6 ingredients to avoid in your natural beauty routine

ingredients to avoid

When’s the last time you studied an ingredients list?

If your answer revolves around preparing dinner, you’re probably in the majority. That’s because we care about what we put in our bodies; it should taste good and be healthy.

But what about what we put on our bodies?

sunday riley ingredients list

{Look for ingredients that you can actually recognize, pronounce, and, um, make you hungry, such as this showing from a Sunday Riley product.}

If you’re not hungry for ingredients commonly used in engine degreasers and other harsh detergents, remember to scan your beauty products for these common ingredients to avoid.

And, while I try not to get too preachy on the blog, this is just a great read for why I choose the products I choose — it’s not all perfect, but I at least try to avoid the following ingredients not only for health reasons, but for quality reasons.

I shouldn’t be paying top dollar for conventional, “high-end” products that use the same ingredients as engine degreaser!


Preservatives, particularly parabens, lengthen products’ lifespan and help kill bacteria.

Parabens, such as ethyl-, methyl-, butyl- and propylparabens, can cause skin irritation and are known hormone disruptors. This means that these ingredients can interfere with the natural cycles of the endocrine system, which regulate your body’s hormones.

In particular, parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen, a hormone that is linked to the development of breast cancer.

These are the easiest toxins to avoid. Many brands are now formulating paraben-free products, so be sure to scan the label to see if these have been excluded.

Propylene Glycol

Glycols find their way into beauty products, particularly moisturizers, because they can deeply penetrate the skin. Not shockingly, glycols are easily absorbed into the body, and overexposure can lead to kidney and liver damage.

More shocking, though, is the fact that propylene glycol is also used in products such as antifreeze, paint and floor wax — things you typically try not to get on your skin.

Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS)

Sodium laurel sulfate, or SLS, is responsible for those rich, foamy lathers we are so accustomed to in our shampoos, body washes and soaps.

SLS is also responsible for the heavy-duty cleaning power of engine degreasers, car wash soaps and garage floor cleaners.

Unless you’re constantly covered in engine grease and are made of steel, you probably don’t need to be exposed to SLS on a regular basis.

Sodium laurel sulfate has been shown to irritate skin and cause permanent eye damage in young animals. Studies have also indicated that SLS may weaken the immune system, especially within the skin, and can maintain residual levels in the heart, liver, lungs and brain.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

Similar to sodium lauryl sulfate above, sodium laureth sulfate can cause skin and eye irritation and may contain the carcinogen dioxane. This cheap ingredient is used for sudsing purposes — think shampoos and soaps — but do you really need the risk of all these irritants to “feel clean?”

No, you shouldn’t. Look for sulfate-free products to ensure you’re ridding your body of both SLS and SLES.


Phthalates are everywhere — in toys, food packaging, water hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hairspray and shampoo.

Wait, hairspray and shampoo? Really?

Phthalates are the source of all sorts of problems, and even the EPA, which is definitely not perfect, warns about the risk that phthalates pose to the body (and children’s bodies!) — so why are they still in our personal-care products?


As harmless as it may sound, “fragrance” is a catch-all term for a number of ingredients — often undesirable, unnatural chemicals — that cosmetics companies do not have to disclose due to an FDA loophole

The Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 requires companies to list ingredients in cosmetics, but explicitly exempts fragrance. This is because fragrance can be considered trade secrets, meaning companies don’t have to reveal the exact ingredients used.

However, research into fragrance reveals that toxins such as phthalates, which are linked to hormone disruption; allergens and sensitizers; neurotoxins; and synthetic musks make up the ingredients behind the simple word “fragrance.”

Fragrance is a tricky one. I’ve tested/used/loved several products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient, and it’s truly a judgment call you have to make when choosing healthier alternatives.

  • Does the brand use several other natural or organic ingredients?
  • Is fragrance the only red flag, or are there other toxic ingredients in its company?
  • Is fragrance listed higher up on the ingredients list (which means it is in a greater concentration), or is it near or at the bottom (meaning it is a lower concentration)?

What ingredients did I leave off the list? What ingredients do you try to avoid?

And, for the $64,000 question: Why do you buy “high-end” cosmetics and beauty products that contain these cheap ingredients? What’s keeping you from switching to naturals?


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