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Staying Natural: 10 Ingredients To Avoid In Beauty Products

I have always been a beauty product fiend. I find it really fun to try out all different skin, hair, and makeup products to see how they make me feel, and I’m constantly on a search for that one miracle product that will change my life (ha). As I’ve gotten slightly wiser over the past few years, though, I’ve learned that there are so many products out there that do way more harm than good. I don’t just mean a lotion that dries out your skin or a mascara that clumps like crazy. I mean products that are actually believed to cause long-term issues within your body.

Yes, you may just be applying a product topically, but your skin can only protect you from so much. Any product that is applied atop your skin can seep through your pores and enter your bloodstream, interacting with what’s inside your body. This is why it’s important to keep it as natural as possible when it comes to beauty products. An excellent word of advice is to try to avoid putting something on your skin that you wouldn’t also be okay with eating.

Holding dried flowers and lotion

There are tons and tons of beauty products that you can make at home using natural ingredients – have a look at some of our homemade beauty products – but sometimes you may not have the time or resources to make something on your own. Luckily, a need for staying natural is being recognized in the market, and more and more beauty brands are starting to offer natural, organic products. It’s important to note, though, that not all products labeled “natural” are telling the full truth. Read the list of ingredients, and make sure you know what each one is before deciding if you’re comfortable putting a product on your body.

It might sound like a lot of work to study every list of ingredients before buying a product, but try to keep in mind that what you’re doing is so much bigger than that. You’re protecting one of your most important assets: your body. I also think it’s a fun little game to compare ingredient lists and choose the one that’s the purest – it makes me feel so good to know I’m walking away with something that’s healthy for me.

To make this task a little easier, I wanted to share with you some ingredients that are believed to possibly harm the body. As with many scientific studies, it’s hard to definitively label an ingredient “good” or “bad”, but these are ingredients that have popped up often during my research on the topic. For more information, here are some sites I’ve found to be helpful: TLCOrganic Beauty Talk, Mind Body Green, MightyNest.

If you have any to add to this list, please leave a comment to let us know!

Ingredients to avoid in beauty products

Sulfates – These are used in many foaming products and can damage the eyes and severely irritate skin, so look out for these in shampoo and shower gel.

Parabens – Look for methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, and propylparaben – commonly found in many lotions, hair conditioners, deodorants, and makeup products. Parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors.

BHA & BHT – These are used as a preservative and commonly found in moisturizers and makeup. BHA and BHT can induce allergic reactions in the skin and some research has identified BHA as a possible human carcinogen.

Petrochemicals – Look out for certain alcohols, or terms ending in “anol”, like isopropyl alcohol or isopropanol, methyl alcohol or methanol, butyl alcohol or butanol, ethyl alcohol or ethanol. These chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and be toxic to the kidney, brain and respiratory system.

DEA, MEA, & TEA – These ingredients are used to make products creamy or sudsy. Look out for them in lotions, sunscreens, and cleansers like hand soap or shampoo. These chemicals are already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects and studies have shown that repeated skin applications can lead to an increased risk of liver and kidney cancer.

Propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol – Look out for “ethylene glycol”, which can be found in certain lotions, and propylene glycol, which is often an ingredient in mascara. These chemicals can easily penetrate the skin, weakening protein and cellular structure.

Triclosan – This is used in antibacterial and antifungal products, so be sure check for it in toothpaste and deodorant. Triclosan is classified as a chlorophenol, a class of chemicals suspected of causing cancer in humans.

Synthetic dyes – Look out for any term that begins with “F&DC”, usually followed by a color and a number. Certain colors can be absorbed into the skin and cause depletion of oxygen in the body, and animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic.

Talc – This is used to absorb moisture or give a shimmery look. Be sure to look out for it in baby powder, eye shadow, and blush. Using talcum powder can increase your risk of ovarian cancer.

Artificial fragrance – Even “unscented” products often contain artificial fragrance. Look out for the terms “fragrance” or “parfum”. In addition to irritating the skin, inhaling these chemicals allows them to be absorbed internally which can lead to further health issues like asthma or damage the immune and nervous systems.

Let us know if you have any to add to the list!

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Liz -September 12, 2013, 7:39AM

And this is why I use a bar of plain ole Dr. Bronners. No junk. I had to do a bunch of reports on many of these ingredients for my job, and after all that research I seriously never want to touch some of that again. Not willing to part with my makeup, but soap and shower gel? Oh yeah, it’s all 100% natural now.

