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Some things just should not be in our lives!
The long list of what we screen for evolves with Science & Information

Here’s a sample of Ingredients we keep out…

Quaternium-15

ANTIMICROBIAL
PRESERVATIVE

In Brief

Found in hair products, creams, lotions, shaving products, and eye contact solutions, and long-wear makeup, Quaternium-15 is a known skin toxicant, allergen and possible eye irritant.

Primary Concerns

Allergen

EWG Rating: 4-7

Regulatory Snippets

EU: Banned in cosmetics and personal care products since 2017.

US: Currently no regulations for use in cosmetics. California bill to ban Quaternium-15 effective in 2025.


Quaternium-15 is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative. Formaldehyde is often the source of skin irritation and allergic reactions. Evidence from animal and human studies suggests that quaternary ammonium compounds may contribute significantly to contact dermatitis.

A.K.A.

Benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, centrimonium bromide, polyquaternium – followed by a number (e.g. polyquaternium-7).

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)

PRESERVATIVE

In Brief

Methylisothiazolinone is a preservative very widely used in cosmetics, which has been associated with allergic reactions, while animal studies suggest that it may also be neurotoxic.

Primary Concerns

Allergen

EWG Rating: 4-7

Regulatory Snippets

EU: Banned from leave-on skin products; allowed in rinse-off products with maximum concentration of 15 parts per million (0.0015%)

US: No restrictions in cosmetics


MIT and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT) are two of the riskiest contact allergens found in cosmetic products. Clinical studies found that dermal irritation most commonly occurs in products with CMIT and MIT/CMIT mixtures but is not as common in products with only MIT.

A.K.A.

Methylisothiazolinone, MIT, MI, 2-methyl-4-isothiazoline-3-one, Neolone 950, OriStar MIT and Microcare MT.

Methylchloroisothiazolinone, CMIT, 5-Chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one; BRN 1210149;
EINECS 247-500-7; Kathon CG 5243.

Toluene

ANTIOXIDANT
SOLVENT

In Brief

Toluene is used in nail products and hair dyes.

A volatile solvent and paint thinner, it is a potent neurotoxicant and irritant, which may impair breathing and cause nausea.

Primary Concerns

Highly toxic irritant

EWG Rating: 10

Regulatory Snippets

EU: Restricted in cosmetics to a maximum concentration of 25%; found unsafe for use in cosmetics by the International Fragrance Association.

US: Not specifically restricted for cosmetics; the CIR opined in 1987 that “it was safe for use in nail products at concentrations up to 50 percent, the highest concentration observed in nail products.”


Exposure to toluene can result in temporary effects such as headaches, dizziness and cracked skin, as well as more serious effects such as reproductive damage and respiratory complications.

CA Proposition 65 lists toluene as a possible human developmental toxicant. Exposure to toluene vapors during pregnancy may harm the fetus.
Limit use of nail polish, especially by children. Pregnant women should apply and remove polish in a well-ventilated area.

P- , M-, and O-
Phenylenediamine

HAIR DYEING

In Brief

Consumers encounter p-phenylenediamine in “oxidative dyes”, permanent hair dyes which use oxidation to set color. Phenylenediamines are also found in henna tattoos and dark-colored cosmetics.

Primary Concerns

Allergen

EWG Rating: 4-8
P-Phenylenediamine: 7

Regulatory Snippets

EU: Prohibits some phenylenediamine compounds, sets maximum concentrations for others (1% to 3%), and requires warning labels.

US: California to ban M- Phenylenediamine & O-Phenylenediamine by 2025


Phenylenediamines, particularly P-phenylenediamine, carry a very high risk of skin sensitization and allergic reactions. As it is highly toxic when ingested, salon workers need to wear protective gear.

A.K.A.

p-phenylenediamine, para-phenylenediamine;
4-aminoaniline; 1,4-benzenediamine;
p-diaminobenzene; 1,4-diaminobenzene;
1,4-phenylene diamine.

Parabens

ANTIMICROBIAL
PRESERVATIVE

In Brief

Parabens are a group of chemicals widely used in personal care and food products to inhibit mold, microbe, and bacteria growth.

Primary Concerns

Endocrine Disruption, particularly in regard to “long-chain” parabens: butyl-, isobutyl-, isopropyl- and propyl-paraben.

EWG Rating: 9-10

Regulatory Snippets

EU: isopropyl-, isobutyl-, phenyl-, benzyl-, and pentylparaben are prohibited outright. Others are strictly regulated; additionally, propyl- and butyl-paraben are banned from infant products with high exposure risk.

US: Unrestricted at Federal level;
California bill to ban Isopropyl- and Isobutyl-paraben effective in 2025.


Parabens raise concerns both for their individual effects and due to their ubiquity and to the resulting high human exposure levels.

