Cause for Concern

One of your major concerns, rightfully, is the safety of your clients. We know that you do everything in your power to create a relaxing, rejuvenating, and healthy environment for spa-goers. Still, products can contain harmful (sometimes hidden) ingredients that are difficult to identify, and even the most vigilant of spa owners can accidentally let one of them slip in under the radar. Here are 13 ingredients (in all their common forms) to keep on the no-fly list in your spa treatments and retail area.


1. 4-Dioxane. (the prefix or deginations of “PEG,” “-eth-,” “Polyethylene glycol,” “Polyoxyethylene,” or “-oxynol-“)

This chemical by-product of ethoxylation is used to make petro-ingredients less irritating to the skin and pops up in cleansers for head to toe. However, it is carcinogenic, and toxic to the blood, gastrointestinal system, immune system, kidneys, the neurological and respiratory systems, and the skin.


2. DEA, TEA (DEA or Diethanolimine, TEA or Triethanolamine, Cocamide DEA or Cocamide Diethanolimine, Lauramide DEA or Lauramide Diethanolimine, DEA Lauryl Sulphate or Diethanolimine Sulfate, Linoleaide DEA or Linoleaide Diethanolimine, Oleamide DEA or Oleamide Diethanolimine)

Found in makeup, body washes, shampoos, and skincare products, this foaming agent is a skin sensitizer that can form carcinogenic compounds when mixed with certain cosmetic ingredients.


3. Formaldehyde (Formaldehyde, Formalin, Urea, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, Quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitopropane-1, 3-diol, and Sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate)

Not just found in high school biology classes, Formaldehyde is an impurity released by some chemical preservatives that can be found in nail polish, deodorant, and shampoo. It is carcinogen, a skin and lung irritant, a gastrointestinal toxin, and a neurotoxin.


4. Heavy Metals, or Metalloestrogens (Aluminum, Aluminium flake, Aluminum, LB Pigment 5; Pigment metal 1; A 00; A 95; A 995; A 999; AA 1099; AA1199, Lead acetate, Lead flake, Chromium, Thimerosal, Hydrogenated cotton seed oil, and Sodium hexametaphosphate)

Used as a sweat blocker, colorant, whitener, and lightner, heavy metals are possibly carcinogenic, developmental and reproductive toxicants, organ system toxicants, and immunotoxicants. Lip products, whitening toothpastes, eyeliner, nail color, foundations, sunscreens, eye shadows, blush, concealer, moisturizers, and eye drops should all be checked for heavy metals.


5. Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) (3 (2h) -Isothiazolone, 2-Methyl-; Methylchloroisothiazolinone225methylisothiazolinone Solution; 2-Methyl-3 (2h) -Isothiazolone; 2-Methyl-4-Isothiazolin-3-One; 2-Methyl- 3 (2h) -Isothiazolone; 2-Methyl-2h-Isothiazol-3-One; 3 (2h) Isothiazolone, 2methyl; 2-Methyl-3 (2h) -Isothiazolone; 2-Methyl-4-Isothiazolin-3-One)

This preservative (and possible neurotoxin that possibly adds to health risks to unborn babies) is found in haircare products, body washes, sunscreens, and skincare products.


6. Parabens (Alkyl parahydroxybenzoate, butylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparabens)

Used as a preservative, parabens are found in breast tissue and act like estrogen in the body. This could lead to impaired fertilitiy or fetal development. Parabens can be found in soaps, skincare products, hair care products, toothpastes, and deodorants.


7. Petrolatum (petrolatum, petroleum jelly, mineral oil)

Petrolatum commonly contains impurities linked to cancer, and is used as an emollient or lubricant. It is found in skin and body-care products, lip balm, and makeup.


8. Phthalates (Benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP), Di-n-butyl phthalate or Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), Diethyl phthalate (DEP))

Found in hair spray, lipstick, perfume, and nail polish, phthalates are often used as a carrier for synthetic fragrance and can negatively affect fertility and fetal development. The World Health Organization also considers it a probable carcinogen.


9. Propylene Glycol (Propylene Glycol, Proptylene Glycol, 1,2-Propanediol. Related synthetics: PEG (polyethylene glycol) and PPG (polypropylene glycol))

Propylene Glycol is used to help a product retain moisture, but it also acts as a penetration enhancer: it alters skin’s structure, which allows other chemicals to enter the system more easily. It’s found in skin-, hair-, baby-, and bodycare products, makeup, and in contact lens cleaners.


10. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate, Anhydrous Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Irium)

Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate is used to make shampoo, facial cleansers, body wash, bubble bath, baby bath, and toothpaste foamy and help ingredients better penetrate.


11. Synthetic Colorants (FD&C Colors followed by a name and a number)

Found in shampoo, facial cleansers, body wash, skincare, baby care products, hair care, and makeup, synthetic colorants are coal tar (petroleum)-derived and used to artificially color a cosmetic product. Often tested on animals, this ingredient can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.


12. Synthetic Fragrances (fragrance, parfum)

Synthetic fragrances are combinations of chemical ingredients used to artificially scent a cosmetic product such as hair, skin, and body care products, makeups, and perfumes. Like synthetic colorants, they can cause allergic reactions, as well as headaches, dizziness, rashes, respiratory distress, and they have possible effects on the reproductive system.


13. Synthetic Sunscreens (4-Methyl-Benzylidencamphor (4-MBC), Oxybenzone Benzophenone-3, Octyl-methoyl-cinnamates (OMC), Octyl-Dimethyl-Para-Amino-Benzoic Acid (OD-PABA), Homosalate (HMS))

Not all sun protection is created equal. Some have been found to mimic estrogen in the body, potentially causing hormonal disruption.


How do you keep your spa employees informed about ingredients to avoid?



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