Choosing skincare products that fit your needs and your budget is already a challenge, especially when faced with hundreds of products that seemingly look the same. The decision becomes even more difficult when you factor in the safety of the products. Many popular products carried by major retailers can have harmful ingredients lurking in the bottle, some of which could even have cancer-causing properties.

Here are 4 common but potentially dangerous ingredients that you should ALWAYS AVOID:


This chemical is most commonly found in sunscreens. Usually listed as “benzene,” it is a known carcinogen that is also used in the production of plastic and rubber.


Derived from petroleum, this is one of the most dangerous ingredients to look out for. Parabens have been linked to breast cancer, and are known endocrine disruptors, meaning they could lead to a hormonal imbalance and even infertility. Parabens are sometimes listed under different names, but the most common ones to look out for are: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethelparaben. This ingredient is most commonly found in makeup.


Most commonly found in hair straightening products, exposure to high amounts of formaldehyde put humans at a dangerous risk for developing cancer.


Although they may initially seem innocent, fragrances can contain harmful ingredients, which manufacturers are not required by law to list on the label. One product could contain hundreds of fragrance components, yet manufacturers are not required to list these components on the label. Therefore, best practice is to avoid using products with fragrances, most commonly found in lotions, perfumes, makeup, and tanning products.

You might wonder how unsafe products like these make it onto store shelves. Most people don’t realize that cosmetic product ingredients do not need governmental approval before entering the market, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)…and that “natural” label on your product might not mean as much as you think. The FDA does not regulate product labels that claim to be “natural,” and there is no mechanism in place to guarantee the safety of those products before they hit the shelves in your local store.

The next time you shop for a skincare or cosmetic product for yourself or your family, stay safe and make sure to read the ingredients list carefully. Although a long ingredients list may seem intimidating, taking the extra step to read it thoroughly can help you make informed decisions about what you use on your body, and protect your health.