Ingredients We Avoid

There are a lot of buzz words that create fear among consumers in the beauty industry, usually surrounding ‘dirty’ ingredients that brands don’t use because of fear that they cause cancer, or the idea that is always better to use natural ingredients over synthetic.

While we strive to use natural ingredients as much as possible, we certainly use synthetic ingredients as well. Sometimes because they work better in the formulation, other times because there is no difference in effectiveness or safety, but the synthetic ingredient allows us to keep the cost of the final product lower and in line with our mission to be affordable to as many people as possible.

We never use ingredients deemed unsafe. However, it is equally important to note that even among ingredients labeled as ‘dirty’ by brands that market themselves as ‘clean’ (for which there is no designated authority or standard), the studies that lead to this labeling are still often inconclusive and incomplete, and many scientists note that the level of which these ingredients are used in beauty products is not at a high enough level to cause the harm attributed to it by these studies.

That being said, there are several types of ingredients we don’t currently use (though we may evolve this list as new research comes out), and as part of our mission to educate and be transparent with our customers, here’s why.

Parabens: Parabens, including methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, and isobutylparabens are preservatives that help keep bacteria at bay and prolong the lifespan of products, both of which are important functions for cosmetics. In 2004, one study showed that parabens have been found in breast tumors, while another study in 2015 found that parabens may be more dangerous at lower doses than previously thought. At the same time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) call these studies inconclusive and say there is still not scientific evidence showing a direct link between parabens and cancer. However, since in addition, parabens are also potential endocrine disruptors, meaning it may inhibit the normal function of the hormone system, including reproduction, we have decided to not use parabens as our preservative of choice as there are other options available. Parabens also have an environmental impact, as it now been discovered that parabens have been found in marine mammals after being washed off humans and into the sewage system. There is not enough research to understand the harm this will cause animals, but we know it isn’t in line with our cruelty-free mission.

Talc: A naturally occurring mineral that has been often used in powders, eyeshadow, lipstick, foundation and lotions to absorb moisture and create a matte finish, talc is another ingredient that research has suggested could be harmful, to women especially, over time. While talc is not a known carcinogen according to the ACS, talc has also been at the center of several lawsuits claiming the talc in one brand’s talcum powder was the cause of ovarian cancer after decades of the powder coming into direct contact with women’s genital areas. According to the ACS, "For any individual woman, if there is an increased risk, the overall increase is likely to be very small. Still, talc is widely used in many products, so it is important to determine if the increased risk is real. Research in this area still continues." Due to the alarming nature of the lawsuits (even though our products are for the face), and the ongoing studies, we choose to not use talc as part of our ‘better safe than sorry’ approach.

PEGs: PEG (polyethylene glycol), is a mixture of the compounds polyethylene (the most common form of plastic) and glycol. Combined it becomes a thick, sticky liquid that serves three main functions in cosmetics, as an emollient to soften the skin, as an emulsifier to aid water-based and oil-based ingredients in mixing properly, and lastly and often most desired, to deliver other ingredients deeper into the skin. The plural PEGs refers to the numbers that often follow this ingredient that indicate the molecular weight (and thus ability to penetrate the skin) of the PEG. Some of the fear surrounding PEGs involves the mistruth that it is found in anti-freeze (that is ethylene glycol), and that is it also found in oven cleaner. That is true, but like many other ingredients used in cosmetics, it comes down to amount and structure, both of which make this particular claim a non-issue as they are two different PEGs.

So then why don’t we use PEGs?

The International Journal of Toxicology by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) committee found impurities (some of which are linked to cancer) in several PEG compounds, including ethylene oxide, 1,4-dioxane, and heavy metals like lead, iron, cobalt, nickel, cadmium, and arsenic. Ethylene oxide (found in PEG-4, PEG-7, PEG4-dilaurate, and PEG 100) is highly toxic, including in small doses. Even though any reputable manufacturer makes  an effort to remove these impurities, it is something we prefer to stay away from at this point in time until research or advances tell us otherwise.

BHA/BHT: BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives in cosmetics and food. They are known to induce allergic reactions, which is worrisome when we also work to treat sensitive skin. BHA is listed as a possible human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Cancer, and both BHA and BHT are noted for potential threats to marine life by the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic and a United Nations Environment Program. Due to the unknowns, we choose to find alternative preservatives.

Synthetic fragrances: We have also chosen to forgo any synthetic fragrance as many people have sensitive noses or just dislike fragrance. We are more focused on the power of the product than the creation of a scent. Sometimes our products do retain the scent of one particularly strong ingredient, and sometimes our products have little to no scent. What we do promise though, is that every smell comes from a necessary ingredient in the product and we share each ingredient with you.