Here's what to look out for, and steer clear of, on ingredients lists in the personal care product aisles.
1. Aluminum Starch/ Octenylsuccinate: Linked to cancer and developmental/reproductive harm.
2. Antibacterials/ antimicrobials such as Triclosan, which promote the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
3. Coal tar colors: Includes FD&C and D & C colors, especially blue 1 and green 3. Cancer links.
4. Ethoxylated Chemicals (the “PEGs” and “Eths”s): These sudsing/moisturizing agents are made by adding ethylene oxide to fatty acids so they’ll become more water soluble. This process can create carcinogenic 1,4 dioxane. Watch out for PEG-80 sorbitan laurate, PEG-6 methyl ether, Polyethylene glycol, PEG-20, Sodium laureth sulfate,Ceteareth-20 and -30, and many more substances with “PEG”- and “eth” in their names.
5. Formaldehyde: While it won't show up on ingredients lists, this known human carcinogen can be present as a contaminant in nearly all types of personal care products. Look for its contaminated "cousins": diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, and quaternium .
6. Fragrance: Synthetic fragrance using phthalates, isoeugenol, cinnamal, and BHT--a fragrance used to mask fragrance--is linked to cancer and developmental/ reproductive harm, allergies.
7. Heavy Metals: Lead and mercury in lip and eye makeups can cause nervous system and brain damage.
8. Nano particles: Still new on the block, but research indicates they may pose possible brain damage, cancer risks.
9. Synthetic Preservatives: Methylparaben and other parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors and stimulate growth of breast cancer cells in the lab.
10. Silica: A risk mostly when used in powders that can be easily inhaled. Mica and talc, also used in powders, are low-risk, although talc can be contaminated with fibers similar to cancer-causing asbestos.
The list was compiled using Environmental Working Group's awesome Skin Deep Database .