Knowing what ingredients to avoid in products is necessary when taking on the task of creating a clean and non toxic beauty bag.  The US Food and Drug administration does not regulate what is in skincare and makeup so as a consumer you would hope that only clean and safe ingredients are in your products, but that just isn’t the case.  This is why we have a list of “Ingredients to Avoid” this list is below and it can also be found on our “About Us” page.


These are common ingredients in many “mainstream” beauty products, but you won’t find them here.  We have included some basic information including their purpose in a product, why you want to avoid them and how they are commonly labeled.


There are literally hundreds of nasty ingredients out there so this list is by no means comprehensive, but we hope it is a good place for you to start.  We hope you find this as a great resource as you are vetting products before giving them the honor of touching your skin.




Purpose/Usage: Used to make petro-ingredients less irritating to skin

Avoid Because: Carcinogenic, suspected cardiovascular, blood, gastrointestinal, immune system, kidney, nervous system, respiratory and skin toxicant.

Labeled As: 1,4 Dioxane is a contaminant produced during the manufacturing process so the FDA does not require it to be listed on a product ingredient listing. Look for common ingredients with the prefix or designations of ‘PEG,’ ‘–eth–,’ ‘Polyethylene,’ ‘Polyethylene glycol’ ‘Polyoxyethylene,’ or ‘–oxynol–’ (FDA 2007)



Purpose/Usage: Foaming agent

Avoid because: Can form carcinogenic compounds when mixed with certain cosmetic ingredients

Labeled As: DEA, Diethanolimine, TEA, Triethanolamine, Cocamide DEA, Cocamide Diethanolimine, Lauramide DEA, Lauramide Diethanolimine, DEA Laurel Sulphate, Diethanolimine Sulfate, Linoleaide DEA, Linoleaide Diethanolimine, Oleamide DEA or Oleamide Diethanolimine.



Yes, this is no joke.  Formaldehyde may be lurking in some of your products!

Purpose/Usage: An impurity released by some chemical preservatives

Avoid Because: Carcinogenic, skin and lung irritant, gastrointestinal, liver toxicant and neurotoxin.  It’s used to embalm corpses; it should be avoided.

Labeled As: Formaldehyde, Formalin, Urea, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, Quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, and Sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate



Thousands of ingredients can be added to prodcuts under the umbrella of fragrance and many of them are exactly what you don’t want on your face.  Sometimes you’ll see “natural fragrance” I would contact the manufacturer and find out exactly what it is.

Purpose/Usage: Artificially scent a cosmetic product

Avoid Because: Allergic reactions, headache, dizziness, and rash (children tend to be particularly sensitive)

Labeled As: Fragrance, Parfum



Purpose/Usage: Sweat blocker, colorant, whitener, lightener

Avoid Because: Possible carcinogen, developmental, reproductive and organ system, immune system toxicant, bioaccumulation.

Labeled As: Aluminum, Aluminum flake, Aluminum, LB Pigment 5; Pigment metal 1; A 00; A 95; A 995; A 999; AA 1099; AA1199, Lead acetate, Lead flake, Chromium, Thimerosal, Hydrogenated cotton seed oil, Sodium hexametaphosphate.



Purpose/Usage: Preservative

Avoid Because: Possible neurotoxin, possible health risks to unborn babies, allergic reactions

Labeled As:

3(2H)-Isothiazolone, 2-methyl-



2-Methyl-3(2H)-isothiazolone [4]



Purpose/Usage: Preservative

Avoid Because: Mimics estrogen in the body, could lead to impaired fertility or fetal development

Labeled As: Alkyl parahydroxybenzoate, butylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparabens



Purpose/Usage: Emollient or lubricant

Avoid Because: Contains impurities linked to cancer

Labeled As: petrolatum, petroleum jelly, mineral oil



Purpose/Usage: Carrier for synthetic fragrance

Avoid Because: Negative affect fertility and fetal development, probable carcinogen

Labeled As: Benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP), Di-n-butyl phthalate or Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), Diethyl phthalate (DEP), and sometimes Fragrance



Purpose/Usage: Helps a product to retain moisture

Avoid Because: Alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to more easily enter the system

Labeled As: Propylene Glycol, Proptylene Glycol, 1,2-Propanediol. Related synthetics: PEG (polyethylene glycol) and PPG (polypropylene glycol)



Purpose/Usage: Foaming agent

Avoid Because: Alters skin structure, allowing other chemicals to more easily enter the system

Labeled As: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate, Anhydrous Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Irium



Purpose/Usage: Used to artificially color a cosmetic product

Avoid Because: Skin irritation and allergic reactions.

Labeled As: FD&C or D&C followed by a name and number (FD&C RED NO. 40)



We did a whole blog post about why these are so nasty here, Sunscreen Basics Post, yet something else that you want to avoid.  Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are the only sunscreen ingredients you want to see.

Purpose/Usage: Prevent Sunburn

Avoid Because: Mimics estrogen in the body potentially causing hormonal disruption, skin irritant

Labeled As: 4-Methyl-Benzylidencamphor (4-MBC), Oxybenzone Benzophenone- 3, Octyl-methoyl-cinnamates (OMC), Octyl-Dimethyl-Para-Amino-Benzoic Acid (OD-PABA), Homosalate(HMS)



Although the US Food and Drug Administration finally banned the use of Triclosan in soap it has allowed it to remain in toothpaste.  Yes, it’s in many toothpastes.

Purpose/Usage: Strong antibacterial and preservative

Avoid Because: Can be contaminated with chloroform and dioxins, linked to hormonal disruption, organ toxicity, allergic reaction, skin, eye, and lung irritation, and bioaccumulation

Labeled As: Triclosan and Triclocarban, especially in products labeled “germ killing” or “antibacterial”.


Here are some resources we LOVE to check ingredients.

The EWG’s Ingredient Database

We LOVE Think Dirty App

If you’re unsure about an ingredient, ask!  A company’s response, or lack of response, will help you determine if something is safe for you or not.

What are some ingredients that you avoid?  Comment below, we’d love to hear from you!

Thanks to Liz Thompson from for her original list.

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