If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Consumer Products

Periodic Graphics

Periodic Graphics: Cosmetic chemical concerns

Chemical educator and Compound Interest blogger Andy Brunning explains why some chemicals in cosmetics raise concerns.

by Andy Brunning, special to C&EN
May 26, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 17


Infographic on chemicals of concern used in cosmetics. The graphic highlights some common categories of ingredients used in cosmetics and then focuses on four key groups of chemicals: formaldehyde releasers, parabens, phthalates, and silicones. Formaldehyde releasers and parabens are preservatives. Formaldehyde releasers can cause an allergic response in sensitized people. Regulators consider commonly used parabens safe at typical cosmetic levels. Phthalates, used as solvents and fragrance prolongers, may interfere with hormones and have reproductive toxicity, though those commonly used in cosmetics are safer at the concentrations present. Cyclic silicones, used as emollients and thickeners, are being limited by the European Union because of concerns about their accumulation in the environment.
Credit: Andy Brunning

To download a pdf of this article, visit

References used to create this graphic: Erickson, Britt E. “European Union Further Restricts Four Phthalates.” Chemical & Engineering News, June 26, 2017.

Hogue, Cheryl. “EU Proposes to Restrict Some Siloxanes, Formaldehyde, and Microplastics.” Chemical & Engineering News, Jan. 19, 2019.

Jones, Oliver, and Ben Selinger. “The Chemistry of Cosmetics.” Australian Academy of Science, Sept. 19, 2019.

Reisch, Marc S. “Restrictions Ramp Up on Cosmetic Preservatives.” Chemical & Engineering News, Nov. 28, 2016.

US Food and Drug Administration. “Cosmetic Ingredients.” May 19, 2022.

Valsler, Ben. “Parabens.” Chemistry World, June 9, 2015.

A collaboration between C&EN and Andy Brunning, author of the popular graphics blog Compound Interest

To see more of Brunning’s work, go to To see all of C&EN’s Periodic Graphics, visit



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.