1938, people! This is the last time there was any significant FDA regulation overseeing the ingredients in personal care products and household products. Despite the fact that thousands of toxic chemicals have been banned from the same products in Europe, here we are left to rely on the good will of the manufacturers. Any guess what? That's how we end up with f*cking lead in f*cking lipstick.
It pisses me off. I'm pissed that these hazardous toxins are in my everyday products. I'm pissed that we are led to believe they are safe. That the alternative is scorned for it's lack of efficacy. That such a burden falls on the consumer to vet our ingredients.
To help you with your own vetting process, here is a list of the worst offenders that should be outright avoided.
SODIUM LAUREL SULFATE FORMALDEHYDE PHTHYLATES
PARABENS FRAGRANCE COAL TAR PEG'S
TRICLOSAN & TRICLOCARBAN TOLUENE TALC
BORIC ACID/SODIUM BORATE* And on and on and on...
There are many others that I avoid completely, and many that fall into a grey area, about which you will have to draw your own conclusions. I highly recommend The Environmental Working Group's database Skin Deep. You can enter your product and get a safety rating 1-10. Please do not give up if your product is not listed. You can check ingredients individually and in fact this is how I most often use the database. Once you build a vocabulary of what to avoid, this will take less and less time. You can even get the database as an app, so you can check products you are considering on the spot.
The good news is that after a bit of a learning curve, you will be able to build an internal vocabulary, and recognize many of the big the nasties quickly.
Beauty Heroes, a super cool green beauty subscription service, publishes a handy pocket guide to "Villian" products that I keep in my wallet! And the wonderful shop Follain has published an invaluable online list of Restricted Ingredients which goes into great detail about why each ingredient is harmful, and where each is most commonly found.