Villain Ingredient Concern: Neurotoxins

A neurotoxin is a substance that causes damage to your brain. These dangerous toxins can harm the central nervous system, interfering with normal brain development and neurotransmitters, among other detrimental effects. There is alarming evidence in several studies that found more than 200 neurotoxins in the umbilical cord blood of newborns, demonstrating not only how common they are but also the extent to which they’re being passed down to children. The neurotoxins studied are most commonly found in seafood polluted by mercury, flame-retardants, pesticides, many wood preservatives and varnishes, and skincare products.

Learn more about the neurotoxic effects of mercury in seafood here.

For a guide to mercury in fish look here.

The most commonly found neurotoxins include lead (in lipstick), aluminum (in anti-perspirants), mercury (in some seafood) and botulism (aka Botox®). While the decision to have a Botox treatment is elective and patients can discuss and evaluate the risks with their doctors, there are lesser-known neurotoxins in many cosmetics that you may be applying and absorbing unknowingly every day by way of your skincare.

These are the most commonly found neurotoxic cosmetic ingredients along with the basics of what you’ll want to know about them.

Propylene Glycol

Because it is readily and easily absorbed into the skin, propylene glycol is an ingredient to avoid. Beyond its own cell-damaging effects, this ingredient is used for its capacity to draw other ingredients deeper into your skin. This means that when other toxins are present in your skincare, propylene glycol will drive them more deeply into your system.

MethylisothiazolinoneRestricted for use in cosmetics in Canada.

 This is a toxic preservative used in many products including shampoo, body wash, body lotion, and face cream.


This vague and unregulated ingredient term legally includes such varied components as synthetic fragrance, essential oils and preservatives. Therefore, unless further defined, Fragrance (aka Parfum) may and frequently does contain any combination of neurotoxic preservatives and fragrance enhancers and should be considered an ingredient red flag. Products whose fragrance component is safe and naturally derived often identify its specific components.

 All Spa Heroes products are free of Villain Ingredients. We support Superpower Ingredients that nurture skin and beauty toward optimal health and function and never compromise your wellbeing. To help you shop for the smartest and most beautifying skin, body, sun and hair care, use our FREE Spa Heroes Pocket Guide to Ingredient Intelligence, a list of the most commonly found Villains and the most effective Superpowers.