PFAs and PEGs in Skincare Can be Toxic and Harmful

Posted by Empress Naturals on

Recognizing harmful ingredients in skincare can sometimes feel impossible– especially the ones that are most harmful. Some of your favorite products likely contain these scary things whether it be waterproof mascara, or an incredibly lathery shampoo.

If you are someone that is seeking out a way to improve their skincare regimen and eliminate products with toxic chemicals, PFAs and PEGs are two common ingredients in cosmetics that should be avoided as their potential negatives disproportionately outweigh the positives. 

PFA and PEG in skincare

What are PFAs?

PFAs, short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, can be found in many waterproof, sweatproof, and long-lasting cosmetics. They are characterized by a strong bond between fluorine and carbon. Interestingly, these chemicals aren’t only found in cosmetics– they are also used in waterproof clothing, nonstick kitchenware, and plastic food containers.

They are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” because of how slowly they decompose, and therefore accumulate in the human body and the environment for an extended period of time. This compound is used to make products more water resistant, durable, and spreadable. 

What are PEGs?

PEGs, or polyethylene glycols are compounds that are in shampoos, deodorants, moisturizers, facial cleansers and many other cosmetics. They are used in skincare as thickening agents, solvents, softeners, and moisture carriers. Many cosmetic brands have gravitated towards this specific chemical compound because of its ability to target moisture and hydrate the skin. They're also used in pharmaceuticals as laxatives, and contain chemicals that were used as mustard gas in WWI !

Why are PFAs & PEGs Harmful?

These chemical compounds are known to be incredibly toxic, and have been linked to serious health problems. 

The CDC has linked PFAs to serious kidney, liver, developmental, and reproductive issues. More recently, it has also been discussed how PFAs can affect the antibody response to vaccinations, such as those for COVID-19. Because of the controversy surrounding PFAs, a few states are discussing taking action on banning the use of these chemicals in cosmetics. 

PEGs are notorious for containing carcinogens and respiratory irritants. Their potency can cause skin irritation, and can cause serious problems if applied on broken skin or open wounds. In addition to that, long term exposure has been linked to damage to the nervous system.

PFAs and PEGs in Skincare

Recognizing Them in Skincare

Being able to correctly identify these chemicals in the products that you use is important, so that you are aware of what you are putting on your skin, and into your body as well. Here is a little cheat sheet you can use while reading ingredient lists – 

  • High levels of fluorine is a strong indicator of the use of PFAs
  • Products that claim to be waterproof or long-wearing likely contain PFAs
  • PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene)
  • Perfluotooctyl triethoxysilane 
  • Perfluorononyl dimethicone
  • Perfluorodecalin 
  • Perfluorohexane 
  • Some PFAs are listed as SVHC substances
  • PEGs could be listed as glycols 
  • PEGs often listed with a number next to it to represent the approximate molecular weight
    • The lower the number, the easier it is for it to penetrate the skin
  • Stearic acid or PEG 100 stearate are common names for PEGs

What to do next?

In conclusion, PFAs and PEGs simply do not offer enough benefits for their harmful attributes to be overlooked. Learning how to identify them in skincare may seem daunting, but it can protect you from scary things such as kidney, liver, and reproductive issues, to name a few.

Simply put, no product is worth risking your health over, so why not consider going the natural/healthier route? You can easily attain all of your desired skin care goals without using products that have PFAs and PEGs. 


Empress Naturals products need to be on the top of your wishlist this holiday season! We stay far away from harmful chemicals that you can’t pronounce and have no idea how harmful they can be, such as PFAs and PEGs.

Our products are filled with organic ingredients because you deserve the very best. If you are working to develop the best possible skincare regimen, look no further than with us!

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