Skincare 101: Beauty Nasties – Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid

clean beauty, non toxic beauty, non toxic skincare, clean beauty, natural skincare, toxic ingredients to avoid, cosmetic ingredients to avoid

Everyone has different skin concerns and needs so products will react differently based on that. What works well for one person may irritate another’s skin. Some ingredients may be known as common irritants that sensitive skins will react to. But we are learning even more now about how what we put on our skin and our personal care products can impact our health.

As I mentioned in my previous post about transitioning to more clean beauty products I thought I would share some of the ingredients to watch out for when purchasing your beauty products. But what is “clean beauty”?

What is Clean Beauty?

Clean beauty is skincare, beauty and other self care products that are made without toxins and other harmful ingredients. Our skin is actually our largest organ and it absorbs whatever we put on it. In fact up to 60% of the chemicals we put on our body gets absorbed into the bloodstream.

This means we could be absorbing harmful ingredients that can be carcinogenic, cause serious health issues, be endocrine disruptors or cause birth defects and even cancer. Sadly, in the US, the Beauty Industry is very under regulated by the FDA. In fact, the US has only banned 30 personal care ingredients while the European Union has banned almost 1400! So it is up to us to be more attentive to what we put on and in our bodies.

How to Transition to a Clean Beauty Routine

  • Start small – as you finish up a product, research cleaner options and replace old products with new, healthier versions.
  • Think big – think about what products you use the most and that cover the most parts of your body. Such as shower gels and body lotions that we use on the majority of our bodies. Start with replacing those first.
  • Read labels – get into the habit of reading labels and learning what the ingredients really are and what the labels really mean. Check out my post on Skincare Jargon and what the most common terms really mean.
  • Start with the worst offenders – take a look at the list below of the most offensive ingredients and start removing products with those in the label.
  • Find brands you can trust – find clean beauty brands who has products that work well for you and try other products in their line.

Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid

  • SODIUM LAURYL/LAURETH SULFATE – this is a foaming agent that most people have a sensitivity to. They are known to dry out skin and cause irritation. SLS and SLES are often found in products like shampoo, foaming face cleansers, soaps and shower gels. On the label, watch out for sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl ether sulfate, anhydrous sodium lauryl sulfate, and irium. Instead look for natural surfactants like castille soap.
  • DIMETHICONE – otherwise known as silicones are ingredients that are often found in facial serums, makeup primers and other products. It gives a soft slip to the texture of the products and creates a soft and smooth feeling on skin and hair. Look for dimethicone, methicone, phenyl trimethicone, cyclomethicone, dimethiconol, and dimethicone copolyol. More natural alternatives include: cocoa butter, shea butter, mango butters, and jojoba oil.
  • Phthalates – these are synthetic fragrances carriers that are known endocrine disrupters and carcinogens. They are often listed as benzylbutyl phthalate, di-n-butyl phthalate or dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, DEHP, and sometimes “fragrance” or “perfume”. While some people are allergic to reaction, others are not so this is more of a personal choice. Look for ingredients that list essential oils instead.
  • Parabens – this is a controversial ingredient as no studies have actually proven that it is linked to breast cancer but better safe than sorry. It is found as a preservative in lots of personal care products including shower gels and shampoos, sometimes listed as alkyl parahydroxybenzoate, butylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparabens. Some great replacements include: vitamin e and a few essential oils.
  • Formaldehyde – I mean formaldehyde! Enough said right?! This is a known ingredient to cause allergic reactions and has even been linked to some types of cancers. It is used as a preservative and shows up in products under the names of formalin, urea, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, and sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate. Look instead for natural preservatives like Vitamin E.
  • PETRO aka Petrolatum Jelly and Mineral Oil – used as a moisturizing ingredient in so many products, this one is actually derived from petrolatum (yes the type of stuff we put in our cars). This can cause reactions and has even been linked to some types of cancers. Look for ingredients like petrolatum, petroleum jelly, mineral oil, paraffin wax. and replace them with these instead: natural emollients like cocoa and shea butters.
  • Oxybenzone – found in sunscreens, this has been found to drastically affect the hormone system. On the labels, watch out for ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, avobenzone, 4-methyl-benzylidencamphor, oxybenzone benzophenone-3, octyl-methoyl-cinnamates, octyl-dimethyl-para-amino-benzoic acid, homosalate. Look for safer sunscreens with ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Sadly, there are so many more to avoid but these seem to be some of the most common offenders that we see most often in our personal care products. I will share more in future posts as well as what ingredients to look for instead. Learn more and hear some of my favorite clean beauty brands in the video below.

What are some of the ingredients you try to avoid and what clean beauty brands do you seem to love the most? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. Do you have posts for clean beauty on a budget…I recently retired and am working to find the best products for my limited budget. Thank you! I will keep reading!


    • I think my favorite affordable clean skincare brand is Acure. They are actually one of my top skincare brands and I just love all of their products.


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