Ingredients to avoid

This is a list of ingredients I am trying to avoid when possible, it started with a purge of products containing SLS and has turned into a full on home detox!

This list contains 36 items (ingredients) that you might find at the beauty counter or in your bathroom cabinet.

Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40):

I have used this as a brush cleaner for years, it dries fast and sterilises them for future use. Try not to make skin contact and make sure your brushes are bone dry before you use them!

A skin drying irritant, solvent and dehydrator that strips your skin’s moisture and natural immune barrier. Can act as a carrier accelerating penetration of other harmful chemicals into your skin. May promote brown spots and premature aging of skin. Could cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting etc.


Aluminium Starch Octenylsuccinate is an ingredient used in foundation, skin moisturizers, lipsticks, eye shadows, concealers, sunscreens and facial powders as an anti-caking and viscosity increasing agent. It is a chemical that is toxic to the human nervous system and is a suspected developmental neurotoxin. The aluminum compounds are also suspected respiratory hazards.

Benzalkonium Chloride:

A common antimicrobial used from eye drop preservative to household cleaners.Can inflict irreversible damage to eyes and act as a skin sensitiser.

Benzoic Acid and Sodium Benzoate (E211):

Sodium Benzoate reacts with ascorbic acid (Vit C or E300) and yields benzene which is a known carcinogen.

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene):

BHA and BHT are closely related synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in lipsticks and moisturizers, among other cosmetics. They are also widely used as food preservatives. Can cause cancer and interfere with hormone function, also linked to hyper activity and harmful to fish and wildlife.

Coal Tar:

Used in lotions and shampoos to treat dandruff, psoriasis  and head lice. It is a known carcinogen.

DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) & TEA  (triethanolamine):

A hormone-disrupting chemical that can form cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines. These chemicals are restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects. Repeated skin applications of DEA-based detergents resulted in major increase in incidence of liver and kidney cancer.

Dibutyl Phthalate or DBP:

In nail products and some hair sprays. Toxic to reproduction and may interfere with hormone function. Harmful to fish and wildlife.


Widely used in sunless tanners coupled with reports of a decrease in Vit D and production and cell damaging effects.


Chlorinated dioxins are formed through the bleaching of pulp and paper like cotton balls, facial tissue, toilet tissue, sanitary pads and tampons. Studies show that exposure to dioxins may cause a number of serious health issues including reproductive damage, birth defects, miscarriage and cancer. Purchase only Chlorine-Free (TCF) paper products, bleached with hydrogen peroxide.

DMDM Hydantion & Urea (Imidazolidinyl):

Preservative that releases formaldehyde which may cause joint pain, skin reactions, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infection, chronic fatigue, dizziness, and loss of sleep. Exposure may irritate the respiratory system, trigger heart palpitations or asthma, and aggravate coughs and colds. Other possible side effects include weakening  the immune system and cancer.

FD&C Color Pigments:

Synthetic colours made from coal tar, containing heavy metal salts that deposit toxins into the skin causing skin sensitivity and irritation. Absorption of certain colours can cause depletion of oxygen in the body and death. Animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic.

Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde releasing agents:

Look out for DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Methenamine, or Quarternium-15 they are all capable of releasing formaldehyde. Widely used in hair products, moisturizers, etc. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and may also cause dermatitis.

Heavy Metals (Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Arsenic, Nickel etc.):

Heavy metals build up in the body over time and many are suspected hormone disruptors and respiratory toxins, for some like lead, there is no known safe blood level. 

In the report “Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Makeup,” Environmental Defense tested 49 makeup items, like foundations, concealers, powders, blushes, mascaras etc from many big brands. Their testing revealed serious heavy metal contamination in virtually all of the products:

1. 96 percent contained lead

2. 90 percent contained beryllium

3. 61 percent contained thallium

4. 51 percent contained cadmium

5. 20 percent contained arsenic

Stearalkonium Chloride:

Used in hair conditioners and creams, developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener. Causes allergic reactions.

Synthetic Fragrances (Perfume):

The Organic Consumers Association say synthetic fragrances used in skin care products can contain as many as 200 ingredients and there is no way to know exactly what makes up the fragrance ingredient since labels only state “fragrance”, many toxic or carcinogenic. Symptoms reported include headaches, dizziness, rashes (skin irritation), skin discolouration, coughing and vomiting. Fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes.

Methylisothiazolinone (MI) and Methylchloroisothiazolinine (MCI):

Synthetic preservatives found in skincare, both are skin sensitisers that can trigger dermatitis and/or rashes.

