To celebrate Organic September and in support of the Soil Association’s #CAMPAIGN4CLARITY, today’s post is the second of a two-part series on WHY you should switch to organic beauty and skin care.

In this post we will be highlighting a list of ingredients in your beauty and skin care products, and their harmful effects on your overall health and well-being.

With so many natural and organic beauty brands available to choose from, it can get overwhelming for many who are new to natural or organic beauty and skin care. With the big and ever-growing ingredients’ list, newcomers to this industry find it hard to get their heads around all the information floating around them.

While the ingredient list can get never-ending, to make it easy, especially for those new to natural and organic products, we’ve narrowed down the list and have highlighted the ingredients you should watch out for and do your best to avoid.


Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLES)

These are most commonly used as a foaming agent in your everyday beauty products like moisturisers, skin cleansers, body wash, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste and mascara, to name a few. SLS and SLES are esters of Sulphuric acid. SLES may be a little less irritating than SLS, but because it cannot be metabolised by the liver, it’s effects last longer. SLES in some circumstances can become contaminated with Dioxane, a suspected carcinogen.

SLS is absorbed into the body via the skin, and once absorbed, it starts to mimic the activity of the hormone Oestrogen, leading to a variety of health problems. Some of them include, hormonal imbalances, PMS, menopausal symptoms, and an increase in the risk of breast cancers.



Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in beauty and skin care products because of their ability to stop bacteria, fungus and other microbes from growing in your lotions and potions. Certain parabens are found to mimic the hormone oestrogen. However, research is still being conducted to link parabens to breast cancer.

There are different kinds of parabens and you won’t find them all listed in a single product.

Some of the names to look out for are:

  • methylparaben
  • ethylparaben
  • butylparaben
  • propylparaben
  • isobutylparaben

Most natural and organic brands now substitute the above with organic acids instead. These include diazolidinyl urea, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate.


DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine) and TEA (Triethanolamine)

Ethanolamines are ammonia compounds used as emulsifiers and foaming agents in cosmetics. These are hormone disrupting chemicals, which are known to form nitrates and nitrosamines, most times in conjunction with other chemicals present in the product.

Related chemicals to look out for in your ingredient list:

  • Cocamide DEA
  • Cocamide MEA
  • DEA-Cetyl Phosphate
  • DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate
  • Lauramide DEA
  • Linoleamide DEA
  • Myristamide DEA
  • Oleamide DEA
  • Stearmide DEA
  • TEA-Lauryl Sulfate
  • Triethanolamine

These chemicals are found mainly in foaming products such as face cleansers, body washes, soaps and shampoos. You will also find that these chemicals are also used in beauty products such as eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, blush, foundations, fragrances, hair care products, hair dyes, shaving products, and sunscreens.

Repeated and prolonged use of products containing these chemicals increases the risk for cancer.


Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol is a synthetic liquid substance that absorbs water. It is an alcohol produced by fermentation of carbohydrates and yeast – a form of mineral oil. Propylene Glycol not only is designated as a carbohydrate in foods, but it is also an active ingredient in products like anti-freeze, engine coolants, enamels, paints and varnishes; and as a surfactant or solvent in others.

Even though studies have shown no link to cancer, frequent exposure to Propylene Glycol can lead to allergic reactions in people suffering from eczema and other skin allergies. Since propylene glycol breaks down very quickly in the body, it is very difficult to test for exposure to this chemical.


Synthetic Fragrances and Phthalates

Most of the synthetic fragrances available today are by-products of petroleum. The petrochemicals used in these fragrances are derived from petroleum and natural gas. However, as there is no requirement to give a breakdown of the chemicals used, the magic ingredient to look out for is “fragrance”.

Some of the commonly used petrochemicals include:

  • benzene
  • toulene
  • xylene
  • methanol

Petrochemicals, like many other ingredients in synthetic fragrances, build up in the body over time. Petroleum by-products are commonly used in detergents, soaps, pesticides, plastics, and much more. Repeated exposure to petrochemicals or petroleum by-products has been linked to endocrine disruption and several types of cancer.

The chemicals that are found to belong to the phthalate family too are commonly found in synthetic fragrances.

Some of these chemicals include:

  • Di-ethyl phthalate (DEP)
  • Di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP)
  • Benzyl butyl phthalate

Phthalates are very often used in scented body lotions and perfumes. These chemicals are both absorbed through the skin, as well as inhaled. These chemicals end up entering the blood stream and are absorbed into our body via the lungs. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and suspected carcinogens and increase the risk of birth-defects, nervous system disorders and allergies.


We do hope that reading the harmful effects of these ingredients will help you make an informed decision and switch to natural and organic products. We advise that you always read the labels before buying any product. Even if a product claims to be natural or organic, it is always best to know what ingredients have been used, as not all organic products are free from the above ingredients.

Please share this post and spread the word so that we can all be aware of how green washing can affect us. The more people that make a small change, the better it will be for your health, well-being and the environment. Feel free to share with us the little change you’ve made to switch to organic and natural beauty and skincare.



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