Our Top 11 Ingredients to Avoid: Beauty Clean-Up

You don’t need to be a cosmetic chemist to know enough to choose authentically clean and green, natural and organic beauty products.

If you follow this list, you can easily learn enough from us, right here and now, to screen out products with ingredients that raise the greatest health and safety concerns. Evidence, based on wide-ranging sources, including our own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indicates that these ingredients may be skin allergens, irritants, hormone-disruptors or potential carcinogens.

It’s important to remember that not all chemicals are bad. After all, water—hydrogen + oxygen = H2O—is a chemical compound! But there are bad ones you will want to avoid, and they are the ones we focus on here. Please feel free to reach out with any questions!

  1. ​Ingredients with PEGs and ETHs in their names (i.e. polyETHylene, polyETHylene glycol, cetearETH-20, etc.)
  2. Artificial colors (ingredients preceded by FD&C or D&C colors, i.e. D&C Red 30 Lake, FD&C Blue 1)
  3. Chemical sunblockers (i.e. octocrylene, octinoxate, oxybenzone, octisalate, and avobenzone)
  4. Ingredients that can release formaldehyde (i.e. diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, and quaternium 15)
  5. Parabens (i.e. ethylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben)
  6. Petroleum derivatives (i.e. petroleum, mineral oil, petrolatum, ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, butylene glycol, and dimethicone)
  7. Sulfates (i.e. sodium lauryl-, sodium laureth-, ammonium laureth-, and sodium myreth-sulfate)
  8. Toluene (also known as methylbenzene)
  9. Triclosan
  10. Nanoparticles
  11. Synthetic fragrances (often listed as "fragrance" or "parfum")
Rona Berg

Rona Berg

Editor-In-Chief at Organic Spa Magazine
Editor-in-chief of Organic Spa Media, longtime journalist and best-selling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty: 1000 Quick Fixes (Workman Publishing), Rona Berg is the former Editorial Director of ELLE and Deputy Style Editor for the New York Times Magazine. She has been cited as an industry expert by Huffington Post, Fox News and New York Magazine and contributed to and been quoted in dozens of publications. Berg co-chairs the Personal Care Committee of the non-profit Green Spa Network, is a Charter Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance, and is a frequent speaker at conferences around the globe.
Rona Berg

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