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The Clean Beauty Starter Guide Part 2: 4 Ingredients to Avoid in Your Products

by in Beauty & Makeup on 12th September, 2018

Last week, I discussed how today’s consumers are savvier than ever. We are no longer impressed with quick fixes, bright colours and are well aware that all that glistens, isn’t gold. Processed, fast foods have been replaced with clean eating. Cheap, sweatshop-made clothing with ethical and sustainable fashion. It was only a matter of time that the beauty industry caught up… Ladies, I present to you the clean, green & natural beauty movement. Highlighting the difference between clean, green, and natural beauty products. 

I’ve summarised four such ingredients that I avoid at all costs, they’re also a good starting point for the newly converted clean beauty enthusiast. It’s time to take notes, as today I share ingredients to avoid in your clean beauty endeavours. 

1) Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphate aka SLS/SLES

A common ingredient found in a plethora of products; shampoo, body wash, hand wash, bubble bath and even toothpaste! It’s basically a synthetic agent used to cut through oil and dirt when mixed with water and create ‘lather’. It is cheap as chips, hence its popularity with conventional brands and is so effective in eliminating grease and dirt that you’ll also find it in washing up liquid, floor cleaners and other household cleaning products.

Let me pose this question, would you want an ingredient that is found in industrial cleaning products to come into contact with your hair and skin? No, right?

SLS has been found to strip the hair and skin of its natural lubricating oils causing skin irritation and triggering allergies. Known to exacerbate conditions such as eczema and psoriasis as well as corroding hair follicles and impairing hair growth. Its one ingredient I avoid with a passion.

2) Mineral oil, paraffin, petroleum 

The above are all petrochemicals derived from crude oil and are found in a multitude of cosmetics; lip balm, baby oil, lipstick, concealers, petroleum jelly, foundation, the list is endless!

Using products containing the above often gives the misleading impression that your skin/hair is noticeably ‘moisturised’. In essence, petroleum derived ingredients create a waterproof barrier on the skin/hair giving a slick allusion, but they prevent the skin from breathing, slowing down the skin’s normal function and its ability to regenerate. It’s been linked to premature ageing as well as skin conditions such as contact dermatitis.

3) Parabens (Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben) 

Parabens are a preservative that are used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of bacteria and mould. I must stress the importance of effective and harmless preservatives in your personal care products. But why opt for something toxic when there are so many safer, naturally derived alternatives available? Studies have shown that some parabens mimic the activity of oestrogen in the body disrupting the function of the body’s endocrine glands. Some argue this plays a role in the development of breast cancer. Parabens have been known to cause skin irritation, rosacea and contact dermatitis and have also been found in breast tumours.

4) Synthetic Fragrance or Parfum

Synthetic fragrance is like opening a pandora’s box of health concerns. They can be found in any type of personal care product and are primarily used to the scent. The problem is that the listing of ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ in the ingredients list can sometime account for a multitude of other synthetic and toxic ingredients.  “In general, there are at least 3000 ingredients that could possibly be used to form a product’s scent” explains Dr Axe, a certified doctor of natural medicine. Brand’s don’t disclose the ingredients used to form a particular scent, often citing the reason as a ‘trade secret’. This only makes it difficult to determine exactly what you’re spraying or applying directly onto your skin, which in turn is being absorbed into your bloodstream.

It was reported in a study that 95% of ingredients used to create synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum and are not only toxic but have been proven to be carcinogenic. Side effects include dizziness, breathing difficulties, skin irritations and headaches.  An article in the Huffington Post highlighted the dangers of synthetic fragrance as containing toxins that are “capable of causing cancer, birth defects, nervous-system disorders and allergies…” Enough said.

Kirsten Arnett, a celebrity makeup artist and green beauty advocate recommends that you scan the top and bottom of the ingredients list of your favourite products and has even created a downloadable toss the toxins toolkit to help guide you through the process and avoid potentially harmful chemicals. She suggests that by scanning the top of ingredients lists (the largest percentage of the overall formula) and the bottom (where you’ll find toxic ingredients like fragrance and parabens in smaller quantities) is a good starting point.



Mother of three, Rabia lives in a village in SW Hertfordshire. She has a degree in Management Science and returned to ‘work’ (in the formal sense!) four years ago. She is a co-founder of soapNskin, a multi-award winning clean beauty brand. Weekends and evening are spent juggling her Arabic Fus’ha and Tajweed lessons with family affairs. Coffee and Gluten free desserts are a major weakness!