Common Disgusting Ingredients in Cosmetics

Often, people choose not to check out the ingredient list of their favorite cosmetics. It’s usually full of long and unpronounceable chemical compounds that most people believe originate in labs and factories. It might surprise you to learn that many of these unpronounceable chemical compounds originate from some shockingly ordinary sources.

It’s not always the fault of the company for including these items in their ingredient lists; they might not know exactly what the ingredients mean if they come from a supplier. Some of the ingredients listed have also been phased out or replaced with a synthetic version. Check out this list below and see if you know any of the ordinary ingredients that come from these disgusting sources.


Ambergris has been used as a key ingredient in perfume for many years. It’s a staple of the luxury perfume industry because it serves as the base for many different scents without overpowering them. It also helps fix scents to the skin. Ambergris was first found washed up on the beach and it took years before people realized what it was.

Ambergris is crystallized whale secretions — usually vomit or feces — that travel through the ocean and eventually harden and wash up on the shore. Out in the ocean, it smells fishy and unpleasant, but once it hardens, it smells earthy, musky, and sweet.

alybaba / Shutterstock

Shark liver oil

The chemical squalene is found in many different sources, including humans. It’s what helps our skin stay soft and moisturized. However, in dry times like the winter when our bodies can’t produce the amount of squalene we require to keep our skin hydrated, we turn to artificial moisturizers.

Many of these contain squalene sourced from other animals, like sharks. Most commercial squalene used in the cosmetic industry comes from shark livers. Many different types of sharks are hunted in order to harvest their livers. Shark livers regularly sell for up to $7 a pound.

wildestanimal / Shutterstock


Most people try and spend time to get rid of aggravating rust when they find it on any of their possessions, but did you know it’s way more prevalent than most people think? Rust, or rather, the chemical compound ferrous oxide that comes from rust, is found in many different cosmetics, where it is used as a coloring agent.

Ferrous oxide often masquerades as different types of red-brown pigments that are added to cosmetics to make them a pinkish color. Although it might shock you to learn that the cosmetic industry uses heavy metals as a coloring agent, their use is strictly regulated by the FDA.

faungfupix / Shutterstock
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