The 6 Most Harmful Ingredients In Your Beauty Products




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I am sure most of you, like myself assume that we live in a highly regulated country, so the products I am using must be safe. I honestly, never questioned safety at all until recent years. I was so surprised when I finally learned that when it comes to the personal care industry, there are very minimal regulations. 

Companies are allowed to use known toxins—ingredients that have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and hormone disruption—without even disclosing these ingredients to us! Seems crazy, right?  Personally this makes me mad!

Luckily, it's not all doom and gloom. There are some great companies working hard to create safer skincare products and to change the industry. And, these products work just as well or better than the department store brands we have learned to love!  I've been spending tons of time researching them.

I am excited to share what I’ve learned with you and to educate and inspire you to make safer choices!

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Yes, you read that right! 1938! 
Are you as shocked as I am by this?

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And wait for it...

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And only about 10% of the 10,000 chemicals commonly found in personal care products have safety data.

There are many ingredients allowed in beauty and skin care products that really should never be used.  The 6 worst offenders are harsh sulfates, formaldehyde-releasers, artificial fragrances, PEGs, mineral oil, and carbon black. Start by replacing these six worst offenders.

Ready to come clean?

1. FORMALDEHYDE RELEASERS ~ common in preservatives that are used in many personal care products. These chemicals, which help prevent microbes from growing in water-based products, can be absorbed through the skin and have been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions.

FOUND IN: Moisturizers, nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, hair gel. hair smoothing products, baby shampoo, body soap, body wash, color cosmetics.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON THE LABEL: Formaldehyde, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal.

Many traditional face and eye creams are made with preservatives which can potentially release formaldehyde and wreak havoc on the immune system.  


2. PEG's ~ PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies ethylene oxide as a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane as a possible human carcinogen. Ethylene oxide can also harm the nervous system and the California Environmental Protection Agency has classified it as a developmental toxicant based on evidence that it may interfere with human development. 

FOUND IN: numerous personal care products

WHAT TO LOOK OF FOR ON THE LABEL: PEG with a number after it

Traditional facial masks can be formulated with PEGs, which are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners or solvents, Your masks should have nothing to hide.


My favorite masks that I use a couple times a week are:

  • The Alitura Clay Mask. The unique blend of 9 nutrient-dense ingredients exfoliates dead skin, reduces pore openings, stimulates blood flow, and encourages growth of new skin cells. At Beautycounter, all our masks contain naturally-derived glycerin, which helps condition and soften skin.
  • Beautycounter's Brightening Mask brightens your skin and more even-toned complexion. It contains kaolin clay that deeply cleanses, while vitamin C helps reduce the appearance of dark spots. 
  • Beautycounter's Balancing Charcoal Mask also has kaolin clay that purifies and balances, absorbing excess oil and drawing out impurities. Activated charcoal minimizes the appearance of pores, giving skin a smooth, refined appearance while salicylic acid stimulates exfoliation.

3. MINERAL OIL ~ Mineral oils are derived from crude oil and are a known human carcinogen. The concern is that mineral oils can target organs including eyes, skin, and respiratory system though inhalation, or skin and eye contact permitted in beauty products, mineral oil is a conditioning agent that may be contaminated with trace amounts of toxins and can suffocate skin. 

FOUND IN: a wide array of personal care products, including eye shadow, moisturizer, lip gloss, lipstick, conditioner, hair color and bleaching, facial treatment, styling gel/lotion, blush and concealer

Mineral oil is a conditioning agent that may be contaminated with trace amounts of toxins and can suffocate skin. Let your skin breathe easy. Look for body lotions that contain oils which are rich in essential fatty acids to revitalize and nourish skin.


  • Body Lotion: My favorite safer body lotion is Alba Botanica's Unscented Very Emollient Body Lotion that can be found at any natural grocers and many chain grocery stores in their natural section.  MAKE SURE you buy the unscented lotion so you avoid all fragrance!
  • Body Oil: I love this Citrus Mimosa Body Oil.  It's a dry oil, so it's instantly absorbed and you aren't left feeling greasy!

