120 Cosmetic Ingredients Known To Cause Contact Dermatitis

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Here is a cut and dry list of over 100 ingredients known to cause contact dermatitis. This list is in alphabetical order only – rather than severity as not everyone reacts or is sensitive to these chemicals. What may irritate me, may do nothing to you and vise versa.

Of course, it’s important to note that…I’m only human and not even a specialized human like doctors or nurses. I’m just a small town girl with a passion to get rid of eczema once and for all, so I urge you to read my disclaimer before we get started.

I’ll warn you now, this is a daunting list. It’s best to print it off and carry it with you to refer to later. While I can’t talk about the effects of EVERY ingredient on this list (cause let’s face it, that would take forever) , here’s just a few things our villains are capable of.

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Parfum/Fragrance: One of the top villains, fragrances are not only one of the major allergens but they are also wickedly deceptive. There are over 3000 chemicals used in fragrances, with most being protected by the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act as they are considered ‘trade secrets’. This means the chemicals within that fragrance don’t have to be listed on the label. Talk about sketchy.

On top of that, products labeled ‘unscented’ and ‘hypoallergenic’ DO in fact contain masking fragrances. Only products labeled ‘fragrance-free’ truly have no fragrances.

Sulfates: Are both foaming agents and cleansers found in thousands of products from toothpastes to body washes. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is one of the harshest sulfates, it’s so good at cleaning that it is commonly found in engine degreasers and industrial cleaning products! As people grew more wary of this, manufactures began a new marketing scheme ‘SLS Free’ and began using SLS under names like Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate, Sulfuric Acid, Monododecyl Ester, and Sodium Salt (Talk about ca-ching $$$. Wicked.)

Cocamidopropyl Betaine: Deemed ‘Allergen of the Year’ according to The American Contact Dermatitis Society back in 2004, it is a cleansing and lathering ingredient. Approximately 3-7% of the population show sensitivity to this villain, and perhaps even more shocking? It’s often in products labelled as ‘hypoallergenic’.

A close pal to Cocamidopropyl Betaine is Cocamide DEA . Both are derived from coconuts, and while that seems harmless it is another severe source of contact allergens. Back in June 2012, California listed Cocamide DEA as a known chemical to cause cancer. At this time, DEA compounds are unrestricted in Canada. Now that’s scary.

Phthalates: Commonly listed as DBP or di-n-butyl phthalate, phthalates are considered a potential carcinogen with the possibility to contribute to birth defects, allergic reactions and eczema.

Formaldehyde: A chemical that is also used in mixtures to EMBALM DEAD BODIES , you could say we’ve really found the wicked witch of the west with this one. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogenic that the European Union has deemed ‘may not be safe’ for use. Outrageously, it is still found in soaps and baby shampoos! What’s even more wicked? You won’t see it listed under the name Formaldehyde, rather it will be listed under the name of preservatives that release formaldehyde such as Qauternium-15, Dimethyl-Dimethyl (DMDM) Hydantion, Imidazolidiyl Urea,  Diazolidinyl Urea, Sodium Hydroxmethylglycinate and 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3 Diol (bronopol). Cue the ominous music.

Parabens : Last but not least we have parabens, which are anti-bacterial agents added to products to prevent the growth of mold. While parabens are not strictly contact allergens, they have been found to disrupt hormones and are also found in cancerous tissues. Scary.

Did I scare you enough? Now onto the list:

