Not many people know that common cosmetic products often have ingredients that are harmful to those who consume them. The development and manufacturing process of products that blend skin tone and smooth imperfections is difficult and very involved, and some manufacturers overlook the dangers of toxins in cosmetic products because it can be difficult to create a product that delivers in making skin, hair, nails, etc. look “perfect”. The cosmetic testing products test for these common ingredients to make sure that cosmetics are safe for consumers to use.

Coal Tar

Coal tar is a carcinogen that comes from burning coal. It is used in a surprising amount of products such as: food, textiles, cosmetics, and personal care products. Coal tar is used in a variety of cosmetic products, and has the potential to carry heavy metals. These heavy metals, when absorbed through the skin, can be toxic to the brain and lead to cancer throughout the body. Commonly, coal tar is found in shampoos and scalp treatments, soaps, hair dyes, and lotions.

Lead And Heavy Metals

Believe it or not, many personal care products and cosmetics contain metals like: lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, zinc, calcium, and iron. These metals are found in common products. They are found in lipstick, whitening toothpaste, eyeliner,  eye drops, foundations, sunscreens, nail color, and more. Some of these metals are intentionally added, and some are contaminants. Exposure to metals has been linked to reproductive, immune, and nervous system toxicity.


Carcinogen is a term referring to cancer-causing chemicals. Legally, there is not much known about the cosmetic manufacturing process that known cancer-causing substances are allowed to be used in personal care products. Formaldehyde is a common example of a carcinogen in a cosmetic product. Exposure to these chemicals can result in cancer, endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, bioaccumulation (accumulation on the skin), and ecotoxicity.


Formaldehyde is a common carcinogen, or cancer-causing chemical. In cosmetic and personal care products, formaldehyde makes contact with skin and can creep into mucous membranes. Formaldehyde is commonly found in shampoos, hair gel, eyelash glue, hair smoothing products, liquid baby soaps, and more. Formaldehyde and preservatives are heavily linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions.

Ethanolamines (MEA, DEA, TEA)

Ethanolamines are found in cosmetic products, personal care products, and household cleaning products. Ethanolamines are linked to liver tumors, bioaccumulation, and organ system toxicity.


It is common to see the general term, “fragrances” on the label of a cosmetic product. Not very often will you see what ingredients make up, “fragrance.” This ambiguity is a good indicator that the substances are not always known. It is known that some of the chemicals under the “fragrance” umbrella are heavily linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies, and skin sensitivities.


Parabens are preservatives that are used to prevent the growth of microbes in food and personal care products. These chemicals are endocrine disrupting, and can be absorbed through the skin to affect the blood and digestive system. Parabens are found in shampoo, conditioner, lotion, facial and shower cleansers, and scrubs.


BHA and BHT are another set of preservatives that are also endocrine disruptors if ingested or absorbed. They are used in foods and found in lip products, hair products, makeup, sunscreen, deodorant, fragrances, and creams. These have been linked to organ system toxicity and endocrine system disruption.

In order to create products responsibly, it’s important to avoid these chemicals and have your products tested in a laboratory to make sure they’re safe to sell to consumers. For cosmetic manufacturers, it’s safer to focus on toxicity prevention now and avoid a decline in business or a lawsuit later on. American Testing Lab Inc. is San Diego’s premier testing lab. We make sure your products are safe for use. Contact us today.