What we eat effects our health. But many of us are not aware that what we put onto our skin also affects our long term well-being. Studies have should than our skin absorbs up to 60% of what is applied to its surface. Highly sensitive mucous membranes absorb eye makeup. While there is some controversy over the number of pounds of lipstick the average woman consumers in her lifetime, the fact is that lipstick, lip gloss and lip balms are consumed.

According to the Environmental Working Group, most of the over ten thousand ingredients used in personal care products on the market today have not been evaluated for safety. Even more disturbing, U.S. researchers have found that one in eight ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals (including carcinogens, pesticides and reproductive pollutants). Given that these ingredients are not just staying on our skin but entering into our blood stream, these startling facts and findings make one thing clear: being mindful of the ingredients in our makeup is a must.

Many of the harmful ingredients found in cosmetics are synthesized and do not exist in nature, or are petroleum-based, with many dangerous contaminants. By going natural, these toxic synthetic preservatives, dyes, fragrances, surfactants and more are avoided in favor of safer, natural alternatives.

This is not to say that with natural cosmetics you will no longer have breakouts and allergic reactions. Different natural ingredients may cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to specific irritants – for instance, those with gluten intolerance may react to products with wheat protein.

At True Natural, we take care to ensure the cosmetics (and all products we list) are truly natural and do not contain the toxic ingredients that are common in conventional makeup. All our cosmetics products are also gluten-free – suitable for those with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. And every product is listed with the complete ingredient listing so those with allergies can identify any products with ingredients they are sensitive to.

We encourage you to read the ingredient listings of our products and any product you purchase. This is the best way for you to ensure for yourself that the products you use are compatible with a healthy lifestyle.

Top 12 ingredients to Avoid & Why

Thankfully, a growing number of resources exist to help us avoid such terrible toxins. At the forefront: David Suzuki’s Dirty Dozen List, which outlines which ingredients to avoid and why.

Here’s a (somewhat) condensed version we’ve put together for your convenience:

Parabens:

methylparaben (EWG Hazard Score 4), butylparaben (EWG 7) and propylparaben (EWG 10)

The most common chemical of the bunch, parabens are used to kill bacteria in water-based products. Unlike parabens in foods, parabens in cosmetics are easily absorbed into the body, entering the bloodstream and organs intact. They are endocrine disrupters: have been found in biopsies from breast tumors (in amounts similar to those found in mainstream personal care products!) and can interfere with male reproduction. As a result of widespread publicity and consequent consumer backlash, they have been removed from a number of lines and/or products.

Dibutyl phthalate (EWG 10)

Used primarily in nail products, dibutyl phthalate (or DBP) is absorbed through the skin. It interferes with hormone function and can cause developmental defects, changes in the testes and prostate as well as reduced sperm counts. According to Health Canada, when products containing phthalates are sucked or chewed for prolonged periods, they can cause liver and kidney failure in small children. EU legislation prohibits the use of DBP in cosmetics. Its use in cosmetics remains unrestricted in cosmetics in the US (except the state of California) and Canada

Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives:

DMDM hydantoin (EWG 7), diazolidinyl urea (EWG 6), imidazolidinyl urea (EWG 6), methenamine (EWG 7-9), quaternium-15 (EWG 8) and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (EWG 6)

Formaldehyde (EWG 10) -releasing preservatives (FRPs) are used by mainstream brands because they offer an inexpensive way to inhibit the growth of microorganisms. They are known to irritate skin and eyes and trigger allergies. While banned in a number of countries (because of their potential carcinogenic nature), these preservatives are legal in Canada – albeit in restricted concentrations. In the EU, they are also restricted and labeling is required for products that contain these ingredients. FRPs are completed banned from cosmetics and toiletries in Japan and Sweden but there are no restrictions in the US.

Triclosan (EWG Score: 7)

Triclosan is a concerning antibacterial agent that the Canadian Medical Association has called for a ban on. It accumulates in the body and has been found in breast milk and the umbilical cord blood of infants. It is also an endocrine (hormone) disruptor, impacts thyroid function and could likely contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria (a.k.a. "superbugs”). Its use is restricted in cosmetics in Canada and Japan but not in the US.

