Cancer-related Villain Ingredients can be found in thousands of cosmetic products – from high-end to low. Be on the lookout for these hazardous health-disruptors in make-up removing wipes, self-tanners, body lotions, face and body washes, mascara, cosmetics, nail products, shampoos and conditioners, hair styling products, sunscreens and even products made for our kids.

Here are the six most commonly used cancer related cosmetic ingredients along with the basics of what you’ll want to know about them.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) – Particularly toxic when used in lip products and if ingested

DMDM Hydantoin  – Banned for cosmetic use in Japan

Diazolidinyl Urea

Hydroquinone – Banned for cosmetic use in Canada and Japan

Best known for it’s ability to lighten skin and treat dark spots also known as hyperpigmentation, Hydroquinone works by stopping your skins ability to make the enzyme that produces melanin.  As it actually changes normal skin function, It’s been well studied by scientists for its safety and it has been found to be cancer-causing in high concentrations.


Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Each of these four ingredients has been proven to release formaldehyde in solution – which is to say when it’s used in a beauty product formulation. Because of this preservative’s effectiveness in preventing  the growth of bacteria in water-based products, these formaldehyde-releasing chemicals are found most frequently on the ingredient lists of such daily use products as shampoos and body washes.

Retinyl Palmitate (RA) Subject to restricted use in cosmetics in Canada

This is a combination of retinol – a form of vitamin A that is popular as an anti-aging ingredient – and palmitic acid. While it may be effective as an overnight line reducer, this ingredient has been found to accelerate the growth of skin tumors and cancerous lesions when exposed to sunlight. Despite this fact, it is used surprisingly often in sunscreens, lip products, and body lotions. Although antioxidant RA is found naturally in skin, considerable research on this Villain ingredient indicates that it’s best to avoid using products containing RA or Retinol for daytime use.


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 contain any combination of formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and fragrance enhancers and should be considered an ingredient red flag.  This imprecise labeling makes it impossible to know the specifics of  an ingredient identified only as Fragrance or Parfum.  Companies whose fragrance component is safe and naturally-derived most often clarify its use by listing individual 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, highlighting the most commonly found Villains as well as the most effective Superpowers.



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