Aria -September 12, 2013, 8:25AM

Great post! I have VERY sensitive, dry skin and no conventional skin care products I’ve ever tried has worked for me. They’ve only made my skin even more red, dry and irritated. :( Now I’ve gone ALL NATURAL with my skin care. I use plain yoghurt for cleanser, aloe vera gel for toner and cocoa butter for moisturiser. All organic, of course, to avoid any toxins. :) Occasionally I use honey, avocado and egg yolk as a face mask as well. (Plain yoghurt can be used as shower gel and coca butter as body lotion.) THIS WORKS BETTER for me than standard skin products, so I thought I’d share this in case anyone with sensitive skin wants to try natural skin care! (However, I use Palmer’s cocoa butter hand cream and lip balm, and Organix coconut milk shampoo and conditioner.)

suzyQ -September 12, 2013, 9:41AM

Love this post!

Also, be sure to avoid palm oil as tropical rainforests are being destroyed to make room for palm oil plantations. Read more here:

LUSH cosmetics is 100% natural and they don’t test their ingredients or products on animals :)

Zandalee -September 12, 2013, 9:48AM

Is it possible to have a follow up post on this explaining why these things are bad; how they are harming our body? It seems incomplete and very unsupported by science.
I’d love to go natural if I had scientific reason to do so.


Diane -September 12, 2013, 10:06AM

Hi! I agree with Zandalee… There’s a lot of hype going around with scare tactics for some of these ingredients with very little scientific evidence to prove that they’re harmful. Artificial fragrance being a great example…. A lot of natural fragrance ingredients are actually either allergens and irritating to people, or horribly unsustainable to produce and use. Synthetic alternatives are created to be less irritating to consumers and to use less natural resources. Not to say that all natural ingredients are bad or unsustainable

Diane -September 12, 2013, 10:09AM

Sorry, accidentally hit enter before I finished… The point I was trying to make is just to really educate yourself if you’re concerned about these items. It’s not all as simple as going natural.

Brianna -September 12, 2013, 10:58AM

Such a great topic!
Mineral Oil and Sodium Laurel Sulfates are two more to add to that list.


Annejelina -September 12, 2013, 11:04AM

I use ALL natural skin care. One of my favorite lines is called Gudi Aromatherapy. She makes all her products by hand, you can understand every ingredient, they are truly amazing, and THEY WORK! I have sensitive skin/breakout prone and they have helped me soo much. Check her out! Love this girl <3

<3 Annejelina

Visit my shop:

Leanna -September 12, 2013, 11:15AM

This is a topic I feel very strongly about. People need to be aware of what they are using on their bodies. Especially as the beauty industry features so much in our lives. Great blog Free People!!!

LUSH Cosmetics is great! Majority of their products are natural. They do own up to putting what they call “safe synthetics” into their products. Check out the site :D

celine -September 12, 2013, 12:04PM

I agree with previous commentators, it would be nice and reasonable to actually explain WHY these ingredients are not ok, because first of all we all know beauty products dont have healthy benefits anyways.

Rose -September 12, 2013, 12:16PM

I appreciate this post a lot, but I wish FP makeup tutorials followed this list of ingredients to avoid. Even high-end brands, like NARS (which was used quite a bit in the new fall makeup tutorial) contain toxic chemicals that can be detrimental to the health of a person’s skin, body, and to the health of the environment.

fp brigette -September 12, 2013, 12:17PM

Thanks so much for your feedback, everyone! In the post I’ve listed a few sites that I’ve found to be helpful on the topic — please feel free to check them out for more information. :)

Carrissa -September 12, 2013, 12:35PM

Washing your face with local honey (just a dime size) with some lukewarm water is great face wash and helps fight off the free radicals in the air/your environment, thanks to the good ol bees! Witch Hazel works as a great astringent and coconut oil is a wonderful face moisturizer! Try it!!!

Lucille -September 12, 2013, 1:02PM

There are quite a few shops on Etsy that create natural beauty products for folks, two of my favorites being FatandtheMoon and MarbleandMilkweed. Some serious natural skin & hair magic, I’m in love with both!

Kara -September 12, 2013, 2:39PM

You also don’t want mineral oil as someone earlier said, but Arbonne is a great line of products that includes none of the above and more!

Carole -September 12, 2013, 4:08PM

I’ve actually noticed that on a lot of Arbonne products say they are naturally derived, but if you look at the list of ingredients, it isn’t so. Their shampoo for example has sulfates in it. But the list goes on and on.

Also, you should mention aluminum that is in antiperspirant. A lot of people don’t realize the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant.

