Our dirty list

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Clean beauty

What is clean beauty anyway? To be quite frank, it’s open to interpretation. No-nasties, non-toxic, free from… there are many ways to describe. It’s not a regulated claim, which makes it quite foggy. We want to clear things up and provide you with our ever-evolving dirty list. This list includes all of the ingredients we avoid when we label a product as clean. Our clean products are produced without any proven or suspected toxic ingredients, that are in some way linked to harmful effects like skin irritation, hormone disruption or even cancer.

Synthetic Fragrance

Fragrances, both natural and synthetic, are labeled as fragrance, parfum, or perfume. Synthetic fragrance can be labelled as phthalates. Synthetic fragrance is used as a scent ingredient in many cosmetic products from skincare to perfume. Most synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum and include benzene derivatives, aldehydes, toluene, and many other known toxic chemicals linked to skin irritation, and even to causing cancer.


Parabens are used as a preservative and labeled as: methyl-, ethyl-, butyl-, propyl-, isobutyl-, or isopropylparaben. Parabens are used in many cosmetic products to stop the growth of fungus, bacteria and other potentially damaging microbes, in other words to extend a product’s shelf life. They are associated with hormone disruption, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity.


Petrolatum is an emoliant that’s labeled as Petroleum Jelly, Mineral Oil, Vaseline, paraffinum, paraffinum liquidum . It’s often used in hair products to add shine and in lip balms, lip sticks, and moisturizers as a moisture barrier. The concerns are unsustainable sourcing and possible PAHs contamination. PAH stands for Polyaromatic Hydrocarbon and may be associated with cancer.


These stands for Sodium Laureth Sulfate, but can also be labeled as Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). It’s a synthetic anti-oxydant, used as a cleansing or foaming agent. It is commonly used in soaps, shampoos, shower gels and toothpaste. It’s linked to having a drying effect and can therefore cause skin irritation. Also, it is associated with hormone disruption.


Although typically not listed as an ingredient, Formaldehyde releasers often are. Look for ingredients like Benzylhemiformal, bromopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, Glyoxal, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, Polyoxymethylene Urea, quaternium-15, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and Tosylamide. These preservatives are used to increase the shelf life of a variety of cosmetics. They work by continuously releasing small amounts of formaldehyde – a known human carcinogen.


This ingredient is used as an anti-bacterial and preservative and is found in many products like deodorants, cleansers, and soaps. The ingredient is said to possibly cause skin and eye irritation, and may be associated with hormone disruption.


Phthalates appear on labels as DBP (dibutyl phthalate), DEP/ DEHP (diethyl phthalate), BPA (Bisphenol), but most typically remain unlisted, hiding under the term fragrance. They are used in cosmetics to help ingredients penetrate the skin, extend fragrances’ shelf life and maintain flexibility in nail polishes. Some phthalates have been linked to hormone disruption, and to cause damage to the reproductive systems for both genders.


PEGs can be labelled as PEG, (Polyethylene) Glycol, Polyoxyethylene, or Ceteareth-20. PEGs are commonly used in skincare and haircolour products as thickeners, softeners, and solvents. They help enhance the absorption of ingredients into the skin, including the harmful ones.It has been found that PEGs can contain impurities, including ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. These are known carcinogens and respiratory irritants.


For years phenoxyethanol was viewed as a favourable and safe alternative to parabens, and used in many cosmetic products to prolong shelf life. However, it’s quite a controversial ingredient. Phenoxyethanol is seen as a potential skin irritant, nervous system suppressant, and has been linked to longer times to get pregnant.


Often labelled as ingredients ending in -siloxanes or =cone, -conol, or silanes. Silicones are used in many skincare and haircare products for its smoothing and water resistant properties. Silicones are difficult to remove, may clog pores and cause skin irritation. Besides, they do not biodegrade well (or at all).


Talc is used in a range of consumer products, including color cosmetics and powders. Talc can be contaminated with asbestos fibers, posing risks for respiratory toxicity and cancer. If one of our brands does use talk, we ask them to obtain documentation that the talc they are purchasing is free from any detectable amounts of asbestos.


There are natural, naturally-derived and synthetic colorants. For our clean make-up brands we do allow the use of colorants, as those products are meant to impart color. For our clean skin and bodycare products we don’t. Natural and naturally-derived colorants are from plants, minerals, or insects (carmine). Mineral colours are often viewed as more sustainable or healthier than synthetic colors, which are derived from petroleum. This isn’t necessarily the case. Mined minerals can be contaminated with heavy metals. Some minerals may be mined in unsustainable ways that harm the ecosystem and/or exploit people (including childlabour, a problem in India’s mica mines). Some natural pigments can fade faster and diffuse more quickly than their synthetic counterparts. That being said - petroleum is not a sustainable feedstock either. In this case, it’s difficult to define a right or wrong. We work together with brands that share our sustainability goals. Some are mega-dedicated to ‘natural’ and will only use mineral-based colorants. Others make a conscious choice to use synthetic colorants.

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