4 Toxic chemicals in skincare products to avoid

Toxic chemicals in Skincare Products

If developing a routine wasn’t full of hurdles enough, greater vigilance must guide your skincare purchases now. Your skincare goes through multiple distribution channels before it even lands on your next-door retailer’s shelf. What gives your skincare such durability and longevity to sustain all that travel, and still work effectively on your skin? That’s a mass producer’s secret, hidden under intimidating ingredient names. So let’s reveal and review toxic chemicals in skincare products.




Formaldehydes are naturally occurring byproducts in the metabolism process, in a gaseous state. They are not synthetically manufactured. So if they get formed and reside in our body, what deems it toxic? Cosmetic biochemists answer that formaldehyde is not toxic when it is produced in the body, as it gets released with carbon dioxide. Formaldehyde becomes toxic and carcinogenic when formaldehyde fumes are inhaled. 

Carcinogenic means having the potential to cause cancer. Not the easy kind either. Leukemia, and other lung and respiratory cancers are linked with formaldehyde exposure.

The reason to add formaldehyde to skin care is to prolong the products’ shelf life and to prevent bacterial contamination. You can spot toxic chemicals in skincare products like formaldehyde in your products disguised under these names in the ingredients list- DMDM hydantoin, methylene glycol, quaternium 15, and 3 dioxanes.

Formaldehyde is an ample constituent in nail polish removers, and those fumes are easily inhalable. Keep in mind to be aware of its adverse effects.


Parabens are another class of preservatives that help active ingredients stay stable. “Paraben-free” is quite easily slapped on product descriptions, yet most of us are unaware of how they could possibly be one of the toxic chemicals in skincare products. 

Parabens mimic estrogen, a natural hormone produced in our bodies and cause a disruption in our endocrine system - the mechanism controlling the hormones in our body. These unmitigated levels of parabens are present in breast cancer tumours. 

Parabens are easily penetrable in the body and could lead to potential reproductive issues. The risk associated with parabens depends on individual tolerance and that’s a dice roll in the dark. 


Phthalates are plastic solvents that are added to make plastics bendable, durable, and longer in life. They are present in shampoos, detergents, housing materials, plastic for medical usage (eg. dialysis equipment), toothbrushes etc, with varying molecular weights.

Phthalates are one of the most abundant toxic chemicals in skincare and other products and thus harder to swerve and easier to be lenient about. A complete eviction of phthalates is not possible, because as long as plastics stay, so do phthalates.

Phthalates occur under the names DIDP, DINP, and DEHP. They usually end with the suffix “-phthalate”. They are also endocrine disruptors and are ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) triggers in newborns and pregnant women. They even increase cardiovascular risk.

The proximity to neurodevelopmental issues, asthma, autism and even male infertility increases with inhalation, absorption, and ingestion of phthalates. 

These potential hazards make phthalates single-handedly one of the most toxic chemicals in skincare products. 


Silicone is derived from sand, and after much chemical alteration, silica becomes silicone. Silicones form a barrier between the skin and the exterior environment. Such products are called ‘occlusive’ in nature. They are velvety in texture and often used in makeup products to add a creamy finish to them.

Silicones are great wound healers and scar erasers. They trap the good ingredients in injuries and promote rapid healing. However, that same effect on the skin could react absolutely differently. When the silicone would trap the good ingredients, it also traps the bad ones along with it and this comedogenic effect would further aggravate the infected skin. 

Secondly, silicones are hydrophobic, which means they are hard to be washed off with water. At least not easily. Even though Silicones are not comedogenic in and of themselves, they do have an occlusive quality which traps pollutants and external matter that behave as comedogenic matter.

Over that, Silicones are bioaccumulative, making them one of the most toxic chemicals in skincare products. This means once they get dispensed down the drain, they continue to accumulate pollutant matter and they do not break down for years. Silicone can be spotted in an ingredient list. Look for names ending with ‘siloxane’/ ‘-cone’.

How to avoid toxic chemicals in skincare products?

You can begin by spotting these harmful ingredients on product labels. Next, you could pick personal care products that are naturally derived and display effective results without the addition of formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates, silicone etc. Here is a light reading that will inform why organic products are the right choice for you 

Satthwa Bakuchiol Serum

Satthwa’s entire personal care catalogue is natural, organic and Ayurvedic. For starters, we’d recommend the Biotin and Collagen Shampoo and the Satvak Bakuchiol Serum.

 Satthwa Biotin and Collagen Shampoo


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