Flynn -September 12, 2013, 10:04PM

This sure scares me…didn’t know my favorite products could be linked to such deadly health problems :(

Prana -September 12, 2013, 10:19PM

I definitely got to be more careful.
Thanks so much for the tips! :)

Alyson -September 12, 2013, 10:26PM

AVEDA!!! Aveda has the highest standards for every last one of their products. They make everything from makeup, haircolor, to a whole line of skin and hair care products and much much more! One example is where other natural shampoos don’t lather since sulfates are what cause the lather, Aveda uses sulfates from coconut which clean the hair without putting chemicals in ur body. :))

Andrea -September 12, 2013, 11:40PM

i dont know if mineral oil was mentioned, BUT stay away from mineral oil ladies! its like basically putting petroleum (gasoline) on your face! A lot of Olay products contain mineral oil. It clogged my pores so bad. READ YOUR LABELS!! Ive been using Lush Cosmetics products which have natural based ingredients. i swear by it! i hope this helps :)

Julia -September 13, 2013, 12:02AM

Great article, check out Eminence Organic Skin Care! This is an organic company that does not use any of the above ingredients!

Kathryn -September 13, 2013, 12:06AM

I’ve heard about these chemicals causing harm for a while now, especially the sulfate a and the parabens. I wash my face with oatmeal. It’s an awesome cleanser, follow with witch hazel to time and the aloe vera and almond oil to moisturize. I’ve been testing out DIY beauty treatments, check them out here

Catherine -September 13, 2013, 12:14AM

Great post! A great website that I would suggest to anybody who is trying to find more natural and healthy products to use is . You can search up a product and if it’s in the database (which has a lot of stuff) it is ranked on a scale of 0 (not harmless at all) to 9 (very harmful) . (Unless I’m remembering incorrectly). It also indicates how much information from studies has been found on that product. It’s a grea website!! :)

DIYEARTE ♦ DIY -September 13, 2013, 4:01AM
Molly -September 13, 2013, 5:24AM

A few people commented that lush uses all naturals, which was what I thought too… but I just looked at the ingredients of my moisturizer, and its got parabens!

Hayley -September 13, 2013, 12:49PM

LUSH is far from “natural”, as Molly’s discovered. They use surfactants, parabens, artificial colors & fragrances, propylene glycol & more. They were instrumental in breaking open the handmade soap market, but they are not the company for those wishing to avoid the above list.

A point of interest: the term “natural” is in no way regulated by the FDA. Any company can slap the term “natural” on their products, regardless of their ingredients. Rule of thumb: ignore the front panel label. Read the ingredients. Make an educated choice.

Also keep in mind that what we think of as “natural” does not necessarily mean safe. Pennyroyal essential oil is perfectly natural, & a powerful abortifacient. Apple pips & peach stones, totally natural. Also high in cyanides. Rhubarb leaves are chock full of toxic oxalic acid.

My point: Natural does not necessarily equal safe. Synthetic does not necessarily equal unsafe. Do your research & decide what makes sense for you.

Lauren -September 13, 2013, 4:13PM

I’d recommend checking out Soapwalla for amazing natural body products. The woman who started it did so because she had some major skin and health issues that prevented her from using most beauty products. The soaps seem pricey, but they are quite large and last a long time (I’ve been using the same one in the time that it has taken my husband to go through about 4 bars of Dove). The deodorant cream is also *far* better than many other natural kinds I’ve tried! Oh, and don’t even get me started on the lavender mint lip balm…

Alexis -September 13, 2013, 7:57PM

No More Dirty Looks is one of the most amazing natural skin care blogs out there! So helpful and friendly, and they *really* know their stuff!

Juliette Laura -September 14, 2013, 1:33PM

Beginning of this summer I made the switch to all natural (but ACTUALLY all natural, like you said) perfect post, definitely outlines everything super simply.

xo, Juliette Laura

Aria -September 14, 2013, 4:55PM

I forgot to mention in my comment that any kind of ESSENTIAL OIL IS TERRIBLE for sensitive, redness-prone skin! Despite them often being natural substances, essential oils like rose, lavender and orange only act as fragrant irritants to the skin and should be avoided. In fact, any smelling extra ingredients in products are bad for sensitive skin. :( I’ve tried conventional products before which contained small amount of rosehip oil or orange peel and similar substances, and they made my face dark red and burning. (Any type of BHA, AHA or Retinol products are also horrible for sensitive skin.) I would definitely recommend going all-organic with skin care and not using anything more fragrant than cocoa butter – at least on your face. :)

Lydia -September 14, 2013, 6:31PM

Many toothpastes contain sulphates too :)
For washing my hair, I went no-poo (google it) with Chagrin Valley Shampoo Bars more than a year ago! My fave is Lavender Spice because it smells amazing and makes your hair super soft.

