Potentially Harmful Ingredients


A colourless, volatile, flammable liquid produced by the fermentation of yeast and carbohydrates. Alcohol is used frequently as a solvent and is also found in beverages and medicine. As an ingredient in ingestible products, alcohol may cause body tissues to be more vulnerable to carcinogens. Mouthwashes with an alcohol content of 25 percent or more have been implicated in mouth, tongue, and throat cancers.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)

An organic acid produced by anaerobic respiration. Skin care products containing AHAs exfoliate the skin to remove wrinkles and expose the younger skin cells beneath. In the process, as outer skin cells are exfoliated, the skin’s protective barrier is removed, thus exposing premature skin to environmental damage. Therefore, use of AHAs could make you age much faster and long-term skin damage may result from their use. Other acids, such as low-molecular weight glycolic acids, can be quite beneficial in skin care products due to their smaller size. Glycolic acid – an extract from sugarcane – is capable of penetrating the skin, instead of blocking the skin and causing skin damage as does AHAs.


A metallic element used extensively in the manufacture of aircraft components, prosthetic devices, and as an ingredient in antiperspirants, antacids, and antiseptics. Aluminium has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Animal Fat (Tallow)

A type of animal tissue made up of oily solids or semisolids that are water-insoluble esters of glycerol and fatty acids. Animal fats and lye are the chief ingredients in bar soap, a cleaning and emulsifying product that may act as a breeding ground for bacteria.


A porous clay that expands to many times its dry volume as it absorbs water. Bentonite, commonly found in many cosmetic foundations and facial masks, may scratch the skin surface, clog pores, and dry out and suffocate the skin. Bentonite forms a gas-impermeable film, which effectively stops the skin from releasing toxins and carbon dioxide and suffocates the skin by shutting out oxygen.


Aerosol propellant. Is flammable and in high doses may be narcotic or cause asphyxiation.


An insoluble fibrous protein that is too large to penetrate the skin. The collagen found in most skin care products is derived from cow hides and ground-up chicken feet. Collagen’s molecules are too large to penetrate the skin, rendering this ingredient useless. On top of being ineffective, however, collagen forms a layer of film on the skin’s surface that may suffocate skin cells.

Diethanolamine (DEA), Cocamide DEA, Lauramide DEA

A colourless liquid or crystalline alcohol that is used as a solvent, emulsifier, and detergent (wetting agent). DEA works as an emollient in skin softening lotions or as a humectant in other personal care products. When found in products containing nitrates, it reacts chemically with the nitrates to form potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines. Although earlier studies seemed to indicate that DEA itself was not a carcinogen, more recent studies show its carcinogenic potential, even in formulations that exclude nitrates. DEA may also irritate the skin and mucous membranes. Neways also avoids using other ethanolamines in its products: triethanolamine (TEA) and monethanolamine (MEA).


A potentially carcinogenic by-product that results from the process used to bleach paper at paper mills. Dioxin-treated containers sometimes transfer dioxins to the product itself.

Elastin of High-Molecular Weight

Like collagen, elastin is a protein that is the major constituent of elastic fibres. There are two types of elastin – high-molecular weight elastin and low-molecular weight elastin. The molecules comprising high molecular weight elastin are too large to penetrate the skin, and therefore, it only leaves a suffocating film on the skin. Even if injected into the skin by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon, this type of elastin is useless to human skin due to its molecular structure. Low-molecular weight elastin, on the other hand, is a powerful form of natural elastin that is easily absorbed and utilized by the skin due to its smaller molecular weight.


Some can be potentially carcinogenic.


A colourless, non-flammable gas or liquid that can produce mild upper respiratory tract irritation. Fluorocarbons are commonly used as a propellant in hairsprays.


A toxic, colourless gas that is an irritant and a carcinogen. When combined with water, formaldehyde is used as a disinfectant, fixative, or preservative. Formaldehyde is found in many cosmetic products and conventional nail care systems.

Large Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid

Although Hyaluronic acid from plant or animal sources is identical to that found in human skin, Hyaluronic acid can only be utilized by the skin if it is applied in a low molecular weight form or injected by physicians. In most cosmetics, it has an extremely high molecular weight (up to 15 million) and cannot penetrate the skin. It sits on the surface and functions much the same as collagen.


A highly concentrated watery solution of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. Lye is combined with animal fats to make bar soaps, which may corrode and dry out the skin.

Methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl paraben

Are used to extend a product’s shelf life and inhibit microbial growth. Highly toxic. Can cause rashes and other allergic reactions.

Mineral Oil

A derivative of crude oil (petroleum) that is used industrially as a cutting fluid and lubricating oil. Instead of penetrating the skin, mineral oil forms an oily film over the skin to lock in moisture, toxins, and wastes, but hinders normal skin respiration by keeping oxygen out.


A petroleum-based grease that is used industrially as a grease component. Petrolatum exhibits many of the same potentially harmful properties as mineral oil. While attempting to hold moisture in the skin, it also traps toxins and wastes inside the skin layers and does not allow the skin to respire.


Aerosol propellant. Is flammable and in high doses may be narcotic.


Phthalates are a family of industrial plasticisers that are used in products made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which include teethers, rattles, cosmetics, and other consumer products. They can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled as fumes, and ingested from contaminated food or children’s toys made from materials containing phthalates. According to consumer protection groups, animal studies have demonstrated that phthalates can damage the liver, the kidneys, the lungs and the reproductive system, especially the developing testes.


Aerosol propellant. Is flammable and in high doses may be narcotic.

Propylene Glycol

A cosmetic form of mineral oil found in automatic brake and hydraulic fluid, and industrial antifreeze. In skin and hair care products, propylene glycol work as a humectant, which is a substance that retains the moisture content of skin or cosmetic products by preventing the escape of moisture or water. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) warn users to avoid skin contact with propylene glycol as this strong skin irritant can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.

Sodium Chloride (Salt – NaCl)

A crystalline compound that is a mineral or element of seaweed. Sodium chloride is frequently used in products with a cheap, watery consistency to make them thick and rich instead. Sodium chloride can cause eye and skin irritation if used in too high concentrations.

Sodium Fluoride

May cause mucous membrane irritation/burns, severe skin irritation/burns, may produce signs of fluorosis such as weight loss, brittleness of bones, anaemia, weakness and stiffness of joints. Internal bleeding may develop.

Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES)

A surfactant that is a high-foaming ethoxylated form of SLS. It is slightly less irritating than SLS, but may cause more drying. Both SLS and SLES may cause potentially carcinogenic formulations of nitrates and dioxins to form in shampoos and cleansers by reacting with other product ingredients. Large amounts of nitrates may enter the blood system from just one shampooing. Clinical studies show that it could cause hair loss when applied to the scalp.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)

SLS is used in harsh detergents and wetting agents used in garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers, and auto cleaning products. SLS is well known in the scientific community as a common skin irritant. It is rapidly absorbed and retained in the eyes, brain, heart, and liver, which may result in harmful long-term effects. SLS could retard healing, cause cataracts in adults, and keep children’s eyes from developing properly.

Sodium Fluoride

Has been shown to be a potential carcinogen.


A soft grey-green mineral used in some personal hygiene and cosmetics products. Inhaling talc may be harmful as this substance is recognized as a potential carcinogen.

Just take a look at some of the products you have on your shelves at home in your bathroom and kitchen now to see how many contain some of the ingredients listed above – you will be surprised at what you find.