Safer Beauty … So What Should I Avoid?

Today I wanted to talk about the ingredients to avoid if you are looking for  safer and more natural beauty products and cosmetics. Now I do not claim to know everything about this, I’m certainly no scientist, and I’m still in the stages of learning what to avoid too. But there are a few key ingredients that seem to be the biggest culprits, and they are also incredibly common in many mainstream products. After trying a lot of more natural makeup, I’m struggling to understand why some companies still use these ingredients when there seem to be a lot of perfectly good natural alternatives. But none the less, all the ingredients listed below are best to avoid if you too are looking for cleaner beauty products.


Parabens: I’m sure all of us have heard about parabens. Those companies that don’t use them in their products like to let you know this – and for good reason. Parabens are common, they are found in almost anything, from shampoo to body wash to blush or foundation. Parabens are used as a preservative and they are linked to cancer. They tend to mimic hormones, and can therefore cause issues with reproduction and the immune system. There are lots of different types of parabens, with many different prefixes including; butyl, methyl, ethyl, isobutyl and propyl.

Mineral Oil: This ingredient is basically a derivative of petroleum, which is what is used to produce petrol …. you know ….for your car. Mineral Oil (or paraffin) is fairly well known for causing issues with skin such as blocked pores, comedones, and acne, and it is also a known carcinogen.

Petrolatum: This one is pretty obvious, avoid it for the same reasons above. I came across a lip balm the other day and the first ingredient on the list was petrolatum. And that goes on your lips. Scary. I also now avoid any ingredients that include (or sound like) Petrolatum

Propylene Glycol: (Also listed as PEG) This chemical is another by-product of petroleum. It’s found in  lots of different products, and it’s essentially antifreeze. It’s designed to change the structure of the skin to help other ingredients penetrate the skin better. While this is great for letting in Vitamins etc, it’s also slightly worrying to think other chemicals are penetrating the skin too!

Formaldehyde: I probably don’t need to tell you about this one, but this is one of the ingredients they use to preserve dead bodies. It’s such a nasty chemical, that many countries have banned products containing this ingredient. Unfortunately, NZ isn’t one of them as about a month back I purchased a nail strengthener from Essence that contained this ingredient. Needless to say it ended up in the bin pretty much straight away. Formaldehyde is mainly found in nail polish, so always look for formaldehyde-free formulas or products that state they are at least “3-free”

Formaldehyde releasing ingredients: As well as looking out for formaldehyde, there are a few chemicals that also release formaldehyde. I’ve found these ingredients in everything; from shampoo to highlighter. The chemicals to look out for are DMDM Hydatoin, 1,4 Dioxane, Quarternium 15, Diazolidnyl Urea, Methenamine, and Imidazolidnyl Urea.  While the others aren’t quite as common, DMDM Hydatoin is in most of the hair products that were in my shower including shampoos from brands that marketed themselves as “natural”. These ingredients are used as preservatives and have been linked to cancer in humans.

Aluminium: Aluminium is found in pretty much every single mainstream deodorant or anti-perspirant, and I’ve also come across this ingredient in eyeshadows and highlighters. It’s been linked to tumors, and it has also been linked to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.  It comes in many different forms and with many different names, so I try to avoid anything with the word ‘aluminium’ in it.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate: These ingredients are also incredibly common as they are used in products to help make them froth up – that means you’ll find them in almost every shampoo, soap, or body wash. They also lurk about in products such as body lotions.  This ingredient is a common cause of many skin irritations and it has also been known to cause liver issues.

Fragrance: When a product lists fragrance (or perfume or parfum) as an ingredient, this means it can be made up of any form of over 2,000 chemicals. Many fragrances contain phthalates, toluene, or petrol by products. Unless it’s a fragrance from natural ingredients (e.g. essential oils), I stay clear of it.

Phenoexyethanol: This is another ingredient that’s in almost everything, including many products that claim to be “natural”. It’s used as a preservative and to stop bacteria growth in products. I found this chemical in probably about 80% of the makeup that I tossed out.  This chemical is a known skin irritant and can affect the central nervous system.

FD&C Colours: These are used in many cosmetic products and are synthetic colours. They are know carcinogens so I’m staying clear of them.

There are a few other ingredients I’m trying to avoid that I haven’t listed here, but these are the main ones that are best to try and skip. I’ve become very careful about what I purchase and I now always check the ingredients list. If I’m buying new products, I’ll have a look at the ingredients list, and if there’s anything that looks suspicious or isn’t natural, then I’ll either avoid it or look it up to see how safe it is. Many of the brands I’m now buying from are deemed to be safe and I feel like I can trust that brand. There really are so many fantastic natural and organic brands out there, and it’s so fun exploring them all and trying new products. I really don’t miss any of my old brands I used to use, and it’s so refreshing to see so many safer brands available. I hope this list will be of use to you too, if you are trying to opt for more natural alternatives.


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  1. Lena

    October 2, 2016 at 6:36 pm

    Mineral oil, as processed and used in skincare, is not actually a carcinogen – research has been done by the World Health Organisation that shows that it’s perfectly safe. It also physically cannot clog pores as the size of the molecules are too large. I’ve done a lot of research into this topic, and have a blog post with links to scientific studies that explain it.

    1. lillymint

      October 3, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      Hi Lena. Like everything there are studies have been done that swing both ways. I’ve done a lot of research on this too and have read quite a few studies that have proven that mineral oil does have a negative effect on the body and it can cause skin issues. Many people have found that simply removing this ingredient from their daily routines has helped to reduce acne and clear up the skin. Mineral oil is really a redundant ingredient, it offers little benefit, yet there are so many natural replacements that can actually have a positive impact on the skin so why not use these instead. Personally, I don’t want to use mineral oil on my skin due to the health concerns, and I wouldn’t recommend products containing it to my friends or my readers, but of course it is up to you.

      1. Imogen

        October 10, 2016 at 1:55 pm

        Scientist (with a PhD) here. Lena is correct and her post is excellent and has sources which back up her statements. I suggest you add some sources for your claims other than those of ‘many people’.

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