Ashley -September 15, 2013, 3:06PM

Anyone have any input on Origins??? I use Gloomaway cream and Checks and Balances face soap everyday….

MURR -September 15, 2013, 5:29PM

Origins isn’t in fact all that “natural,” they do have some bad stuff in some them. Also sadly Lush has parabens also! Not all of their products, for example I use their Big shampoo that’s paraben free, but be careful, Lush isn’t always completely safe.

MURR -September 15, 2013, 5:31PM

ALSOOOOOOO for natural skincare and awesome makeup products, I’d recommend the brands Physician’s Formula, 100% Pure, Pacifica (I am in love with their face wash), and Etsy! Etsy has tons of great skincare and makeup shops. My favorites are FatAndTheMoon, HerbivoreBotanicals, WillowTreeMinerals and OhSudz :D

Joe -September 16, 2013, 10:48PM

Anything to excessive can cause cancer obviously. Everything is in moderation. Honestly no matter where you look up anything about any cosmetics there’s going to be a really hard cosmetic to find that is ALL NATURAL. if you are unless making it by yourself and you know that everything is safe then yea.. Parabens believe it or should be at the bottom of the list of any cosmetic unless if you made it solid product then it does not need it. but seriously if you did buy a product without it in it then is going to spoil very quickly. Its funny too because bread and blueberries have natural parabens inside of them but…. not complains about that do they.. Also when a shampoo or shower gel says “sulfate free” and your product still bubbles when you use it unfortunately its not “sulfate free” as much as it is hard to believe that, thats is the truth you can look it up, its a scam that companies will do so they will not loose any customers. In this day in age everyone needs to make money so they are going to tell you this. I used to work for lush and I would never BS my customers and I would educate them because they did not know. Yes Lush does used sulfate, parabens, dyes, but they are honest unlike most companies. If you are going to want a colorful soap its going to have a color dye unless you buy dial or irish spring but no one wants to have dry skin do they now? No one wants to purchase soap that doesnt have any color or appeal to it. In the end it is completely up to you where you want to go and get your cosmetics. Lush has fresh face masks which are fantastic but they only last 3 weeks so if you are looking for great skincare product they are there.

Also I had noticed that I read in a comment that had this snippet of information so I quoted it and I will tell you why. “ALL ESSENTIAL OIL IS TERRIBLE FOR SENSITIVE SKIN for redness prone skin.” That is not true. EVERYONE had different needs for their skin, NOT EVERYTHING is going to work for EVERYONE. Yes suggesting is very nice but there are other calming ingredients that are great for sensitive skin BUT depending on what you are sensitive TOO. NOW this could be Tea tree, rose water, rose absolute, aloe vera, lavender etc.. but believe it or not rose, aloe vera, calamine are known to calm the skin to reduce any redness. BUT like I said NOT EVERY INGREDIENT is going to react the same to EVERYONE. If you are not sure what your skin is sensitive to then go to a professional. If you dont have the income try to figure out what is making your skin react. This could be a daily moisturizer, even makeup etc.. But seriously everything is trial and error. You can look online and see that someone did not like a product but you wanted to try it out, but dont go by what they said try it out and see how you like end of story. Samples are great but they dont give you the full effect. If anything if you have the money for the product buy it and if you dont like it after a couple of weeks return it. Just make sure you have your receipt and you know the companies return policy.

IF you have any questions about anything about LUSH or what I said send me an email and I dont mind a conversation. My email is

Allen Dawson -October 3, 2013, 3:55AM

I liked this post. Thank you for explaining the skin avoiding products.

A. Mac -October 9, 2013, 2:30PM

Great article. Along with beauty products, household cleaning products are one of the absolute worst culprits of body damaging chemicals in our homes.

Give Freshana Organic Solutions a try. ( They are the only 100% Organic, patented safe and effective microencapsulating cleaning products in the world and are trying to change the way people look at “organic.” No longer do you have to give up quality for safe cleaning.

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Antosia -November 8, 2013, 3:18PM

I use African Black Soap and I love it. It’s inexpensive and works well

Adrian Peterson Women's Jersey -November 15, 2013, 10:22AM

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Janelle Moore -December 5, 2013, 10:54PM

Great list! Definitely will be sharing this with all of my girlfriends so they can stay in the know too. I seriously had no idea that talc was linked to ovarian cancer- more people need to know about this!!

K. Hudson -December 21, 2013, 11:51AM

Hair products and dyes are damaging as well.

