15 Toxic Skincare Ingredients Researchers Linked To Cancer

For a growing number of skincare enthusiasts, ingredient consciousness is at the forefront of our pursuit for healthy, glowing skin. It's crucial to be mindful of ingredients that have started discussions about their potential ties to cancer. Here, we uncover the top skincare ingredients that have raised eyebrows in the realm of beauty due to their suspected or studied connections to this serious health concern.

1. Parabens

These preservatives, such as methylparaben and propylparaben, have been scrutinized for their potential estrogen-mimicking properties, raising concerns about their impact on hormone-related cancers.

2. Phthalates

Commonly found in fragrances and plastics, certain phthalates like DEHP and DBP have been linked to cancer development, particularly breast cancer.

3. Formaldehyde

Often used as a preservative, formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing agents like DMDM hydantoin have been classified as carcinogenic by organizations like the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

4. Coal Tar

Primarily used in dandruff shampoos and anti-itch creams, coal tar and related ingredients (such as coal tar solution, coal tar pitch, and coal tar extract) are known carcinogens.

5. Hydroquinone

Used in skin lightening products, hydroquinone has been linked to cancer in some animal studies, although its direct correlation to cancer in humans remains debated.

6. Oxybenzone

Commonly used in sunscreens, oxybenzone has raised concerns due to its potential hormone-disrupting properties and potential links to cancer, although more research is needed to establish a direct link.

7. Retinyl Palmitate

A form of vitamin A used in skincare, retinyl palmitate, when exposed to sunlight, can lead to the formation of free radicals, potentially increasing the risk of skin cancer.

8. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

Synthetic antioxidants often used in skincare products, these compounds have been classified as potential carcinogens.

9. Lead

Although not intentionally added to skincare products, lead contamination has been found in certain cosmetics, including lip products, and can pose health risks, including potential links to cancer.

10. Talc

Often used in powders and makeup, talc that is not asbestos-free has been associated with ovarian cancer when used in the genital area.

11. Siloxanes

Used in skincare and haircare products, certain siloxanes like cyclopentasiloxane have raised concerns due to their potential to interfere with hormone function, although direct links to cancer are under investigation.

12. Titanium Dioxide (nano-sized particles)

While widely used in sunscreens and cosmetics, some studies suggest that nano-sized particles of titanium dioxide may have the potential to cause cancer when inhaled.

13. Acrylates

Found in nail products, certain acrylates have raised concerns about their potential carcinogenicity.

14. DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), TEA (Triethanolamine)

These can react with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens.

15. Ethanolamines

Used as emulsifiers and pH adjusters in skincare, these compounds can form nitrosamines when they come into contact with certain preservatives or contaminants.


It's important to note that while these ingredients have been associated with cancer in some studies, many of these links are based on animal studies, high-dose exposure, or limited evidence. The concentrations used in skincare products and individual exposure also play a crucial role in assessing potential risks. Always consult with healthcare professionals or dermatologists for personalized advice and consider opting for products with safer, well-researched ingredients if concerns about potential carcinogens arise.