Uncovering the Ingredients Used in Cosmetics

Hello everyone!

This is a topic that I have been interested in for a while now. I believe that cosmetic consumers aren't fully informed of what is in the products that we buy. Whether it's Western or Asian cosmetics, there are cosmetics that contain ingredients that could possibly be harmful to our bodies.

I have done research on Korean cosmetics as well as Western cosmetics and I have come across some not so nice surprises...
I am sharing this post because I think that it is good to be more conscious of what you are actually applying to your skin since more natural ingredients are available these days.

Now before you panic and check through all of your cosmetics and ingredient lists, I have to mention that most of the ingredients are regulated in the US, Canada and EU. Some regulations have been put into place in Asia (especially Korea) but they are not as many of them yet (correct me if I am wrong here). Even if the ingredient has been flagged up it doesn't necessarily mean that the amount in the product is going to cause adverse effects.

I have listed only some of the harmful ingredients but there are some more out there not just in cosmetics but also in other products.

1. Parfum (Fragrance):

What is it?
Now this isn't necessarily harmful to all of us but to those with sensitive skin or more prone to allergies, it can act as an irritant. Fragrance in cosmetics usually includes a lot of chemicals. There is evidence that it can even trigger asthma especially in children. Some of the cosmetics that advertise being "fragrance-free" or "unscented" may also contain fragrance ingredients.
Some of the top selling perfumes and colognes have an average of 14 chemicals per product not listed on the label. 

What so bad about it?
Some of the fragrance ingredients can trigger allergic reactions, migraines, asthma or even interfere with hormone function. An ingredient called Diethyl phthalate that is used in cosmetics to make the scent linger, has been found interfere with hormone function and reproductive defects in the developing male fetus among other health effects.

How does it affect your skin?
If you are sensitive to fragrance ingredients, the signs you might be able to see on your skin include rash, redness and sensitivity.

How is it monitored?
Fragrance recipes are consider to be secrets so the manufacturers and they do not need to state the fragrance chemicals in the list of ingredients. The EU, however, restricts the use of many fragrance ingredients. 
Image result for BEYOND cosmetics
BEYOND cosmetics contain minimum amount of chemical fragrance

2. Parabens (methylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben):

What are they?
Parabens are widely used as preservatives in cosmetics and have been a big topic in the media for a long time. There is still a debate going on whether parabens are harmful or not to humans. Approx 75-90% of cosmetics still contain parabens.

What's so bad about them? 
It has been found that they can interfere with hormone function. Parabens can mimic estrogen (female hormone) and parabens have been detected in breast cancer tissue raising questions about a possible association between parabens and cancer. They can also interfere with male reproductive functions.

How do they affect your skin?
Parabens can also react to UVBs when applied to skin leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage. The adverse effect of parabens can cause premature ageing on skin.

How are they monitored?
Now before you start panicking and check every cosmetic product that you have, one thing to say is that paraben concentration are restricted in the Eropean Union and USA. In Korea SOME parabens are banned in cosmetic use but not all. Paraben usage as a whole has not been banned anywhere. 

Image result for innisfree green tea seed serum
Innifree Green Tea Seed Serum does NOT contain parabens
Image result for skinfood peach sake pore serum
Skinfood Peach Sake Pore Serum contains butylparaben

3. BHA and BHT:

What are they?
These are antioxidants used as preservatives in cosmetics such as lipstick and moisturisers.

What's so bad about them?
They can act as a possible human carcinogen and interfere with human hormone function. They are also harmful to aquatic organisms and environment.Oral exposure to relatively large doses of BHT has resulted in liver and kidney effects but this has not been a major concern since the concentration of BHT in products is normally very low.

How do they affect your skin?
They can cause allergic reactions to skin.

How are they monitored?
The EU prohibits the use of BHA as a fragrance ingredient in cosmetics but can otherwise be used and the state of California required warning labels on products containing BHA. BHT has been allowed to be used in cosmetics in the EU. The use of BHA and BHT remains unrestricted in Canada. 

Image result for [The Saem] Saemmul Wrapping Tint
The Saem Saemmul Wrapping Tints do NOT contain BHA or BHT
Image result for holikaholika dodo cat heartful
HolikaHolika DoDo Cat Heartful Gel Tint bars contain BHT

4. Triclosan:

What is is?
Triclosan is mainly used in deodorants, cleansers and hand sanitisers as a preservative and an anti-bacterial agent. (I have also come across this ingredient in BB creams.)

