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9 harmful chemicals in soaps which can ruin skin

Written by Editorial Team |Published : January 10, 2015 6:08 PM IST

While there are strict rules and guidelines for the ingredients that constitute packaged food products, the same cannot be said for the beauty and cosmetic products that are being used daily. It has been found that there are several chemicals present in many beauty and cosmetic products that are actually more harmful than beneficial to the people using it. Since these products are absorbed by the body as creams, soaps and bath wash etc they can get into the blood stream and create havoc within the body.


There are several anti-bacterial soaps currently available in the market that contains the anti-microbial chemical called Triclosan. It is also commonly found in toothpaste and deodorants. While there has not been much scientific evidence suggesting the benefit of Triclosan containing soaps over regular soaps, there are several harmful effects. This chemical is known to cause irritation to the skin and interfere with the normal functioning of reproductive and thyroid hormones.

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This chemical is commonly found in body washes, cleansers, shampoos and conditioners among other things. It is added to the product as it prevents bacterial growth. According to the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens, it has been associated with occupational cancers such as nasopharyngeal and nasal cancers. It has also been termed as a human carcinogen. There have been several cases of skin allergies and it can even affect the immune system. (Read: Beware! Soap can be dangerous for you!)


These have been in wide use in the cosmetic and beauty industry as a preservative to prevent mold, bacteria and yeast from growing in the products. They are commonly found in many body washes, shampoos and cleansers amongst others. The use of this chemical has been linked with breast tumors found in women.

Benzoyl Peroxide

This chemical is usually used for the products meant for acne treatment. Most products that contain this chemical have it in minute quantity such as 2.5% or 5%. It can cause dryness of the skin leading to irritation. To those with sensitive skin, the effects can include burning, peeling, itching and even swelling. It has also been classified as a potentially carcinogenic chemical.

D&C Yellow 11

The colors used in the skin care and other beauty products are characterized by the prefix D&C which stands for Drugs and Cosmetics, followed by the color and its code. This chemical is found in soaps and is safe only when the use is external. It can be extremely harmful if used in the area surrounding the eyes. (Read: Don't wash your face with soap)


One of the main ingredients found in many soaps, it is classified as a caustic chemical that has the potential to cause a lot of damage to the skin. Though normally there would be a reaction between lye and fat used in the soap-making process to generate glycerin as a by-product. If the process has been followed correctly, there would be no free lye available in the product. But if lye is present, it can dry out the skin and even cause burning.


Companies have the liberty to pass on their chemical cocktail under the fragrance label since that would mean not having to disclose all the ingredients (it is a trade secret after all). However, many companies use this label to sneak in some of the harmful chemicals such as phthalates in the products. There have been cases reported where constant exposure has resulted in asthma and migraines among others.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Almost all foaming personal and cleaning care products contain this chemical. While it is known to be an irritant to eye, skin and lungs, studies show that it has the potential combine with other chemicals to form carcinogenic compounds. These compounds of nitrosamines can also be the cause of several respiratory and kidney related diseases. (Read: Could your soap be affecting your strength?)


Though this ingredient is also commonly found in most soaps, it has been reported as being potentially carcinogenic. Regular exposure has shown a link between usage and chances of breast cancer.

Photo source: Getty images

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