Mineral Oil (white oil, liquid paraffin, liquid petroleum):

Petroleum by product that coats the skin like plastic and clogs the pores. Interferes with your skin’s ability to eliminate toxins and causes acne. Slowing down skin function and cell development which results in premature aging.

Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC):

An endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen and can disrupt thyroid function. Used in hair color products, shampoos, sunscreen and cosmetics.

Oxybenzone or benzophenone-3

Oxybenzone or benzophenone-3 is an ingredient used in skin care products as a sunscreen agent, ultraviolet light absorber or ultraviolet filter. Oxybenzone may cause cancer and developmental toxicity.

PABA (Para-Aminobenzoic Acid):

Found in sunscreens, ABA may alter thyroid activity and PABA derivatives may have additional endocrine disrupting properties. Also look for PABA, OD-PABA, padimate O, 4-aminobenzoic acid, para-aminobenzoic acid, p-aminobenzoic acid, Et-PABA, 2-ethylhexyl ester, p-carboxyaniline.


Parabens are the most widely used preservative in cosmetics, an estimated 75 to 90 % of cosmetics contain them.

Methylparaben is used as a fragrance and a preservative ingredient in skin care products. It is toxic to non-reproductive organs in the human body and may cause cancer, skin irritation, neurotoxicity and may disrupt endocrine function.


Can cause allergic reactions and has been linked to eczema. Phenoxyethanol is used to limit bacterial growth. Also called 2-Phenoxyethanol, Euxyl K® 400 (mixture of Phenoxyethanol and 1,2-dibromo-2,4-dicyanobutane), PhE
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG):

A potential carcinogenic petroleum ingredient that can alter and reduce the skin’s natural moisture factor. This could increase the appearance of aging and make you more vulnerable to bacteria.

Propylene Glycol (PG) and Butylene Glycol: 

A surfactant that easily penetrates the skin and can weaken protein and cellular structure. Could cause brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities. Keep an eye on your stick deodorants, where the concentration could be scary high.


The European Parliament prohibited the use of the phthalates Di-(2-ethylhexyl)Phthalate (DEHP) and DBP in cosmetics.DBPs are in everything from cosmetics to skincare to nail polish to perfume. They are found in hairspray, hair growth products, shampoo, conditioner, deodorants, plastic packaging and toys.Phthalates are absorbed through the skin, inhaled and ingested when they leach from plastic containers and contaminate food and water

PVP/VA Copolymer:

Used in hairsprays and cosmetics which may contribute to the inhalation of foreign bodies in the lungs. PVP/VA should be considered toxic.

Retinyl Palmitate:

A form of vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), when used in sunscreen and therefore exposed to sunlight may actually speed the development of skin lesions and tumors.

Siloxanes (Cyclomethicone and ingredients ending in siloxane):

Used extensively in moisturizers and facial treatments. Cyclomethicone is a mixture of D4, D5, and D6 siloxanes.Can interfere with hormone function and damage the liver.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES):

This is where it started for me, I went on an SLS clearing frenzy in my home and never looked back, it was everywhere!

A detergent and surfactant that pose a serious health risk. Used in car washes, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers! Can cause eye damage, depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation, and death. A study found it impedes eye development in children. May also damage the skins immune system by causing inflammation.

Stearalkonium chloride

Stearalkonium chloride is a toxic chemical that can cause allergic reactions. It is used in creams and hair conditioners and was originally developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener and is cheaper to use in hair conditioners than herbals or proteins.


Commonly found in baby powders, face powders, body powders. Talc is a known carcinogen and is a major cause of ovarian cancer.


A toxic chemical used in in nail products and hair dyes. Can result in headaches, dizziness and cracked skin, as well as more serious effects such as reproductive damage and respiratory complications.


This is a synthetic antibacterial product registered as a pesticide, a high risk to our health and the environment. A potential carcinogenic stored in body fat that can accumulate toxic levels, damaging the liver, kidneys and lungs and cause paralysis, suppression of immune function,brain hemorrhages, and heart problems.

Triethanolamine (TEA):

Used in cosmetics and personal care products Triethanolamine can cause allergic reactions including eye problems, dryness of hair and skin, and could be toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.

Quaternary ammonium salts (QUATS):

Caustic ammonium chemicals used as water repellents, fungicides, emusifiers, in paper and fabric softener. Used in the fabric industry as softeners and antistatic agents, hair rinses and conditioners because they make the hair feel soft. In the long run, however, they damage the hair, making it dry and brittle. This is an allergenic.