Parabens – particularly the five “long-chain” parabens prohibited by the EU – are endocrine disruptors which mimic the hormone estrogen. They can adversely affect reproductive functions and might alter gene functions, leading to higher cancer risks, particularly breast cancer. Further, skin may become sensitive to irritation from cumulative exposure to parabens.

Parabens-free personal care products have shorter shelf lives than conventional products. Vitamin E is a common substitute with antioxidant properties that delays rancidity but does not slow the growth of bacteria or fungi.

Ethanolamine Compounds

BUFFERING
EMULSIFIER
pH ADJUSTER

In Brief

Ethanolamines are widely present in consumer products. Cosmetics uses include soaps, shampoos, creams, eyeliners, make-up, and sunscreens, for instance. In particular, DEA acts as an emulsifier in shampoos, and TEA is used as fragrance, pH adjuster and emulsifying agent.

Primary Concerns

Cancer, Non-reproductive organ toxicity

EWG Rating: 5-6

Regulatory Snippets

EU: “Secondary alkanolamines”, such as diethanolamine (DEA), are prohibited from cosmetics due to concerns about formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. The EU placed concentration limits on numerous other ethanolamine compounds.

US: No restrictions. California bill to ban diethanolomine effective in 2025.


When used alongside preservatives that break down into nitrogen, ethanolamines can form nitrosamines, which are known possible carcinogens. In cosmetics formulations, DEA may morph into nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), a carcinogen absorbed through skin.

Read labels, and avoid DEA, TEA and MEA.

A.K.A.

Triethanolamine, diethanolamine, DEA, TEA, cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA, DEA-cetyl phosphate, DEA oleth-3 phosphate, lauramide DEA, linoleamide MEA, myristamide DEA, oleamide DEA, stearamide MEA, TEA-lauryl sulfate.

Hydroquinone

LIGHT STABILIZER
SKIN BLEACHING AGENT

In Brief

Hydroquinone is most commonly used in skin lighteners. It is also found in facial and skin cleansers, facial moisturizers, hair conditioners, and fingernail coating products.

Primary Concerns

Cancer, Non-reproductive organ toxicity

EWG Rating: 10

Regulatory Snippets

EU: Prohibited except for professional nail salon use in max. concentration of 0.2%.

US: The U.S. Cosmetics Ingredients Review Panel opined that hydroquinone is unsafe if left on skin, but hydroquinone is not prohibited.


Hydroquinone affects melanin pigments in the skin, increasing the skin’s exposure to UVA and UVB rays, increasing the risk of skin cancer. Hydroquinone may be harmful if inhaled, causing irritation of the nose, throat and upper respiratory tract.

A.K.A.

Tocopheryl acetate.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)

ANTIOXIDANT
FRAGRANCE

In Brief

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is used as a preservative in a variety of personal care products, as is butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).

Primary Concerns

Endocrine disruption, Non-reproductive organ toxicity

EWG Rating: 5-6

Regulatory Snippets

EU: The European Commission classified BHA as a known human toxicant on the EU Banned and Restricted Fragrances list.

US: Not restricted.


BHA (and to a lesser extent BHT) is linked to endocrine disruption, organ-system toxicity, and possible increases in cancer risks. However evidence from animal studies is not clear cut. California EPA’s Proposition 65 list identifies BHA as a possible human carcinogen.

Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP)

FRAGRANCE
PERFUMING
PLASTICISER
SOLVENT

In Brief

A plasticizer primarily used within cosmetics to keep nail polish pliable, and to reduce chipping.

Primary Concerns

Non-reproductive organ toxicity, Endocrine disruption

EWG Rating: 7-10

Regulatory Snippets

EU: Prohibited from cosmetics.

US: No phthalates have been deemed unsafe in cosmetics by the FDA.


DBP is associated with higher reproductive risks for men and male fetuses. The EU lists DBP as an endocrine-disrupting compound of high concern and banned its use in cosmetics and personal care products. There are no US Federal restrictions, but California has classified DBP as a reproductive and developmental toxicant. As a result, DBP presence in cosmetics has been much reduced including in the US. Our opinion is to avoid it.

Thimerosal

PRESERVATIVE

In Brief

Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative used in some cosmetics (and vaccines). Highly restricted from cosmetics, but can be found in mascara products.

Primary Concerns

Neurotoxicity, Non-reproductive organ toxicity

EWG Rating: 10

Regulatory Snippets

EU: Maximum concentration of 0.0070% in cosmetics.

US: Prohibited from cosmetics, except for eye cosmetics with a maximum concentration of 0.0065%.


Mercury compounds are readily absorbed through the skin and accumulate in the body. They may cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, or neurotoxic manifestations, and are particularly toxic to the brain during pregnancy and childhood. The FDA banned mercury compounds from cosmetics except those used around the eyes with strict limits. In 2007, Minnesota banned mercury from all cosmetics.

