Ingredients to Avoid

Navigating the personal care aisles can be quite challenging. Misleading marketing terms have created alot of confusion in the personal care aisles, and the only way to know if your product is truly a green one is to read the label. Here's a list of ingredients to avoid:


Aluminum compounds

Common in antiperspirants, causes skin irritation and possible link to breast cancer and neurotoxicity (including Alzheimer’s disease). Banned in EU.
Found in: Deodorant, Antiperspirant.
How to spot it: Aluminum Chloride, Aluminum Chlorohydrate, Aluminum Hydroxybromide, Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex

DEA / Diethanolamine

Not harmful on its own, but over time reacts with other ingredients in cosmetic formulations and forms nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), a powerful carcinogen that is absorbed through the skin. Linked to stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers. Banned in the UK.
Found in: moisturizer, sunscreen, hair color.
How to spot it: Diethanolamine, also listed as DEA, cocamide DEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, lauramide DEA, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA


An anti-microbial preservative and probable carcinogen. Forms nitrosamines when combined with Ethanolamine, also known as MEA/DEA/TEA. Banned in the EU.
Found in: Nail products, hair dye & straighteners, fake eyelash adhesives, shampoos. Banned in the EU.
How to spot it: Formaldehyde, Quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea and Imidazolidinyl Urea, DEA, MEA, TEA


A catchall name a wide spectrum of up to 4000 chemicals associated with allergies, dermatitis and respiratory complications. Clinical observations show fragrance can affect the central nervous system, causing behavorial changes, irritability, depression and hyperactivity, Banned in the EU.
Found in: Nail products, hair dye & straighteners, fake eyelash adhesives, shampoos.
How to spot it: Fragrance, Parfum.


A skin lightener that can be toxic to the immune and respiratory systems, a possible carcinogen and endocrine disruption. Restricted in Canada
Found in: Skin lighteners and anti-aging creams, sunscreen
How to spot it: Hydroquinone

MEA / Monoethanolamine

A surfactant and emulsifier. Inhalation may cause asthma attacks or damage the respiratory tract or lungs, a potential neurotoxin. Repeated exposure can damage the liver and kidneys
Found in: Personal care products, especially hair color, household cleaning products.
How to spot it: Monoethanolamine, also listed as MEA, Ethanolamine; Ethanol, 2-amino-; 2-Aminoethanol; 2-Hydroxyethanamine.

Mineral oil

Derived from crude oil, coats the skin clogging the pores and interferes with skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. Contributes to acne and other disorders. A study from UCLA links high levels of exposure to mortality, lung cancer and melanoma.
Found in: Baby oil & lotion, diaper rash creams, lipstick.
How to spot it: Mineral Oil, Mineral Jelly, Petrolatum, Petroleum Wax, Petroleum Jelly.


A catchall name for a wide array of preservatives and anti-bacterial agents. May interfere with hormone levels, fertility complications as well as developmental complications of a fetus or young child . Possible increased risk for certain cancers. Studies have found parabens in breast tumor tissue. Restricted in EU.
Found in: Personal care products, hair products, cosmetics & skincare.
How to spot it: Look for ingredients ending in “-paraben” or “-ester”, can also be listed as Benzoic Acid, Fragrance, Potassium Salt, Methyl, Propyl, Buthyl, Ethyl.


A family of chemicals called plasticizers used as preservatives and binders that are linked to endocrine disruption, liver/kidney/lung damage, cancer.
Found in: Shampoo & hair spray, bubble bath, soap, nail products.
How to spot it: BBP, DEHP, Dibutyl, Diethylhexyl, Fragrance.

Polyethylene glycol (PEG)

An emulsifier and emollient used in many products, often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide, both known carcinogens.
Found in: Personal care, skincare, cosmetics, hair care products.
How to spot it: Polyethylene Glycol, PEG, 1,4-dioxane, Polyethylene.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

Detergent, foaming agent and surfectant, pose serious health threats. Can be rapidly absorbed into the brain, heart, liver, and eyes. Associated with cataracts in adults and inhibits proper eye development in children.
Found in: Commonly used in skincare, cosmetics and hair products.
How to spot it: Sodium Lauryl, Laureth Sulfate, SLS, SLES.

Synthetic / FD&C colors

Derived from petroleum or coal tar sources and containing heavy metal salts which deposit toxins into the skin and are toxic to the brain. A known carcinogen. Banned in the EU.
Found in: Cosmetics, hair dye, anti-lice and anti-dandruff shampoos.
How to spot it: P-Phenylenediamine, FD&C or D&C, can also be listed as a colour plus number, i.e. FD&C Red No. 6.

Sunscreen chemicals

Many of the chemicals found in sunscreens are endocrine disruptors and believed to be easily absorbed into the body. Can case cellular damage and cancer.
Found in: Sunscreen, cosmetics containing SPF.
How to spot it: Benzophenone, PABA, Avobenzone, Homosalate and Ethoxycinnmate.


Similar to asbestos in composition and may contain asbestiform fibers. The quantity of asbestiform fibers in cosmetic grade talc is unregulated so there’s no way of knowing if a product contains the fibers. Linked to ovarian cancer and respiratory problems.
Found in: Baby powder, eye shadow, blush and other powder based cosmetics, deodorant.
How to spot it: Talc, Magnesium Silicate, Talcum Powder.

TEA / Triethanolamine

An endocrine disruptor in animal studies, may trigger asthma, may cause allergic reaction including eye irritation, immune system toxicant. Possible carcinogen, forms carcinogenic nitrosamines when mixed with nitrosating agents.
Found in: Lotions, shaving cream, soap, shampoo, bath powder
How to spot: Triethanolamine, TEA


Derived from petroleum or coal tar sources, known to disrupt the immune and endocrine systems, and fetal development,
Found in: Nail polish & treatments, hair color, bleaching products.
How to spot: Toluene, Benzene, Toluol, Phenylmethane, Methylbenzene


An antimicrobial chemical. Studies show that the presence of triclosan contributes to making the bacteria antibiotic-resistant. A known endocrine disruptor – particularly thyroid and reproductive hormones.
Found in: Hand sanitizers, anti-bacterial soap, deodorant, toothpaste.
How to spot: Triclosan, Triclocarbon