8 Toxic Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

The average woman and man uses about 12 different personal care products every day. Go ahead, start counting. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, aftershave, hair spray, hair dyes, deodorant, toothpaste, perfumes, skincare, nail polish, makeup, and much more. These can be multi-step processes as well, such as skincare and makeup.

That's a lot of products being used on our skin daily, usually morning and night. The world we live in is bombarded with toxins that interfere with our health, causing a tremendous amount of stress on the body. Many of these toxins are found in our daily personal care products, and are also found in our food, water, and air.

Below we will cover some of the most widely used toxins in skincare products, and why we choose not to use these ingredients in our formulas.


Ethoxylation is a process in which an ingredient is combined with ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen. Through this process, another known carcinogen becomes a by-product called 1,4-dioxane. This causes concern because ethoxylated ingredients increase penetration, which means these known carcinogens are also being absorbed into the body. These carcinogens are also known for being contaminants in our environment and waterways.

How to identify them:

  • Keep an eye out for "eth" in the ingredient name. In most cases this means an ingredient has been combined with ethylene oxide. Also look for dashes with numbers. The number indicates how many times the ingredient has been treated with ethylene oxide. An example would be PEG, which means polyethylene glycol: PEG-20, PEG-40, PEG-200, etc. Sodium laureth sulfate, ceteareth-20, and phenoxyethanol are a few other examples. Notice the "eth" and dash with a number.


Formaldehyde is not typically used in its pure form, but altered into something called formalin and then added to products as a preservative. There are also other forms of this ingredient which act as formaldehyde releasers, slowly releasing formaldehyde over time in a product to increase the shelf life. Formaldehyde has been classed as a known carcinogen which can cause skin irritation, breathing difficulty, and sensory irritation.

How to identify them:

  • Formaldehyde, formalin, bromopol, glyoxal, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea.


Parabens are a commonly used and very effective preservative. The controversy lies in the fact that numerous studies have found that parabens may be linked to disrupting hormones, mimicking estrogen, and causing allergic reactions. Although parabens do a great job at preserving a product, we choose to avoid using them and prefer safer alternatives.

How to identify them:

  • Methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, and ethylparaben.


These are the byproducts of the petroleum industry. Examples are mineral oil or petroleum jelly. These byproducts actually do nothing for the skin, but give the illusion of moisturizing. Mineral oils or petroleum jelly clog up the skin, block pores and provide no beneficial or nourishing components to the skin. We choose to avoid petrochemicals, which is part of an industry that contaminates our environment at large. Phytonutrient-rich and antioxidant-rich plant oils that actually allow the skin to "breathe" and nourish the skin at the same time are the safer and healthier alternatives to petrochemicals, and healthier for our environment too.

How to identify them:

  • Mineral oil, petroleum jelly, coal tar.


Phthalates are used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break, used in pesticides, nail polishes, perfumes, hair spray, toys, and quite frankly, can be found used in almost every industry. Chances are that most of us are exposed to phthalates on a regular basis through the everyday items we use. Research has shown that phthalates can easily be absorbed into the body, mimicking and disrupting estrogen levels. It can be difficult to avoid them entirely, but choosing clean phthalate-free alternatives is a great place to start.

How to identify them:

  • Dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, dimethyl phthalate.


Used for their ability to create foam, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are found in products such as toothpaste, shampoo and body wash. They can cause skin and eye irritation, especially in those who have sensitive skin.

How to identify them:

  • Sodium lauryl, laureth sulfate. 


Derived from the petroleum industry, synthetic dyes and colors can sensitize the skin, cause eye irritation, clog pores, and have no beneficial properties for the skin. We choose only to use naturally occurring colors, such as the rich deep blue found in blue tansy essential oil.

How to identify them:

  • D&C or FD&C, Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 11,  etc.


Smell is one of the strongest senses, connecting the sensory experience directly to the brain. That's why you can smell a certain scent and it can trigger a memory from your childhood. It is powerful. Synthetic fragrances are around us everywhere, from candles, perfumes, air fresheners, and used in skincare products. Synthetic fragrances can cause skin sensitization, allergic reactions, breakouts, rashes, or difficulty breathing. Fragrance is a complex subject that deserves its own article, but we are dedicated to using the natural scents of our earth, such as essential oils and the subtle nutty aromas of carrier oils.

How to identify them:

  • Fragrance, parfum.

Start with Small Changes

To reduce the toxins in our life, we can start by making small changes, such as swapping out the products we find ourselves most often using for cleaner and healthier alternatives. Small changes to our daily habits can overtime make a big impact on our overall health.



1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1253722/
2. https://epha.org/skin-deep-an-assessment-of-ingredients-in-personal-care-products/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1253722/
4. https://www.science.org.au/curious/people-medicine/chemistry-cosmetics
5. https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Phthalates_FactSheet.html
6. https://www.fda.gov/industry/color-additives-specific-products/color-additives-and-cosmetics-fact-sheet
7. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/formaldehyde.html 

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