A.K.A.

Merthiolate, Sodium ethylmercurithiosalicylate, Mercurothiolate, Thiomersalate, Thiomersalan,
Mercurochrome, Ethyl (2-mercaptobenzoato-S) mercury sodium salt.

Octinoxate

LIGHT STABILIZER
UV ABSORBER
UV FILTER

In Brief

Octinoxate is a UV-B filter commonly found in conventional sunscreens. In products other than sunscreens, such as hair products, lipstick, nail polish, or skin creams, it is used as protection against degradation when exposed to the sun.

Primary Concerns

Endocrine Disruption, Environmental Damage

EWG Rating: 5

Regulatory Snippets

EU: Maximum concentration of 10% in cosmetics.

US: FDA recommends a maximum concentration of 7.5%.


Octinoxate is a potential endocrine disruptor that has been linked in animal studies to known risk factors for breast cancer. Concerns about Octinoxate further stem from its presence in human urine, blood and breast milk. Avoid products that contain octinoxate or octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC).

A.K.A.

Octyl Methoxycinnamate, Escalol, Ethylhexyl, Methoxycinnamate, Neo Heliopan, Parsol.

Resorcinol

ANTIOXIDANT
DENATURANT
HAIR DYEING
PERFUMING

In Brief

Commonly found in hair color and bleaching products.

Primary Concerns

Skin Allergen, Endocrine Disruption

EWG Rating: 6-7

Regulatory Snippets

EU: Maximum concentrations of 0.5% to 1.25% in shampoos, hair and eyelash dyes, and required warning labels as a severe allergen.

US: Unrestricted in cosmetics


Resorcinol is a skin irritant that is toxic to the immune system and a frequent cause of hair dye allergy. In higher doses it is toxic and can disrupt the function of the central nervous system and lead to respiratory problems. It has also been shown to disrupt the endocrine system, specifically thyroid function.

The US regulates exposures to resorcinol in some industries, but not in hair salons, and there are no regulations limiting amounts of resorcinol in personal care products.

Triclosan

ANTIMICROBIAL
DEODORANT
PRESERVATIVE

In Brief

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent and preservative used in personal care and home-cleaning products.

Primary Concerns

Endocrine Disruption, Environmental Harm

EWG Rating: 3-7

Regulatory Snippets

EU: Prohibited in cosmetics, except for toothpastes, soaps and shower gels, non-spray deodorants, some face and nail products, and mouthwashes.

US: Unrestricted in cosmetics, prohibited in antiseptic “wash” products and OTC “rub” products (e.g. antimicrobial gels).


Originally developed for the hospital market, Triclosan found a wide range of consumer applications from antibacterial soaps to cutting boards. But its ubiquity led to severe concerns regarding its cumulative effects on humans and the environment, including the possible emergence of resistant bacteria, and its use was strongly curtailed.

The FDA has stated that “the wide use of [(OTC) antibacterial soaps] over a long time has raised the question of potential negative effects on your health” and the EU advisory committee (SCCP) opined that “the magnitude of the aggregate exposure to triclosan from all cosmetic products is not safe.” The EU deemed Triclosan to be unsafe for most leave-on products.

Siloxanes

HAIR CONDITIONING
SKIN CONDITIONING – EMOLLIENT
SOLVENT
HUMECTANT

In Brief

Siloxanes are silicone-based compounds which add softness and moisture – allowing lipstick, hair products, deodorants, and moisturizers to be applied smoothly and evenly.

Primary Concerns

Endocrine Disruption, Lung Irritation if inhaled

EWG Rating: 5

Regulatory Snippets

EU: Cyclopentasiloxane (D5) is subject to concentration limits in wash-off products which effectively eliminate its use in those; Cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) is prohibited from any use in cosmetics.

US: no restrictions


A few studies have led to concerns that silicones might clog pores, leading to acne and dehydrated skin, and possibly affecting the skin regeneration process. If you’d rather look for silicone-free products, there are natural-based alternatives, vegetable glycerin first among those.

A.K.A.

Octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane, aka Cyclotetrasiloxane (INCI)
Decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, aka Cyclopentasiloxane (INCI)
Cyclohexasilozane
Cyclomethicone

Siloxanes include three compounds, cyclotetra- , clyclopenta-, and cyclohexasilozane (“D4”, “D5”, “D6”), generically known as cyclomethicone. The EU SCCS opined in 2016 that D5 is safe in cosmetics except where inhalation exposure is a risk, like hair styling and sun care spray products. Bioaccumulation concerns however led D4 and D5 to be effectively blocked from wash-off products effective in 2020. The EU subsequently prohibited D4 from all cosmetics as an endocrine disruptor and reproductive toxicant.