The truth about chemicals in make-up and skin care

Gabrielle Koster

Did you know: at least 64% of the stuff you put on your skin, you absorb? So when you use a natural oil, your skin will absorb the oil and in the long run, your skin will probably benefit. But the same thing goes for when you put a heavy chemical on your skin. Your body absorbs a big part of it. So what’s safe to use and what isn’t?

185 chemicals a day
According to The Environmental Working Group, a woman uses 12 beauty products on average per day. This means 185 chemical substances that end up in your bloodstream every day. Lots of those chemicals are linked to skin irritations, eczema, hormonal imbalances, bad working immune systems, abnormal cell formation and more. So if you care about your health, it’s important to educate yourself about what you’re putting on your skin. Agree? Let’s start with the substances you can trust. Just because you can’t pronounce it properly, doesn’t mean it’s a bad chemical.

Don’t be scared of the following common ingredients:

  • Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
  • Helianthus Annuus (sunflower oil)
  • Cocos Nucifera (coconut oil)
  • Simmondsia Chinensis (jojoba oil)
  • Prunus Amygdalus (Dulcis) means (sweet) almond oil
  • Prunus Armeniaca (abricot oil)
  • Olea Europaea (olive oil)
  • Potassium Sorbate (developed from sorbic acid)
  • Magnesium Silicate
  • Iron Oxide

On to the ingredients that I usually avoid:

  • Phthalates, used to make plastics and as solvents. Is known to disrupt the hormonal balance.
  • Methylisothiazolinone, a preservative that is very often associated with skin irritations.
  • All sorts of parabens, used as preservatives and also very often associated with skin irritations.
  • Aluminum, can be found in deodorants and is a neurotoxin. It can cause irritation to the skin and it’s an endocrine disruptor.
  • Oxybenzone also known as benzofenon-3 is used in products with a UV-filter. There have been a number of scientific reports which stated that when exposed to sunlight, oxybenzone can cause a strong increase in free radicals that can lead to DNA damage and hormone disruption.
  • Cocoamidopropyl Betaine is a cleanser with anti-bacterial activity, very often coconut-derived. This substance causes shampoo and soap to foam. Fun fact: foam is added to give people a ‘clean’ feeling, but it doesn’t actually do anything else than foaming. Many people are allergic to this substance.
  • Triethanolamine (also known as tea) is used as a fragrance ingredient, pH adjuster, surfactant and emulsifier. It’s linked to skin irritations and allergic reactions but also to much heavier things like organ system toxicity and bioaccumulation in the skin.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) belong to the category ‘surfactants’, also surface cleaners. You can find them in all sorts of cleansers, from toothpaste to detergent. Again, these substances are often added due to the foaming effect. These fabrics penetrate the skin and strip large portions of the natural oils on your skin and hair.
  • Benzyl alcohol is used as a solvent and preservative, but is sometimes associated with contact allergy.
  • Phenoxyethanol, even though derived from grapefruit, is an ethoxylated compound that may be contaminated with carcinogenic toxin 1,4-Dioxane and is very often associated with skin irritations.
  • EDTA (also knowns Edetate sodium or Tetrasodium edetate) is used as a moisturizer. It increases the amounts of other chemicals that reach the bloodstream and is known to be cytotoxic and genotoxic to animals.

So if you want to change your harmful habits, you can do this by educating yourself about the potential harmful chemicals and knowing which ingredients are the good stuff.

What to use?
I usually use the same brands for my skin care and make-up. I’ve already told you about my skin care routine (read it here), but I want to tell you more about make-up since I’ve been getting more and more questions about which products to use. Tip: new on the web is NourishedNederland, a website that sells only natural products without the harmful ingredients. Most of the products coming from Australia.

There are a couple of awesome natural mascara brands out there. My favorites? Beauty Without Cruelty and Green People.

On my skin
I usually work with mineral powders, I don’t really like the foundation-feeling. My favorite brand? Young Blood. When I have big blue circles under my eyes, I use a concealer by Ere Perez via Nourished Nederland (this brand doesn’t test on animals).

For my eyebrows
Ere Perez has the best eyebrow brush that is natural. The colors are really great as well. I also got this from Very often when I don’t feel like make-up, I do ‘fix’ my eyebrows by coloring them a bit darker.

I don’t use much other make-up, sometimes a bronzer. Thankfully, there are more and more brands that specialize in natural make-up.

PS: The Body Lotion and Body Wash on the picture below are from the Australian brand Bondi Wash, via This lady started her company after having several allergies from chemicals in products. So only good stuff in these products. And of course, it’s not tested on animals.

Bondi Wash & Ere Perez

What kind of products do you use?