Sara -January 19, 2014, 5:50PM

Fascinating list! I’d also love to see some more sources on where you got this information, I’m fascinated by all of this stuff! I think that there needs to be a better word to describe the type of products you are recommending. “Natural” doesn’t really make something better or worse for you. After all, arsenic, chlorine and wormwood are all “naturally occurring” substance, but I doubt you’d want to eat much of any one or put them on your skin!

J M Whelans -February 3, 2014, 4:20AM

I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I’m quite certain I’ll learn plenty of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

joe jacobs -February 7, 2014, 8:24PM

thank you for the valuable information, its good to know exactly what we are puting on and in our body, i feel that is is up to the people who do the studying and the research to let the public know how important it is to use natural beauty products and natural foods to help everyone to live a longer life inspite of all the negative contaminants in our enviornment. a longer life span can be acheived if we carefully watch what we put on and in our bodys, this is something i know first hand, because i see people in my age range who i have known for a very long time, and when i was telling them years ago to start eating more natural foods and telling the woman in my family that the chemical that they keep putting on their face and body is going to have side effects later on in their life, no one listened at that time. until it was to late, now they ask me what should they do to eat healthy and how to get rid of the dark spots on their face and hands. i never say i told you so, i just give them the advice they ask, and help them as much as we can. being natural has helped out alot, i see it in my skin, and i always tryed to stay fit by eating the right foods, its paying off and all my friends see it, now they wished they would had listened the first time. i would like to say something to the ladys, if your useing chemical cosmetisc, stop as soon as you can, and go with natural products, because the natural products will have to fix the side effects of the chemicals, it may take a little time, not long for the natural product to do its magic, but it will happen. we all have been tricked by the mainstream and the tabloid magazines to look our best with these chemical products and quick fixes, but the blinders are off now and a new day has come in the cosmetisc world, all natural products, that will repair the damage of the chemicals. go natural as soon as you can, and you will look and feel much better toward our journey to live a much longer life.

sasa beauty -February 27, 2014, 3:16PM

There are thousands of chemicals in your products, many of which are being absorbed into your body. 10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid. These synthetic colors are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources.

Khorry -June 18, 2014, 11:01PM

Hi, I am Khorry from the Philippines… For me and my family, we use all natural products from head to toe. I also have an online store selling natural products @ . We have products for baby too. Maybe you would like to check our store.

Thank you so much.

ROSA BONNETTE -July 21, 2014, 8:59AM

Thank you so much for this valuable information. I’m just getting aware of all these harmful ingredients on our skin and make products. I’m going to follow your steps and keep researching for a better way of living all together. Have a great day!!

axel -July 24, 2014, 2:06AM

I been reading more about this harmful ingredients in beauty products I’m trying to get my wife to stop using them it was hard at first but she is finally coming around. Thanks for the info it was great

Best Scented Candles -August 22, 2014, 2:11AM

I always like these type products which are prepared by natural ingredients. I have bad experience by using skin care products which may be prepared by chemically. So natural is always best

Estelle -November 19, 2014, 1:36PM

Hi…I live in South Africa…any shops this side of the world that sell natural products as my products sadly contain some of these bad ingredients.?
Please…any advice out there?

Angel Seren -November 27, 2014, 2:49AM

I love to use beauty product for looking attractive, so thank you for giving this useful information.

adamsjones -January 4, 2015, 10:08AM

Thanks for your kind information.Above all of these iq natural organics products is very harmful to human body such as skin,hair above all these ingredients to avoid beauty products.

Nicole's Beautycounter -January 5, 2015, 9:27PM

Great post! It’s scary to think about the number of chemicals that are in the products we put on our skin every single day. Did you know that while the European Union bans more than 1,300 ingredients, the US only bans 11??! This is why I switched to Beautycounter… check it out!

Steve Kingler -December 10, 2015, 6:28AM

Why is it that parabens are bad for us? It’s true, “Parabens have been found in breast cancer tumors.” Did you know that most living things on earth use parabens as a mechanism of defense. Are we that ignorant to think that just because we found a naturally made chemical such as parabens in breast cancer tissue that this chemical actually causes breast cancer? What if the chemical actually helps in fighting breast cancer, did anyone ever try to do any research on that? Don’t give into the marketing gimmick… companies are using this paraben hype as a means of increasing their competitive advantage.

Ric -January 14, 2016, 4:35AM

Uhhmmm newsflash here – but lipstick can’t be picked off trees. I doubt any large scale company would is able to provide natural products in an economically sustainable fashion. Which is why they all use misleading terms such as “derived from natural ingredients” or “botanically based”. The former covers everything in existence and the latter just mean it doesn’t come from an animal, but maybe engineered, refined and synthesised to a degree that it’s about as natural as oral bowel movement.
I suspect that if you want natural then stick to your small local providers.

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