10 Ingredients to Avoid in Cosmetics

On the back of any beauty product you buy there is a list of ingredients that to the majority of people are either ignored or seen as a series of unknown, unpronounceable names.  However it is worth taking the time to recognise and remember some of these substances as they are really best avoided if at all possible.

The great website Organic Beauty Talk  lists 10 ingredients that you should make a note to be aware of in any beauty product that you buy/use from shampoo to lipbalm.

1)Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40): a very drying and irritating solvent and dehydrator that strips your skin’s moisture and natural immune barrier, making you more venerable to bacteria, molds and viruses. It is made from propylene, a petroleum derivative and is found in many skin and hair products, fragrance, antibacterial hand washes as well as shellac and antifreeze. It can act as a “carrier” accelerating the penetration of other harmful chemicals into your skin. It may promote brown spots and premature aging of skin. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients says it may cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting, narcosis, anesthesia, and coma. Fatal ingested dose is one ounce or less.

2)DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) & TEA  (triethanolamine): hormone-disrupting chemicals that can form cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines. These chemicals are already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects. In the United States however, they are still used despite the fact that Americans may be exposed to them 10-20 times per day with products such as shampoos, shaving creams and bubble baths. Dr. Samuel Epstein (Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Illinois) says that repeated skin applications…. of DEA-based detergents resulted in major increase in incidence of liver and kidney cancer. The FDA’s John Bailey says this is especially important since “the risk equation changes significantly for children”.

3)DMDM Hydantion & Urea (Imidazolidinyl): just two of many preservatives that often release formaldehyde which may cause joint pain, skin reactions, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness, and loss of sleep. Exposure may also irritate the respiratory system, trigger heart palpitations or asthma, and aggravate coughs and colds. Other possible side effects include weakening  the immune system and cancer.

4)FD&C Color Pigments: synthetic colors made from coal tar, containing heavy metal salts that deposit toxins into the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. Absorption of certain colors can cause depletion of oxygen in the body and death. Animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic.

5)Fragrances: mostly synthetic ingredients can indicate the presence of up to four thousand separate ingredients, many toxic or carcinogenic. Symptoms reported to the FDA include headaches, dizziness, allergic rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and skin irritation. Clinical observation proves fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes.
Alternative – Organic Essential Oils.

6)Mineral Oil: petroleum by-product that coats the skin like plastic, clogging the pores. Interferes with skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders. Slows down skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging. Used in many products such as baby oil which is 100% mineral oil!
Alternatives  – Moisture Magnets (Saccharide Isomerate) from beets; Ceramides, Jojoba and other vegetable oils, etc.

7)Polyethylene Glycol (PEG): potentially carcinogenic petroleum ingredient that can alter and reduce the skin’s natural moisture factor. This could increase the appearance of aging and leave you more vulnerable to bacteria. Used in cleansers to dissolve oil and grease. It adjusts the melting point and thickens products. Also used in caustic spray-on oven cleaners.

8)Propylene Glycol (PG) and Butylene Glycol: gaseous hydrocarbons which in a liquid state act as “surfactant” (wetting olagents and solvents). They easily penetrate the skin and can weaken protein and cellular structure. Commonly used to make extracts from herbs. PG is strong enough to remove barnacles from boats! The EPA considers PG so toxic that it requires workers to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles and to dispose of any PG solutions by burying them in the ground. Because PG penetrates the skin so quickly, the EPA warns against skin contact to prevent consequences such as brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities. But there isn’t even a warning label on products such as stick deodorants, where the concentration is greater than in most industrial applications.
Alternatives – water extracted herbs, Therapeutic Essential Oils, etc.

9)Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): detergents and surfactants that pose serious health threats. Used in car washes, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers – and in 90% of personal-care products that foam. Animals exposed to SLS experience eye damage, depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation, and even death. Young eyes may not develop properly if exposed to SLS because proteins are dissolved. SLS may also damage the skins immune system by causing layers to separate and inflame. When combined with other chemicals, SLS can be transformed into nitrosamines, a potent class of carcinogens. Your body may retain the SLS for up to five days, during which tie it may enter and maintain residual levels in the heart, liver, the lungs, and the brain.
Alternative – Ammonium Cocoyl Isethionate.

