Have you looked at the ingredients in beauty products and realize you have no clue what they are? This can make it hard to choose safe items and feel confident in your products. Cosmetics were first regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1938 and little has changed since. These items don’t need approval before hitting the market and the FDA doesn’t have the authority to recall faulty products. Thankfully, organizations like Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are working towards transparency and tighter regulations. Other groups such as the Environmental Working Group feature lists of verified non-toxic products to better help consumers find safe alternatives.


beauty products

Photo by rawpixel from Unsplash

Ingredients to avoid in beauty products

Be sure to check these types of beauty products, which often contain well-known potential toxins. Scan specific products using the Think Dirty app, which gives a toxicity score, and details on the safety of each ingredient.  

Shampoos and liquid soaps

  • Avoid products with Sodium laureth sulfate or PEG compounds on the labels. These ingredients react during the production process and potentially create 1,4- dioxane. This is a known animal carcinogen and has potential to harm humans as well.

Nail products


  • Aerosol sunscreen contains nanoparticles which act as UV filters. These can be harmful when inhaled and remain in the body long after exposure. Avoid products with micronized titanium dioxide or zinc oxide which can easily enter the lungs when in aerosol form.
  • Avoid products with homosalates or homomenthyl salicylate in the ingredients. These are potential endocrine disruptors; they may affect hormones.
  • Avoid products with octinoxate, OMC or parasols as these are known endocrine disruptors.
  • See our reef-safe sunscreen guide for more info.

Eyelash glue, hair gel, and body soap

  • These products often use formaldehyde releasing preservatives to prevent microbes. These preservatives can go by many names including Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and polyoxymethylene urea

Conditioners, lotions, and facial cleansers

beauty products

Photo by Raphael from Unsplash

Beauty products we love

Follian is a great brand and retailer that is dedicated to providing safe and effective beauty products. Their website contains a list of harmful ingredients they avoid. They are incredibly transparent with their customers about their products. They recently opened their first Seattle store in University Village which also provides makeup appointments and skin consultations. Plus, if you’re interested in going package-free, they even have a refill program for liquid soaps.

Header photo provided by Kevin from Unsplash