Toxic Synthetic Ingredients to Avoid in Beauty Products

Synthetic Chemicals

If you ever find yourself unhappy with the amount of chemicals in food, you might be surprised to learn how many synthetic toxic ingredients are added to conventional beauty products.

The skin, our largest organ, helps regulate and expel exogenous toxins. These toxins are chemicals produced outside the body that, if enter into your body (via absorption (applied to skin), inhalation (powders/aerosols) or consumed (eg lipstick eaten) can greatly affect your health. Despite the harmful side effects, many beauty supplies on store shelves still contain toxic ingredients mainly if the form of synthetic chemicals due to a lack of product regulation and emerging research.

Remember how a couple of weeks ago we revealed 10 ugly truths about the beauty industry? We’re taking it one step further by exposing toxic synthetic ingredients that can be found in some of the most commonly used beauty and personal care products. You may not think that the concentration is not very high or you can’t feel or see the effect but what scientists are becoming concerned about is the toxic load, the accumulation over time and exposure via other sources that you come into contact with every day. Eg Antibacterials such as triclosan in hand soaps, on chopping boards and surfaces, in mattresses, carpets and even paint not to mention toothpaste.

1. TOLUENE (solvent found in nail polish) 

Why it’s bad for you: Effects can be felt in as little as 5 minutes after exposure. These effects can include tiredness, dizziness, headache, nausea, loss of coordination, euphoria, and loss of hearing. It can cause breathing problems from early onset, and passes through the skin slowly causing serious irritation. It has been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity and is of particular concern to children. (reference: Opinion on Tolulene EU SCCP) Click here for more side effects.

Where it’s most commonly found: Toluene is most commonly found in nail polish and some hair products although often hidden in fragrance.

Natural alternative: Try the creamy, long-lasting 100% Pure 10 Free Nail Polish (it’s 10-free!).  You can also check out our guide on toxic chemicals in nail polishes (prepared to be shocked!).


Why they bad for you: According to a study conducted by the Journal of Women’s Health in 2002, mineral oil was found to be one of the greatest contaminant of the human body. The study found that it disrupts the skin’s natural immune barrier and inhibits the skin’s ability to breathe and absorb natural moisture, which in turn slows down cell development and prematurely ages skin.

Further, mineral oils can be composed of organic and inorganic base stock oils combined with ‘polymer packages’ (plastic)  to produce synthesised oil compounds. Lipsticks and lip care products may contain saturated hydrocarbons which either stem from mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH) or are synthetic, that is polyolefin oligomeric saturated hydrocarbons (POSH). Some of these hydrocarbons (eg hydrogenated solids like paraffin wax) are strongly accumulated and form granulomas in human tissues, which prompted Cosmetics Europe (former Colipa) to issue a recommendation for their use in lip care and oral products. Reference

Where it’s most commonly found: Moisturisers, hair products, foundation, tinted moisturiser, and some baby oils.

Natural alternative: The 100% Pure Tinted Moisturiser hydrates the skin while evening out skin tone and clearing imperfections, and is available in a range of tones.

3. TRICLOSAN (Antibacterial Preservative) 

Why it’s bad for you: Studies suggest that Triclosan could cause breast cancer, tho results have come from research on mice where it progresses the development of breast cancer cells due to its endocrine disruption ability. Reference.  If triclosan does turn out to be an endocrine disruptor, that would make young children, infants and pregnant women especially vulnerable. Worryingly, other studies have shown Triclosan remains in the body.  There are also concerns about the accumulation of triclosan in waterways, where its build-up could “disrupt aquatic life by changing native bacterial communities” Reference  and there is initial evidence that overuse can also result in strains of drug-resistant super-bacteria.

Where it’s most commonly found: Toothpaste, Soap, facial cleansers  and primers.

Natural alternative: The 100% Pure Luminous Face Primer is a great pre-application to makeup that also nourishes the skin while brightening the features.

4. FRAGRANCE (or Parfum)

Why it’s bad for you: EWG has found fragrance to contain a cocktail of (synthetic) hormone disrupters such as Phthalates, BHA, and musk. Phthalates can in turn cause serious health issues by interfering with hormones in the body, posing potential risks to the reproductive and thyroid systems bringing on early puberty in teenage girls, hormonal changes in baby boys, fertility issues such as low sperm count,  breast cancer, autism, ADHD and increased risk of diabetes and asthma.  All studies are Reference  here on EWG.  BHA is a synthetic antioxidant commonly found in fragrance to extend the perfumes (& lipsticks) life that can cause allergic reactions, is a possible human carcinogen and The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption has also listed BHA as a Category 1 priority substance, based on evidence that it interferes with hormone function when consumed. In Europe it is on the banned and restricted fragrances list and The State of California requires warning labels on products containing BHA, notifying consumers that this ingredient may cause cancer.  Synthetic musks bind to and stimulate human estrogen receptors and have been linked to the increase of estrogen-responsive human breast cancer cells.

What is particularly worrying about fragrance is the ingredient listing is never broken down for you to see as the ‘recipe’ is protected by trademark laws and does not need to be revealed by law. Fragrance or parfum is usually made of a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals of which there are over 3,000 chemicals to choose from. Reference

Where it’s most commonly found: Perfume + nearly every personal care product and cosmetic you can think of. 
Natural alternative: Keep things sweet and smelling gorgeous (without the harmful fragrances) with natural cold pressed oils such Grapefruit, Lemon, Orange used to give our Lip Nourish a great smell and taste!

Why they bad for you: According to Scientific American “parabens are a group of synthetic compounds commonly used as preservatives in a wide range of health, beauty and personal care products. If the product you are using contains methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben, it has parabens.” Parabens have been shown to, in some cases, trigger reactions such as increasing breast cell division and the growth of tumors.

Where it’s most commonly found: Mascara, eye pencils, foundation

Natural alternative: Preservatives are needed to stop bacteria and micro-organisms growing but there are natural alternatives such as Vitamin E and Citric Acid.  Try all natural 100% Pure Black Tea Liquid Eyeliner is easy on the eyes, literally!

Watch out for a future post, where we’ll share the next 5 synthetic toxic ingredients.

Avoiding all harmful chemicals is nearly impossible, but there are ways to reduce your exposure to damaging toxins by avoiding the above list and swapping out your synthetic ingredients with natural alternatives.

100% Pure

In fact, if you’re looking to make the switch to natural and organic products, we’ve got you covered with our 100% natural, toxin-free, lipsticks and our guides on how to clean out your makeup bag the healthy way. There are also plenty of other resources out there, like this handy guide which includes 10 tips on healthier skincare or the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list. In the mean time, always get to know your ingredient list natural beauties and be mindful of what you’re applying to your body. What goes on, goes in.

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Did any of these facts shock or upset you? Which synthetic chemicals weren’t you aware existed in your products? Leave a comment!