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When looking for beauty products, it’s easy to get carried away with the pretty packaging and marketing claims. If you haven’t yet checked out my last post on getting started with a non-toxic beauty routine, read that first!

In this post I will be getting into a few ingredients to AVOID when purchasing beauty products.

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

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is an ingredient used to help products foam. It is commonly used in soaps, shampoos, and cleansers.

Other names for SLS include sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex me or aquarex methyl.

This is a carcinogenic ingredient and can cause negatives effects in the kidneys, liver and central nervous system. 

Dibutyl Phthalate

Also known as phthalate, DEP, DBP, and DEHP. Found in nail polish, hair spray, lotion, soap, and shampoo. It is used as a plasticizer in produces to reduce cracking by making them less brittle.

Long-term use of dibutyl phthalate is linked with endocrine disruption, develop mental and reproductive toxicity, and cancer.

Look for products that are labeled phthalate-free.

Synthetic Fragrance

Beauty products can create what’s called a fragrance cocktail, mixing thousands of ingredients together to create a signature scent. The problem is that toxic ingredients can hide behind the label, making it difficult to know what’s in the product. Look for products that make an effort to list out the ingredients used in the fragrance cocktail or a label that says fragrance free. 


This colourless gas used in building materials and household products can also be found in many beauty products on the shelf.

It is often listed as an ingredient in nail polish remover, soap, hair products, and colour cosmetics. Formaldehyde is linked to organ system toxicity and cancer.

Other names to look for include formalin, formic aldehyde, methane diol, methanal, methyl aldehyde, methylene glycol, and methylene oxide. 


Toluene is used as a paint thinner and is added to gasoline. It is classified as a skin irritant and linked to reproductive toxicity.

This ingredient is primarily found in nail polish and hair dyes. Recently, OPI, Orly, and Sally Hansen have all removed toluene from their nail polishes. 

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Erin is based in NYC working on her blog and newsletter;

The Next Edit, @thenexteditmag

Follow her at @erin.kean for her Parisian style featuring sustainable fashion brands and contemporary beauty looks.