BHA & BHT

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) (EWG 5-7) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) (EWG 6) are petroleum derivatives used to preserve the shelf like of products like lipsticks and moisturizers. BHA induces allergic reactions and has a high potential for bioaccumulation (the accumulation of a substance in various tissues of living organisms) and interferes with hormone function. BHT can act as a tumor promoter. Long-term exposure causes liver, thyroid and kidney problems in mice and rats. Evidence suggests it has can mimic estrogen and cause reproductive problems. Although banned in many countries (including Australia, England and Sweden), its use in cosmetics is unrestricted in Canada and US.

Coal Tar Dyes

Derived from petroleum, coal tar dyes can cause skin reactions, have been thought to increase hyperactivity, ADHD and learning difficulties in children and may be related to lung and skin cancers. Additionally, they can contain heavy metals and aluminum substrate, which can be toxic to the brain. While the use of many coal tar dyes are forbidden in Canada, some not approved as food additives are allowed in cosmetics, even those that may be ingested, like lipstick. P-phenylenediamine (EWG 7) is one such dye that is widely used in hair coloring and determined safe for use in cosmetics in the US.

DEA, cocamide DEA & lauramide DEA

DEA (diethanolamine – EWG 10) and DEA compounds are often used to make products smooth or sudsy, or as a pH adjuster to counteract the acidity of other ingredients. In laboratory experiments, exposure to high doses of DEA-related ingredients has been linked to liver cancers and pre-cancerous changes in skin and thyroid. Furthermore, they can also react with nitrites to form nitrosamines, which are a possible human carcinogen. Surprisingly, then, the use of DEA-related ingredients is unrestricted in cosmetics in Canada and US.

Parfum (fragrance)

“Parfum” is an umbrella term that signifies an unknown mixture of some 3,000 chemicals. Cosmetics manufacturers in Canada, US and many other countries, are not required to list their particular fragrance recipe in order to protect their proprietary formulas from those wanting to copy the scent. However, due to the non-disclosure, toxic chemicals can be included in the recipe that can cause migraines, allergies and asthma and in laboratory experiments, have been associated with several unfavorable health complications including cancer and neurotoxicity. That said, some “Parfums” can be 100% natural, essential oil based and free from toxins and allergens. The EU allows the term “Parfum” to be used, but any allergens in the product formulation, including the fragrance, must be listed. In the US and Canada, “Parfum” is allowed, and allergen listing is not required. The EWG classifies all “Parfum” as Hazard 8, irregardless of whether the scent is naturally sourced or synthetic.

Petrolatum

Petrolatum (or mineral oil jelly) (EWG 4) is a petroleum product often used in moisturizing products because it is cheap, abundant and effectively seals off the skin from water and air. Petrolatum can cause allergies and skin irritation. It can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – which can cause cancer. It is restricted in Europe and currently under assessment by the Canadian government (but not restricted at this time). It is not restricted in the US.

Siloxanes:

cyclotetrasiloxane (EWG 5), cyclopentasiloxane (EWG 3), cyclohexasiloxane (EWG 2) and cyclomethicone (EWG 2)

Siloxanes are silicone-based combinations used in cosmetics to smooth, soften and moisten. Exposure to high doses of cylcopentasiloxane (also known as D5) has been shown to cause uterine tumors, harm the immune and reproductive systems and negatively influence the nervous system. Cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) has been labeled an endocrine disrupter in Europe. In the US and Canada, these ingredients are not currently restricted.

Sodium laureth sulfate

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES - EWG 3) is used as a cleansing agent or to create a lather/foam. It is extremely drying, leaves skin void of a natural barrier against environmental pollutants and can also irritate the eyes and the respiratory tract. Also, it can be contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane (EWG 8), but consumers would have no way of knowing. Currently, there are no restrictions on the use of this ingredient in cosmetics in Canada. It is allowed, with concentration limits, in the US.

Polyethylene glycols (PEGs)

PEGs (EWG 3) are petroleum-based compounds that moisturize, keep products stable and enhance the penetration of other ingredients. They can contain the carcinogenic contaminants 1,4-dioxane and be toxic when applied to broken or damaged skin. Nonetheless, there are no restrictions on its use in cosmetics in US or Canada.