Top 5 Ingredients I avoid in my makeup & skincare products

Beautycounter, Cosmetics

Like many people, I do my best to take care of my health.

I think about eating more veggies, avoiding the Dirty Dozen, buying organic when I can (shout out to Aldi!), and I know I should be exercising regularly. I’ve learned about safer cleaning products and started making changes to what chemicals I bring into our house. I check the labels on Adeline’s toys before I buy them (or open them if they were given to us as gifts) to make sure they are BPA free.

There are so many ways we can take charge of what we put into our bodies. But I never even considered what was in the very products I rub on my skin every day: body lotion, foundation, face wash, shampoo, deodorant, etc.

And because skin is my largest organ, I want to know that what I allow my skin to absorb is safe for me, my husband and my baby girl.

That’s why I’ve become obsessed with learning about the ingredients in my personal care products and finding safer alternatives from my old, often cheaper, supplies.

 Safer Cosmetics, Top 5 Ingredients to Avoid in Makeup

Here are the top 5 ingredients I avoid in all personal care products:

1. Synthetic Fragrance, Flavor or Parfum

Fragrance is an engineered scent that may contain any combination of 3,000+ stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens. In other words, it’s a blanket term for a lot of things we probably wouldn’t want our body absorbing, if we knew what they actually were. Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets, and therefore can remain undisclosed.

Fragrance is found in all types of cosmetics and personal care products, so my best suggestion is to avoid it!

*This doesn’t mean your products need to be unscented! You want to avoid synthetic fragrance, but many safer alternatives have great smells because they have essential oils in them that smell lovely! Check your ingredient labels and avoid fragrance/parfum when you can.

2. Parabens and Phthalates

These are buzz words in health circles lately – but do you know why you want to avoid them??

Parabens and phthalates are endocrine (hormone) disruptors. This means they enter your body and pretend like they are hormones: that’s how your body registers them, but they don’t actually perform the  function of hormones, which messes up your hormone balances.

Parabens are a class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and are often found in shampoo, body wash and lotion, foundation, and face cleanser. They mimic estrogen and disrupt your hormone signaling. Look for parabens in any part of the words on your ingredient lists. They may have methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- or other prefixes.

Phthalates are a class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to your skin. These may look like DBP, DEHP, or DEP in ingredient lists and have been linked to reproductive abnormalities in baby boys and early puberty in girls. Phthalates are often used in nail polish, hair spray, plastic materials, and that mystery word on our labels, synthetic “fragrance.”

3. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that has been linked to asthma, neurotoxicity and developmental toxicity. Your ingredient label may not outright say “formaldehyde,” so look for the following ingredients that react with water to release formaldehyde: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), and more. These are often found in shampoo, body wash and bubble bath.

4. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG compounds)

These are usually easy to spot with the abbreviation PEG on your ingredient labels, but are safest to avoid because they can be contaminated with measurable amounts of  1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide, which are both known carcinogens. PEGs are often found in shampoos, face cleansers, creams, cosmetics and sunscreen because they are often used as thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisture-carriers.

5. Retinyl Palmitate and Retinol (Vitamin A)

Vitamin A on its own is an essential nutrient for you, but it’s not great when applied topically to your skin! These compounds increase skin sensitivity when applied to sun-exposed skin: the sunlight breaks down the Vitamin A to produce toxic free radicals that damage DNA and speed the growth of skin tumors. These are often found in sunscreens, anti-aging skincare and makeup.


This is NOT an exhaustive list of ingredients to avoid, but these are some of the easiest for me to spot thanks to their commonly used abbreviations or my ability to pronounce them. 😉  And as I’m learning more about ingredient safety, these are some of the first ingredients I could actually remember the WHY behind as I saw them on labels.

If you’d like more ingredients to watch out for, check out Beautycounter’s Never List: the 1,500 ingredients they will never put in their products. The link above lists the products you’re likely to find in other products sold today and why you should avoid them.

Another great tool to find out how the products you currently use rate on safety and toxicity is the Environmental Working Group’s website, Skin Deep. They’ve compiled an amazing database that rates products on a scale of 1-10, looking at cancer concern, developmental concern and allergy concerns. They have an app version, too, called Healthy Living, but like many apps, the website is a more complete database. If the products you use don’t pull up, you can search by each individual ingredient on the label.

Safer Baby Products, Beautycounter

Want to talk more about product safety? I’d love to answer any questions you have or tell you more about why I love Beautycounter‘s safer, high-performing products for myself and my family!

Check out more about my journey to safer products here.

Sources: Never List, EWG

What’s all this talk about “safer beauty”??

Beautycounter Safer Skincare and Makeup

Y’all, I’ve got to be honest with you: I have a new obsession. It’s called #switchtosafer.

After I had Adeline, I became hyper sensitive about what was inside the products I put on her skin. I think it was the realization that she was so pure. As a freshly born babe, her skin hadn’t even seen direct sunlight! So it certainly hadn’t directly absorbed any chemicals from lotion, shampoo, sunscreen, body wash, etc… and that realization made me think twice about every single thing I rubbed on her skin.