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  • 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol (bronopol)
  • 3-Cyclohexane Carboaldehyde
  • Alcohol Denat
  • Alpha Amyl Cinnamic Alcohol
  • Amidoamine
  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Amodimethicone
  • Amyl Cinnamal
  • Anisyl Alcohol
  • Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile)
  • Balsam of Peru (Myroxylon Pereirae)
  • Benzyl Alcohol
  • Benzyl Benzoate
  • Benzyl Cinnamate
  • Benzyl Salicylate
  • Butylated Hydroxytolune (BHT)
  • Butylphenyl Methylpropional
  • Cassia Oil
  • Cetearyl Methicone
  • Cetyl Dimethicone
  • Chlorphenesin
  • Cinnamal
  • Cinnamic Alcohol
  • Cinnamic Aldehyde
  • Cinnamon
  • Cinnamyl Alcohol
  • Citral
  • Citronella
  • Citronellol
  • Cloves
  • Cocamide DEA
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine
  • Coumarin
  • Cyclopentasiloxane
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Diazolidinyl Urea
  • Diethanolamine (DEA)
  • Dimethicone
  • Dimethicone Copolyol
  • Dimethiconol
  • Dimethyl-Dimethyl (DMDM) Hydantoin
  • Di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP)
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Ethanol
  • Ethyl Alcohol
  • Ethylene Bassylate
  • Ethylene Glycol
  • Ethylparaben
  • Eugenol
  • Evernia Furfuracea
  • Evernia Prunastri
  • Farnesol
  • Formaldehyde
  • Fragrance Mix 1
  • Geraniol
  • Glyceryl thioglycolate
  • Hexylcinnamal
  • Hydroxycitronellal
  • Hydroxyisohexyl
  • Imidazolidinyl Urea (Imidurea)
  • Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Isoeugenol
  • Isomethyl Ionone
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Isopropyl Palminate
  • Kathon CG
  • Lanolin
  • Lanolin Alcohol
  • Lauramide DEA
  • Limonene
  • Linalool (Lavender)
  • Lyral
  • Methicone
  • Methyl-2-Octynoate
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone
  • Methyldibromoglutaronitrile/ phenoxyethanol
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Methyl methacrylate
  • Methylparaben
  • Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum)
  • Monododecyl Ester
  • Monoethanolamine (MEA)
  • Oak Moss Absolute
  • Parabens
  • Paraphenylene Diamine (PPD)
  • Parfum
  • Petrolatum Liquidum
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Phenyl Trimethicone
  • Phthalates
  • Polyethylene Glycol
  • Potassium Sorbate
  • p-Phenylenediamine
  • Propanol
  • Propyl Alcohol
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Propylparaben
  • Quaternium-15
  • Retinoids
  • SD Alcohol 40
  • SD Alcohol
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
  • Sodium Hydroxide
  • Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulphate
  • Sodium Myreth Sulfate
  • Sodium Salt
  • Stearyl Dimethicone
  • Sulfuric Acid
  • Tetrasodium EDTA
  • Tocopherl Acetate
  • Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin
  • Triclosan
  • Triethanolamine (TEA)
  • Triethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate (often labeled as TEA Lauryl Sulfate)
  • Trimethylsilylamodimethicone
  • Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium)

NOTE: Both Yarrow and Linalool (a compound naturally found in over 200 plants, including lovely lavender) are on the bad list, despite both lavender and yarrow being healing plants. Unfortunately, I did have to include them as there were several reports of irritation with these two lovely herbs. This is likely due to the individual’s sensitivity to the herb itself, rather than how it was processed in cosmetics. In summary, please don’t shy away from yarrow and lavender if you have no known sensitivities to them as ultimately they can be very beneficial.

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This is a daunting list, I know. Print it off, and carry this list with you -you’ll be okay. As I said above, not everyone will react to these ingredients. Unfortunately for us with contact dermatitis, identifying which ingredient is irritating us within the mess of all the other chemicals in our soaps, shampoos, and cosmetics can be near impossible.

At this time, I don’t know of any store bought products free of all these chemicals but if you do, don’t be afraid to leave a comment and let us all know! My mother and I had a look through her favorite salon quality shampoos ingredients and there was A TON of the above listed on it. Yikes.

Eventually I’d love to start building my own soaps and shampoos, but in the meantime here is a DIY Eczema Cream for all your lotion needs (free of all that junk above).

Health & Happiness,


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By Savannah

Hi! I'm Savannah. Welcome to The Humble Kitchen, where good food and health walk hand in hand. My cooking style involves a lot of listening to a single song on repeat, improvising ingredients, eyeballing measurements, and crossing my fingers that this thing actually turns out. Stay for the food, enjoy the stories, and join me on a journey to heal eczema through good food.