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THE BATHROOM BLOCKLIST: What To Look Out For in Hygiene Products

Cotton Contributor

Cotton Contributor
November 6, 2020

THE BATHROOM BLOCKLIST: What To Look Out For in Hygiene Products

Original content created by UrbanDaddy.

You pay attention to what you eat.

You pay attention to what you wear.

You’ve given hours of careful consideration to what show you’ll binge next.

And yet you might tend to think slightly less about what exactly goes inside those lotions and cleansers and creams and soaps you’re rubbing all over your body every day.

Naturally, natural is the best way to go. Along with our friends from UrbanDaddy, we’re particularly fond of facial cleansers with cottonseed oil, whose high levels of antioxidants, fatty acids and Vitamin E all help reduce redness and soothe the skin. Plus, cotton is a renewable resource that comes from the earth, so it’s an ingredient that we can definitely feel good about.

But even if you don’t feel the need to rethink every hygiene product in your arsenal, you should at least be aware of some potentially harmful ingredients.

That’s why we’ve created this: The Bathroom Blocklist. It’s a glossary of terms you may want to keep an eye out for.

Get ready for some science…


  1. What it is: A very common preservative in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.
  2. Where it’s found: In moisturizers and shaving gels and shampoos and...a lot of stuff.
  3. Why you may want to avoid it: While no link has been proven between parabens and cancer—and the FDA considers them safe for cosmetics—there are concerns that parabens can disrupt the endocrine system, which could result in hormonal imbalances. Might as well opt for a paraben-free product with a natural preservative.
  4. Common aliases: Methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben...pretty much anything ending in (you guessed it) -paraben.


  1. What it is: An antibacterial agent.
  2. Where it’s found: In soaps, detergents and toothpaste.
  3. Why you may want to avoid it: Like parabens, triclosan is an endocrine disruptor; as such, it is under ongoing review from the FDA. Environmentally, triclosan found in waste can prove toxic to aquatic bacteria and algae.
  4. Common aliases: Irgasan DP-300, Lexol 300, Ster-Zac, Cloxifenolum.


  1. What it is: The combination of ingredients that result in a product’s, well, fragrance.
  2. Where it’s found: In lotions, body wash, shampoo, you name it.
  3. Why you might want to avoid it: Because a “fragrance” is considered a trade secret, companies don’t have to legally disclose the chemicals inside. If this irks you, look for products that are fragrance-free.
  4. Common aliases: Parfum. Other than that, “fragrance” is itself an alias, so…


  1. What it is: A dark, viscous liquid byproduct of the production of coal.
  2. Where it’s found: Industrially, it has many uses. Medically, it’s often used to combat psoriasis and in anti-dandruff shampoo.
  3. Why you might want to avoid it: Though it’s proven to be an efficient option for people with psoriasis or other skin conditions, it’s unclear whether or not it may be linked to cancer. It can also cause skin irritation and sun sensitivity.
  4. Common aliases: This one hides in plain sight. Just look for “coal tar.”


  1. What it is: Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas used in making building materials and many household products. It is also a naturally-occurring substance found even in apples.
  2. Where it’s found: Nail polish, nail polish remover, hair gel, shampoo.
  3. Why you might want to avoid it: Some global health organizations have identified significant exposure to formaldehyde as a probable carcinogen. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen when its fumes are inhaled. And though it most commonly shows up with preservatives as a result of formaldehyde releasers—chemicals which, when added to water, will eventually decompose into formaldehyde—the gas can still be released in [small amounts](http://www.idph.state.1. after a product is applied. All in all: it may not be worth it to increase your exposure when reasonable, natural preservatives exist.
  4. Common aliases: Look out for the formaldehyde releasers, such as DMDM hydantoin imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, bronopol, 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane and hydroxymethylglycinate.


  1. What it is: A chemical compound derived from petroleum (so, crude oil).
  2. Where it’s found: In creams, it’s used to thicken, or soften, or moisturize. It’s also found in laxatives and antifreeze, amongst other products.
  3. Why you might want to avoid it: For one, it comes from petroleum, and we don’t need to be dependent on oil in more ways than we already are. For another, because of the manufacturing process, there are justifiable concerns that PEGs may become contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals.
  4. Common aliases: Propylene glycol, polyethylene glycols, and polyoxyethylene.


  1. What they are: Chemical compounds primarily added to plastics to increase their flexibility and durability, but also used as solvents.
  2. Where they’re found: Cologne, aftershave, shaving cream, shampoo, hairspray and deodorant.
  3. Why you might want to avoid them: There’s evidence to suggest that high exposure to phthalates may correspond to drops in male fertility.
  4. Common aliases: Any phrase that ends in phthalate, a common one of which is diethyl phthalate (DEP).


  1. What it is: An organic compound known to absorb a UV ray or two.
  2. Where you’ll find it: Many places. But for the sake of this list: sunscreen.
  3. Why to avoid it: The compound contains nanoparticles that could screw up the reproduction of coral in the ocean—and we like coral. Oxybenzone can seep into the ocean not only if you actually, you know, swim in the ocean, but also from showering (the water from which may eventually end up there). Your alternate option is to grab sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide instead.
  4. Common aliases: Just look out for oxybenzone.

UrbanDaddy is a lifestyle media company that produces highly curated digital content and experiences for the in-the-know. Focused on the intersection between hyper-relevant content and digital innovation.