10)Triclosan: a synthetic “antibacterial” ingredient – with a chemical structure similar to Agent Orange! The EPA registers it as a pesticide, giving it high scores as a risk to both human health and the environment. It is classified as a chlorophenol, a class of chemicals suspected of causing cancer in humans. Its manufacturing process may produce dioxin, a powerful hormone-disrupting chemical with toxic effects measured in the parts per trillion; that is only one drop in 300 Olympic-size swimming pools! Hormone disruptors pose enormous long-term chronic health risks by interfering with the way hormones perform, such as changing genetic material, decreasing fertility and sexual function, and fostering birth defects. It can temporarily deactivate sensory nerve endings, so contact with it often causes little or no pain. Internally, it can lead to cold sweats, circulatory collapse, and convulsions. Stored in body fat, it can accumulate to toxic levels, damaging the liver, kidneys and lungs and can cause paralysis, suppression of immune function,brain hemorrhages, and heart problems. Tufts University School of Medicine says that triclosan is capable of forcing the emergence of “super bugs” that it cannot kill. Its widespread use in popular antibacterial cleaners, tooth pasts and household products may have nightmare implications for our future.
Alternative – Therapeutic Essential Oils.

Full article here.

Crème du Jour, anti-age, SO’BiO etic

There are tons of anti-ageing creams on the market, many with dubious ingredients in. The latest daycream I have bought to try is this pictured below by Lea Nature, a French company.


Their products under the brand name ‘SO’BiO etic‘ are certified by ‘Ecocert’ and do not contain any parabens, mineral oils, silicon or synthetic fragrance.


It contains organic argan oil and hyaluronic acid to help combat skin-ageing by maintaining the skin’s hydration levels in the epidermis.
The cream is medium consistency and has little smell. It glides on the skin well with good absorption. My mother is trying it and so I will update with the results of use over time.
The price is very reasonable, at under 15 euros (£12) let’s hope that it does the job!

Summer Sprays

I love my essential oils and marvel at the sometimes little-known power of them. With the heat of the summer approaching here in Madrid, the use of cooling sprays is a delight.citronella. Essential oils of citronella and lemongrass have been used for years to ward off insects, midges and mosquitos.  They also help to purify the air. For keeping midges at bay during the hot evenings I make a spray blend with citronella and lemongrass essential oils. BLueGlassSprayAroma You need:

  • an empty spray bottle, dark coloured glass is best, but plastic will do (150ml).
  • A little of the purest alcohol, vodka is fine, also vodka has no smell to interfere with the oils.

Method:  Add a small amount of vodka, about a tablespoon to the 150ml bottle, fill with water almost to the top, then add about 3-5 drops of each oil. Shake the bottle (lid on!) vigorously to disperse the oil in the water, the alcohol facilitates this. Et voila, your spray is ready!

I keep mine in a cool place and spray around my bedroom at night and on myself.  It does work and its all natural, no harsh chemicals in sight!  Just water, alcohol and plant oil!

I recommend the following sites to buy good quality essential oils.

Julia Lawless Essential Oils

Absolute Aromas gardenparty,social,landscape,wishes,garden,summerevening

French Pharmacies…

…are simply the best! I always visit one when I go to France.


This time I picked up a collection of treats from Caudalie, Avene, Sanoflore, Weleda, and the bonus is that they’re a bit cheaper than in the UK.  Weleda’s massage oil is just amazing and contains apricot kernal, wheatgerm and jojoba oils as well as essential oils, no parabens or mineral oils in sight thankfully. Its great to use post shower on damp skin, having dry brushed the skin first (always in an upwards direction towards the heart). The dry brushing stimulates the circulation and buffs off dry/old skin. I really recommend this to prepare ‘winter’ skin for summer outings!
Sanoflore’s pluie micellaire démaquillante or micellar cleansing droplets is a beautiful cleansing water that smells divine. It contains rose flower water and is so soothing on the skin, it has the ‘Ecocert’ accreditation, again ensuring no use of synthetic ingredients or parabens. Thumbs up!  Caudalie is an absolute favourite of mine and I always use the pulpe vitamine eye and lip cream, as recommended to me by a fellow makeup artist 7 years ago!  As a brand they don’t use parabens, mineral oils, synthetic perfumes or test on animals, though they are not certified organic.

Top makeup artist Lisa Eldridge did a post on her video blog a while back about her love for the French pharmacies too!  See her post here.


Happy, Healthy Nails


I am always trying to use products that are less laden with synthetic and potentially toxic subtances. Nail polish (or nail varnish) is really quite a toxic concoction of chemicals. The ingredients of these nail polishes have been linked to many health conditions and dis-eases within the body.
As with many things there is a safer option, unfortunately this is the option that is never the most advertised or widely available or on occasion the cheapest on the market.
But I am planning to do some testing of brands that sell themselves as ‘better’ and ‘less toxic’.  So for this spring and summer we can all have happy, shiny, colourful nails!
The first is pictured here – Kure Bazaar from France.  Their ingredients are 85% of natural origin, from such things as cotton, potatoes, wheat…


They have a great array of colours and are available to buy online and in stores across Europe and the US.  I am trying out a pale coral colour which went on nicely and has a good shine and texture. I want to try some of the other darker colours and will see how they last!