Where you may be using it: Nail polish
What to look for on the label: Dibutyl phthalate
Why it's bad for you: Cracked nail polish can be a bitch, but you’d rather have that than DBP on your fingers. This plasticizing chemical that helps prevent the formula from going brittle is known to be toxic. Amazing how these things show up in your products anyway, isn't it? Your skin absorbs DBP, and it's especially dangerous for unborn babies. That's why DBP, and other phthalates like it, are banned across the European Union from cosmetics and toys. Not in America, though, home of the free, land of the toxicologically brave.
Where you may be using it: Hair conditioners and styling products
What to look for on the label: Benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, quaternium-15, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, centrimonium bromide, or polyquaternium followed by any number
Why it's bad for you: It's a formaldehyde releaser, which sounds liberating, except in the case of formaldehyde. Any ingredient that's also found in latex paint just can’t be good to lather, rinse, repeat with. With all its complex, cunning names, this is a preservative known for causing allergic reactions like dermatitis.
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Barbara Woolsey is a Berlin-based writer who begrudgingly threw away nail polishes after writing this. Find more from her on Facebook and Twitter.