is required to be displayed on product labels.

Other common ingredients that may be contaminated by 1,4-dioxane include PEG compounds and chemicals that include the clauses “xynol,” “ceteareth” and “oleth.”

Advice for mums from EVOHE! Mums with bubs especially please be careful when choosing baby products for your precious ones. For peace of mind, consider a healthier alternative – EVOHE’s Mums & Bubs pack absolutely DOES NOT contain 1,4-dioxide.


Nastie #4: Parabens

Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as an anti-fungal agent, preservative and antimicrobial.

Methylparaben and propylparaben are the most common parabens found in cosmetics. Each of these appear in well over 10,000 of the 25,000 products in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.

Parabens appear mostly in personal care products that contain significant amounts of water, such as: creams, lotions, ointments, facial cleansers, scrubs, shampoo, conditioner and other cosmetics including underarm deodorant.

Parabens are absorbed through the skin, blood and digestive system and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumours. Parabens are also linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation. Since parabens are used to kill bacteria in water-based solutions, they inherently have some toxicity to cells.


Nastie #5: Ethylene Oxide

Ethylene oxide is found in fragrances and is commonly used to manufacture popular brands of shampoo. It is classified as a known human carcinogen and is one of the 48 chemicals that the National Toxicology Program (NTP) identifies as mammary carcinogens in animals.

Ethylene oxide is also used to sterilise surgical instruments.


Nastie #6: 1,3-Butadiene

Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Toxicology Program consider 1,3-butadiene to be a human carcinogen, with the main route of exposure being through inhalation.

Shaving creams, spray sunscreens and foundations, and anti-fungal treatments that contain the propellant isobutene may be contaminated with the carcinogen 1,3-butadiene.

1,3-butadiene is also an air pollutant and causes mammary and ovary tumours in female mice and rats.


Nastie #7: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil and gasoline. One of the more common PAHs is naphthalene. This compound is present in some mothballs.

A variety of cosmetics and shampoos are made with coal tar and therefore contain PAHs. They have been shown to increase risk for breast cancer.


Nastie #8: Placental Extract

Placental extract is derived from human or animal placentas and is used in: hair conditioners, hair shampoos and other grooming aids. Allegedly the placenta extract serves as a source of protein and hormones, predominantly estrogen and progesterone in the cosmetics in which it is used.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) has identified progesterone, the major hormonal contaminant in placental extracts, as a reasonably anticipated carcinogen.


Nastie #9: Lead

Lead may be a contaminant in over 650 cosmetic products.

Found in: sunscreens, foundation, nail colours, lipsticks and whitening toothpaste.

Lead is a proven neurotoxin, linked to learning, language and behavioural problems. It has also been linked to miscarriage, reduced fertility in men and women, and delays in puberty onset in girls.

Lead builds up in the body over time and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels. Pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure.

Alarmingly, lead is a contaminant and is not listed on ingredient labels. Therefore it is next to impossible for consumers to avoid.


Nastie #10: Aluminium

Aluminum is a metal that mimics Oestrogen and can also cause direct damage to DNA.

Found in: some some underarm antiperspirants and deodorants.

Studies have not shown a direct causal link to breast cancer risk, however aluminium-based compounds that are absorbed through the skin, have been known to cause Oestrogen-like (hormonal) effects. Oestrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer cells and therefore scientists have suggested that the aluminium in antiperspirants and deodorants may contribute to the development of breast cancer.

But breast tissue has been shown to concentrate aluminum in the same area where the highest proportion of breast cancers are originally diagnosed.


Nastie # 11: Sunscreen

Many sunscreens contain chemicals that are considered hormonal disruptors.

For example, octyl-methoxycinnamate, which is oestrogenic and has thyroid hormone-disrupting effects, is found in over 800 sunscreens. Homosalate, a hormone-disrupting UVB blocker, is an ingredient in over 400 sunscreens.

Hormone disruptors can affect how Oestrogen and other hormones act in the body, by mimicking or blocking them.

Research has found that  These endocrine disrupting chemicals can play a significant role in breast cancer development.



Skin Deep Data Base (is a great resource.. BOOKMARK now!)

Breast Cancer Fund:

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics:

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