Top 10 Nasties

Know more, because it's on your skin.

1. PEGs, PPGs


These are humectants commonly used in beauty cosmetics and are a by-product of petroleum production. They are also known as ethoxylated chemicals. During the ethoxylation process unwanted impurities can form that may cause skin irritation.

What to look for on the label, and avoid:

PEG (polyethylene glycol), PPG (polypropylene glycol) PEG laurate, PEG-60 almond glycerides, Sodium laureth sulphate, Ceteth-5 steareth-21, Ceteareth-20, PEG-20 stearate, Oleth-10 phosphate, Octoxynol-9, Polysorbate 20 (& 40, 60, 80 etc), Emulsifying wax, PEG-8 stearate, Glycereth-26, PEG-40, Castor Oil.

2. Petrochemicals

Alkoxylated petrochemicals can form nitrosamine impurities, which are known carcinogens and may cause skin irritation.

What to look for on the label, and avoid:

MEA monoethanolamine (MEA), DEA diethanolamine (DEA), TEA triethanolamine (TEA), TEA-lauroyl, acetamide MEA, lactamide MEA, cocamide DEA, cocamine MEA.

3. Synthetic alcohols and related chemicals

Synthetic alcohols and other related chemicals are known to cause skin irritations and some have been shown to promote acne.

What to look for on the label, and avoid:

Isopropyl palmitate, octyl palmitate, butylene glycol and propylene glycol.

4. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Present as low level impurities in petroleum derived ingredients.

What to look for on the label, and avoid:

Petroleum jelly (Petrolatum) and paraffin.

5. Artificial fragrances

The descriptions ‘Fragrance’ or ‘Parfum’ in an ingredient list typically denotes up to 200 different chemicals, most or all of which are man-made. These chemicals are known to cause the majority of allergic reactions with cosmetics and skincare products.

6. Synthetic colours

In most cases artificial colours are synthetic and derived from coal tar. Coal tar is a mixture of various petroleum-derived chemicals. If not purified well, coal tar can contain traces of heavy metals known to be carcinogens. They may cause hypersensitivity & irritations or clog your pores, leading to breakouts.

What to look for on the label, and avoid:

Blue 1, Green 3, Red 27 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, CI (followed by a number).

7. Paraben-based preservatives

Parabens are synthetic chemicals used to inhibit microbial growth and to extend shelf life of products but are widely known to cause skin allergic reactions and rashes.

What to look for on the label, and avoid:

Ethyl paraben, methyl paraben, butyl paraben, propyl paraben.

8. Silicone oils

Silicone oils are synthetic emollients, which block pores, clog skin, and may cause allergies and skin irritations.

What to look for on the label, and avoid:

They can often be spotted by the suffix ‘thicone’. for example dimethicone and cyclomethicone.

9. Synthetic Preservatives

Commonly used preservatives after parabens and are identified to be a primary cause of skin irritation. They are toxic and can release formaldehyde at just over 10 degrees. Fornaldehyde is a toxic material.

What to look for on the label, and avoid:

Imidazolidinyl Urea and Diazolidinyl Urea, DMDM Hydrantoin, Methylchloroisothiazolinone.

10. Triethanolamine (TEA)

Often used in cosmetics to adjust the pH, and used with many fatty acids to convert acid to salt (stearate), which then becomes the base for a soap cleanser. Poor quality TEA can contain high levels of nitrosamines which are known sensitisers.

What to look for on the label, and avoid:

Triethanolamine, TEA Stearate, TEA

Top 10 nasties