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Are There Toxic Ingredients in Your Lotion? Here's What to Look For.

Lotion is a common part of our daily skincare routine. Whether it’s replenishing moisture that winter weather has taken away, or revitalizing dry skin for a summer wardrobe, most of us see lotion as essential to skin health. After all, as the body’s largest organ, our skin plays an important role in our overall well-being! For many years, lotions have been marketed as moisturizing solutions and became the go-to product for achieving soft and supple skin.

Unfortunately, though, not all lotions and creams are created equal. Many commercially available products can contain questionable ingredients, lurking behind attractive, seemingly harmless products and labels. Some of these ingredients can irritate the skin and cause other, more serious health problems. In this blog post, we’ll delve into potentially toxic ingredients commonly found in lotions and the best all-natural alternatives for your moisturizing needs, so you can make informed choices to protect your skin and health.


While it may leave a product with a pleasant scent, “fragrance” is a bucket term that can mean any number of synthetic ingredients and toxic compounds. You see, due to the FDA’s labeling laws, companies are permitted to preserve “trade secrets” by not disclosing a complete list of ingredients used to scent a product. Instead, companies can choose to simply list “fragrance”, or a similar term, creating a loophole that can hide any number of ingredients and chemicals behind an umbrella term. Currently, the International Fragrance Association has listed over 3,000 compounds that can be used in fragrances. Disturbingly, a 2018 report from the WVE flagged over 1200 of these as “chemicals of concern”. This list included seven carcinogens, chemicals listed on international warning lists, and endocrine disruptors.

This lack of transparency is especially concerning for consumers with sensitive skin or those who are trying to remove chemicals from their lives. It’s hard to determine what fragrance really is, which in turn, makes it difficult to assess potential risks associated with using the product. Even those labeled “fragrance-free” may not be safe – because the FDA itself has stated that even some “unscented” products may contain fragrance. Manufacturers are allowed to add enough fragrance to cover the smell of other ingredients, without giving the product itself a noticeable scent.


Parabens are a group of chemicals that have been used as artificial preservatives in cosmetics, bath, and body products since the 1920s. Since these products typically contain ingredients that can break down over time, these chemicals are added to prevent bacteria growth, mold, and extend shelf life. Concerningly, there are several studies linking parabens to hormone disruption, an increased cancer risk, and adverse skin reactions. Moreover, parabens are not water soluble and can penetrate the skin, which is concerning considering that lotions, and many other daily-use cosmetics products, could be consistently exposing their user to these chemicals. Shockingly, studies have already detected parabens in nearly all urine samples taken from U.S. adults, regardless of demographics.

Consumer awareness around this subject is growing, and some cosmetic products are now being marketed as paraben-free. However, cosmetics and makeup are not the greatest contributors to paraben exposure – personal care products are. Many lotions, sunscreens, and hair products still contain these concerning chemicals. If you’re wondering if products in your household contain parabens, look for ingredients like methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, or other ingredients ending in -paraben on the label.

If you want to learn more about parabens, we recommend the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.


Like parabens, phthalates are in a huge number of household products and have likely snuck into your home undetected. They are sometimes called the “everywhere chemical” because they have properties that make them useful in a wide range of products, so you can find them in everything from cosmetics, to skincare, to plastics, and even the food we eat.

In lotions, phthalates are typically used to maintain and enhance the product’s consistency and texture. They also extend the lifetime of added fragrances, giving the product a longer shelf life. However, they have also been found to enter the bloodstream via the skin, and have been linked to many health concerns, including skin irritations, hormonal disruption, and more. One study has even found that children who are exposed to these chemicals are more likely to develop allergies, asthma, and eczema. And this is just the start – there are many more studies we don’t have space to list here! When considering that lotions can be made without phthalates, the benefits of this ingredient just don’t seem to outweigh the risks.

To learn more about phthalates, check out this 2020 paper that discusses some of the risks phthalates pose to children, and policy recommendations to combat this. If you want to ensure your products are phthalate free, look for ingredients like dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, and benzyl butyl phthalate. These ingredients are often acronymized, so you will also have to be on the lookout for DBP, DEP, BBP, etc. If it has a three or four-letter chemical acronym, you should be suspicious of phthalates.

A Better Way

Ultimately, it is up to you as the consumer to determine which products are right for you! Fortunately, lotions containing the questionable ingredients we discussed above are not the only option to help your skin look and feel great! As consumer awareness around these ingredients increases, a growing number of consumers are seeking out natural products – and luckily, natural products are available! A natural lotion is typically free of parabens and phthalates, and with a little label reading, you can find those that also don’t contain fragrance. With a natural product, you can achieve the moisturizing and healing benefits of lotion, without the concern of potentially toxic ingredients. It’s a win-win.

If you are searching for a natural lotion that will work for you and your skin, you might be interested in trying our goat milk lotion and lotion sticks. At Madd House Hill, we are fully committed to our natural philosophy and use only the highest quality ingredients like pure goat milk, shea butter, and therapeutic-grade essential oils. The goat milk and hydrating oils help nourish and moisturize your skin, while essential oils can provide aromatherapeutic benefits on top of a light, natural scent.

As consumers, it’s crucial to be vigilant about the ingredients we apply to our skin. To make informed choices, read product labels, prioritize natural options, and explore brands committed to transparency and safer formulations. Remember, healthy skin is more than just external beauty – it reflects our overall physical well-being. By avoiding potentially toxic ingredients, you can nourish your skin, protect your health, and make a positive impact on our environment by reducing chemical exposure.

Let’s prioritize safe skincare choices for a healthier, and happier you!

Until Next Time,

Madd House Hill

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