Skincare Ingredients That Are Toxic to Pets

As good as they are for your skin and wellbeing, some skincare ingredients can be toxic for your pets. If you’re a pet parent, you’ll want to know what to keep far away from your four legged friends, even if it means forgoing those sweet puppy kisses. In fact, it’s a good idea to avoid letting your dog or cat lick your skin after you’ve applied any type of lotion, face serum or cream.

If you have questions about these or other skincare ingredients that could be harmful to your pets, always consult your veterinarian. And of course, if your pet ingests or otherwise interacts with any of these ingredients, call your vet immediately.

Essential Oils

Many essential oils are used in skincare both for their specific healing properties and as fragrance. Unfortunately, some can be toxic to pets. If you use these oils or any products that contain them, you’ll want to keep them away from your pets.

If you have an oil diffuser and use any of the listed oils, that can also be toxic to your pets. That’s because whether directly ingested, applied to their skin or inhaled, these oils can cause respiratory failure, seizures, liver damage or liver failure, threatening your pet’s life.

Here’s a list of oils that are toxic to dogs and cats. 

  • Anise
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove 
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Tea Tree (melaleuca)
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang Ylang


Used in many anti-aging skincare products, retinoids can be quite harmful to your dog’s tummy. Symptoms include vomiting, decreased appetite and lethargy. 

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid, also marketed as BHA, or beta-hydroxy acid, is used to help treat acne. But salicylic acid is also used to make aspirin. If ingested by your pets, they can suffer gastrointestinal irritation and bleeding. Symptoms may include vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. 

Sunscreen and Zinc Oxide

Human sunscreens often contain zinc oxide, which if ingested, can cause intestinal upset and damage pet’s red blood cells. Some sunscreens may also contain low amounts of octisalate, a salicylate that is particularly harmful to cats. If you’re concerned about sun exposure for your pet, there are pet safe sunscreen products.

Toothpaste and Mouthwash: Sodium Fluoride and Xylitol

While not technically skincare products, these are good to call out because they also contain ingredients harmful to pets. Sodium fluoride in human toothpaste can be toxic for pets who ingest it. And many types of mouthwash contain Xylitol, a sugar substitute that is highly toxic to dogs. Small amounts can result in dangerous decreases in blood sugar levels and cause seizures, liver failure and death. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning can show up within 30 minutes of ingestion and include weakness, vomiting, difficulty standing, tremors, seizures, even coma. If your dog consumes even a small amount of xylitol (also found in gum, mints, candy and cough syrup), take them immediately to a veterinarian.

Other Best Practices

Generally speaking, it’s best to keep all skincare and other beauty products far out of your pet’s reach. Don’t use human shampoos or other products on your pets, which can irritate their skin or worse. You can also check the ingredients of your skincare products. Some brands, like Hälsa Botanicals, publish helpful information about their ingredients on their websites.

If you suspect your pet has ingested or otherwise come into contact with something harmful, the ASPCA has a 24 hour poison control hotline you can call at (888) 426-4435(888) 426-4435.