4. ARTIFICIAL FRAGRANCES can be a blend of ingredients that are not required to be disclosed by U.S. law and can include trace amounts of phthalates (potential endocrine disruptors).  Fragrance can be linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies and sensitivities. 

FOUND IN: most personal care products

WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON THE LABEL: Fragrance, parfum, synthetic fragrance

As lipstick is applied on your mouth, it’s no surprise we ingest what we put on, including artificial fragrance. Another big offender in lipstick and really all color cosmetics is heavy metals!  We shouldn't be having the conversation that lead is still allowed in lip stick when it's ben taken out of paint, pencils and gasoline!  Heavy metals are known human carcinogens and are extremely damaging to the body!


  • Lipstick and Lipgloss: Beautycounter is the only brand I know of that is testing for heavy metals in every batch of their color cosmetics and possibly the only company testing for metals in general.  Companies are not required to do so by law!  Beautycounter Sheer Lipsticks are vibrant in color, transparent in ingredients, and scented only with natural vanilla.  I love the Twig!
  • Perfume:  If you are looking for a safer perfume option, check out Phlur.  Their scents are free of Phthalates and you can buy testers before committing to a full bottle.  I love Olmstead and Vaux.

5. CARBON BLACK - Carbon black is a dark black powder used as a pigment in cosmetics.  It is produced from coal tar and has been linked to increased incidence of cancer and negative effects on organs.

FOUND IN: Eyeliner, mascara, nail polish, eye shadow, brush-on-brow, lipstick, blushers, rouge, makeup, and foundation

WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON THE LABEL: Carbon black, D & C Black No. 2, acetylene black, channel black, furnace black, lamp black, and thermal black

Mascara and eye liner shouldn’t be that scary.


  • Mascara: a safe mascara that works is hard to find!!!  The best performing and safe mascara that I have found is Beautycounter Volumizing and Lengthening Mascaras that are pigmented with naturally-occurring iron oxides. These mascaras actually stay on your lashes!! 
  • Eye Liner and Brow Pencil: Beautycounter's eye and brow pencils are what I also use and are pigmented with naturally-occurring iron oxides as well.

6. SULFATES, SUCH AS SLS & SLES are found in many shampoos, soaps, toothpastes and other personal care products.  It is known to cause skin irritation  It also  helps other chemicals get into your body.  SLS is a penetration enhancer, meaning that its molecules are so small they’re able to cross the membranes of your body’s cells.  Once cells are compromised, they become more vulnerable to other toxic chemicals that may be with the SLS.

Your scalp and body deserves a lot better.


  • Shampoo: It took me a while to find a safer shampoo that actually lathered and performed like the salon brands I was use to.  I love the Volume and Shape Shampoo and Conditioner from Beautycounter!  These shampoos feature PureFoam Cleansing Technology which is derived from beetroot sugars to deliver the rich lather and cleansing performance.  It leaves my hair shiny, full and feels like I am using a salon brand!
  • Dry Shampoo: Primally Pure is great!
  • Toothpaste: I use Earthpaste that is free of flouride, sls, glycerin and artificial flavors.
  • Bodywash/soap:  Dr Bronner's makes organic castile liquid soap you can use as body wash and many naturally scented bar soaps.

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There's a tool I highly recommend you all use for not only personal care products, but for food, cleaning and laundry supplies as well! EWG (Environmental Working Group) has developed their free Healthy Living app that allows you to scan the bar code of products with your phone's camera.  It will then give you a rating for that product from 1-10 indicating what ingredients are of concern and how they may relate to cancer, reproductive health and allergies.  This is super handy for the next time you are at Target and need to buy deodorant...scan away to find the safest option!  I always shoot for a rating of 1, 2 or 3 and it must not have any reproductive or cancer concerning ingredients

Happy Safe Shopping!!


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