What's so bad about it?
Triclosan can pass through skin and is suspected to interfere with hormone function. It can also act as a toxic to aquatic organisms and cause damaged to aquatic environment. An extensive use of triclosan could possibly contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria.

How does it affect your skin?
It can act as an irritant to skin and eyes and can cause adverse effects for example irritation.

How is it monitored?
Triclosan use is being limited in cosmetics everywhere but it is found in a lot of products which might end up adding up the to amount of the actual usage. In the EU and Canada Triclosan concentration are limited to 0.3%.

Image result for etude house precious mineral bb cream
Etude House Precious Mineral BB creams do NOT contain Triclosan
Image result for skin79 bb cream hot pink
Skin79 BB cream DOES contain Triclosan

5. PEGs:

What are they?
Petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in cream bases for cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisture-carriers.

What's so bad about them?
They can act as a possible human carcinogen and they do not degrade easily which means that they can linger in the environment for a long time. 

How do they affect your skin?
On broken skin they can cause irritation and systemic toxicity. Propylene glycol can also cause allergic reactions.

How are they monitored?
There is a limited amount of information on how much PEGs are included in the cosmetics since there are purification methods to remove the byproduct (1,4-dioxane) of PEGs which can be harmful and act as a human carcinogen. Even if PEGs are limited, the restrictions do not necessarily address the unintentional ingredients and there isn't always a way of telling whether the purification methods have been applied on the cosmetics. 

Image result for beyond deep himalaya eye cream
BEYOND Himalaya Deep Moisture Eye Cream does NOT contain PEGs
Related image
Skinfood Royal Honey Eye Cream DOES have PEG-100, PEG-8 and PEG-40

6. Siloxanes: cyclotetrasiloxane, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane and cyclomethicone.

What are they?
Silicone-based compounds used in cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. They are used extensively in moisturisers and facial treatments.

What is so bad about them?
Cyclotetrasiloxane and cylcopentasiloxane – also known as D4 and D5 have been found to be toxic and evidence shows that they interfere with human hormone function and possibly even impair human fertility. 

How do they affect your skin?
They do not necessarily have a negative impact on skin but they can act as an irritant.

How are they monitored?
Canada is currently measuring the potential risks of D4. In the EU the amount of siloxanes are currently restricted.
Image result for innisfree the minimum sun cream
Innisfree the Minimum sun cream does NOT contain any siloxanes
Image result for THE FACE SHOP Clean Face Oil Free Sun Cream
THE FACE SHOP Clean Face Oil Free Sun Cream contains D4 and D5

7.Sodium laureth sulfate (SLE)

What is it?
Used in cosmetics as cleansing agent and also to make products to bubble or foam. It is most common in shampoos, shower gels and facial cleansers. 

What is so bad about it?
It has been claimed that SLE itself does not cause cancer but it can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane (like PEGs), depending on manufacturing processes which has been found to be a possible human carcinogen. There is no easy way for consumer to tell whether SLE has gone through the purifaction method for dioxane just like with PEGs. 

How does it affect your skin?
SLE can irritate skin and eyes. 

How are they monitored?
There are no restrictions for SLE use in Canada and US but 1,4-dioxane is prohibited in both countries. SLE is not banned in the EU or Asia.
Image result for NEOGEN Green Tea Real Fresh Foam Cleanser
Neogen Real Fresh Green Tea Foam Cleanser does NOT contain SLES
Image result for MiSSHA Super Aqua Oxygen Micro Visible Deep Cleanser
Missha Super Aqua Oxygen Micro Visible Deep Cleanser DOES contain SLES

These ingredients are used in very small amounts in cosmetics, therefore they are deemed to be safe to use on human skin. It is hard to say how much of these ingredients people actually end up using if they use a large amount of products with harmful ingredients...

Checking ingredient lists from Korean products can still be quite difficult due to mistranslations and the ingredient regulations being a bit different. 
I recommend checking out the safety of ingredients HERE and now there is also an app called Hwahae but unfortunately it is mostly in Korean

You can read more about the topic here:

Have a good week! More positive posts are yet to come during December xD


There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion. - Edgar Allan Poe.


  1. What an amazing article dear..I am very very cautious about ingredients and do read them thoroughly...thank you for this beautiful content ...😊

  2. Your article really helps, i'm currently switching my cosmetics to safer ones and this info isdefinitely useful for me. Thanks ! ☺