Then I wondered, what am I putting on my skin that rubs against her skin? And don’t even get me started on what did I use while I was pregnant that also affected her?! That’s a hole we just don’t want to go down.

To me, Adeline was a “new beginning,” and I wanted to make sure everything that touched her skin was the least harmful product possible. I wanted to make sure it was as safe for her as possible.

Enter my discovery of the #switchtosafer beauty movement.

Beautycounter Charcoal Bar and Mask Safer Beauty

Did you know that in the United States, there are almost no regulations on the beauty industry? The last federal law passed regulating the safety of the ingredients in personal care products was in 1938. NINETEEN THIRTY EIGHT, y’all. (source) Think about how much has changed since then. The beauty industry throws around all sorts of terms – natural, organic, blah blah blah – but in all reality, those words hold no weight. There’s nothing holding them accountable to what those words mean in the beauty industry because the FDA has no power to recall items or regulate how those terms are used. (source)

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has done a lot of work so that we can be more knowledgeable about what’s inside the products we use. They’ve created a website called Skin Deep where you can search all of the products you use – face wash, makeup, shampoo, etc. – and they rate them based on their hazard concern from 1 (low concern) to 10 (high concern). These ratings are based on the ingredients in each product and what information is (or isn’t) available about their safety in personal product usage. (You can read more on how ratings are picked here.)

The most awesome part is that they have an app for your phone (called Healthy Living), so you can scan your products from your house! I got to scanning everything in our bathroom cabinets and quickly freaked out.

My daily hair product: 6
Bodywash: 5
Shampoo: 5
Conditioner: 5
Facewash: 5
Makeup remover: 4
Face lotion: 3
Blush: 6
Mascara: 3
Deodorant: 4
Toothpaste: 3
Adeline’s Baby Lotion (and it was Burt’s Bees!): 5
Adeline’s Baby Body Wash & Shampoo (Aveeno!): 4

You may be thinking those are middle of the line products, but think about all of those “moderate concerns” for cancer or developmental toxicities added together. And THEN the fact that I use every single one of those products once or twice every single day. Yikes.

This GIANT realization and the beginning of my life-changing switch to safer beauty happened at the same time that I discovered Beautycounter.

From one drugstore beauty buyer to the next, I’m always skeptical of direct sales stuff – mostly because I’m cheap, but also because I’ve been disappointed a lot. I’ve been to many direct sales parties and, frankly, I’m just not interested.

But the thing that caught my attention about Beautycounter is that they are all-in on this movement for safer beauty products. They stand behind their mission for safer beauty with their “Never List” of 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals they do NOT use in any of their products. They also publicly advocate for stricter federal laws to regulate safety and transparency in this industry because they believe in getting safer products into the hands of everyone.

So, I went to a Beautycounter Social – partially because I wanted to support my friend, but also because this idea of safer beauty products sparked my interest.

And, y’all, I am so in.

I didn’t buy anything from the first social I attended, but I agreed to host my own because I wanted to reap the host benefits. I had sampled the charcoal bar and fell in love with it because my face immediately started to clear up. The idea of rubbing black soap on my face was a little freaky, but the stuff worked like a charm and it wasn’t made up of harmful chemicals!

Beautycounter Safer Beauty Products

At my social, I ordered the nourishing cream cleanser, nourishing cream exfoliator, charcoal bar, tint skin foundation, mattify finishing powder and baby oil (used as a makeup remover AND for my baby). I dove right in because I loved what I had used and I wanted to clear my cabinets of the junk that they held.

Can I tell you that I haven’t been disappointed?? Since I started using Beautycounter’s face cleansing products in July, I look forward to washing my face every night! I love the smell, I feel like I’m pampering myself, they do a great job of removing my makeup and I know what I’m using won’t harm me or my baby. The best part is that my skin has been changing!! I still have breakouts (because HORMONES, CAN I GET AN AMEN), but they are drastically fewer and they don’t last as long. My skin is noticeably softer and, for once in my makeup-wearing life, I’m not embarrassed to be found without makeup on – at home or out and about.

I wish there was a way to say that and NOT sound like an empty sales pitch because it’s truly not. I hemmed and hawed about whether or not to become a consultant with Beautycounter because of exactly what I said earlier – I’m not into the direct sales thing: I’m cheap and I’m generally not into fancy beauty products. But over the past several months, I haven’t shut up about it. I’m obsessed with sharing Beautycounter with my friends, but I’m also passionate about sharing my newfound knowledge about switching to safer products in general. Beautycounter isn’t the only company who makes products rated 1 on the EWG Skin Deep website – there are many others! But Beautycounter is committed to getting safer products into the hands of everyone, and I am, too. For your sake, my daughter’s sake, and my own sake!

I plan on sharing more about my journey with Beautycounter, the products I’ve changed out as I #switchtosafer and I’d LOVE to chat with you more about any of this if you’re interested! Email me (, comment below, or check out my “Why Safer Beauty” tab above to read more about my journey!

Tell me: what products do you use everyday that you want to #switchtosafer!?

*All photos in this post belong to Beautycounter.