Most skincare brands make wonderful, skin-enhancing promises on their packaging, from botox in a bottle to a facelift in a jar.  But my tip is to ignore everything it says on the packaging except the ingredient list!

Most products are mass-produced. This can mean that the amount of active/anti-aging ingredients (the ones printed boldly on the front of the packaging) that make it into the finished product after the manufacturing process are minuscule.

Add this to the amount of synthetic (cheap) ingredients and you have to wonder.. Is this really any good for my skin?

So, the next time you are buying skincare products here is some helpful info!

The Beauty Counter's 'the never list'. They manufacturer their products without toxic ingredients 


Parabens are synthetic preservatives used in cosmetics and personal care products since the 1950s. They prolong the shelf life of beauty products, preventing the growth of mould and bacteria.

The safety of parabens is a highly debatable topic, with some saying they are harmless and others - including studies say otherwise.

The problem with parabens is that they are estrogen-mimicking and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC's).  A class of chemicals that mimic, block or interfere with the production, metabolism or action of hormones in the body.  A 2004 study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology detected parabens in breast tumour tissue.

Look for these ingredients in skincare labels:



Colourants are used in many beauty products especially makeup. You have probably seen CI 42090, CI 73360, etc. at the end of ingredient lists. Or, on US-based products, FD&C YELLOW 5 or YELLOW 5 LAKE. Most colours are considered 'low hazard' by The EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.

Certifications mean that colorants are rigorously tested, but potential effects they may have with prolonged exposure are not known. For example, coal-tar-based dyes such as FD&C Blue 1, CI 42090, most commonly found in toothpaste, and FD&C Green 3 (CI 42053), commonly found in mouthwash, have been found to be carcinogenic in animal studies when injected under the skin.

Brightly coloured cosmetics and skincare products make for great Instagram posts.  But they are a potential health concern. GLAMGLOW's Waterburst™ contains CI 42090 (FD&C BLUE1) a coal-tar-based dye.


Alcohols are widely used in skincare products to keep them stable and to help other ingredients penetrate the skin.  Some of these alcohols can be incredibly drying and irritating because they disrupt the skin barrier function, leaving the skin vulnerable to the elements and moisture loss.  They can also stimulate oil production which could lead to breakouts in oily-prone skin.  

Alcohols are used in tons of beauty and personal care products, especially face wash and cleansers.

In skincare, there are two types of alcohols known as 'good' alcohols and 'bad' alcohols.  The 'good' alcohols, also known as fatty alcohols have emollient properties, giving products a silky texture and keeping ingredients stable.   

These alcohols are generally classified as safe. But there are ongoing studies into fatty alcohols causing contact dermatitis.  You will find fatty alcohols in creams, lotions, ointments, hair conditioner, balms, etc. 

Examples of good alcohols in skincare include: 


Examples of bad alcohols in skincare include: 



BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are synthetic antioxidants used as a preservative in cosmetics, skincare and food.

Considered a 'likely carcinogen' by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, BHA is added to cosmetics like lipstick and eyeshadow that contain fats and oils. In studies, animals exposed to BHA developed stomach and liver damage and complications with their thyroid and reproductive organs. The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption studies revealed strong evidence that BHA is a human endocrine disruptor. Typically shown as E320 on food labels this ingredient scores a 5-7 on the EWG's Skin Deep database.

BHT is a toluene-based ingredient used to preserve food and cosmetics.  Often labelled as E321 on food packaging. BHT was not found to cause cancer but did cause liver and kidney damage, as well as other toxic effects.


The term "parfum" and "fragrance" on product labels were originally created to protect perfume formulations which were considered a closely guarded trade secret.  These days, however, it has become a labelling loophole where manufacturers can hide a multitude of potentially harmful ingredients.

Synthetic fragrances found in cosmetics can have as many as 200 ingredients.  Current UK cosmetic legislation allows toxic and carcinogenic ingredients to be listed this way.  There is no way to know what the chemicals are since on the label it will simply say "fragrance."  You will see this listed in lots of skincare products, cosmetics and household cleaners. They can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in eczema sufferers.


1. IMIDAZOLIDINYL UREA & DIAZOLIDINYL UREA — These are the most commonly used preservatives after parabens. They are well established as a primary cause of contact dermatitis by The American Academy of Dermatology. Two trade names for these chemicals are Germall II and Germall 115. Neither of the Germall chemicals contains a good antifungal agent and must be combined with other preservatives. Germall 115 releases formaldehyde at just over 10°. These chemicals are both considered toxic by the EWG's Skin Deep database

2. TRICLOSAN —  Take a look at your hand cleansers, face washes, toothpaste, home cleaners, etc., and I'm sure you will see this ingredient on the label. Used as an antibacterial and antifungal agent, triclosan gained popularity over the past few decades as we demanded more germ-killing products. Today, it’s the most commonly used antibacterial ingredient in personal care products worldwide.  But scientists at the FDA are revisiting the safety of this ingredient, as it was found in animal studies to interfere with hormone levels and spur the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.  Since we’re already facing a rise of superbugs that are resistant to our current arsenal of antibiotics—the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced in 2013 that at least 23,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections. Triclosan also presents an environmental hazard, as it takes a very long time to break down. It’s been found in decades-old sludge at the bottom of lakes, in sewage, wastewater, surface water, and sediments. It’s highly toxic to algae and other aquatic organisms and has been detected at high concentrations in earthworms.

3. PETROLATUM — Used in lip products which ironically advertise protecting the lips from sunburn, drying and chapping.  Petrolatum is mineral oil jelly, and mineral oil causes a lot of problems when used on the skin including photosensitivity. It tends to interfere with the body's own natural moisturizing mechanism leading to dry skin and chapping. You are being sold a product that creates the very conditions it claims to alleviate. Manufacturers use petrolatum because it is unbelievably cheap.

4. PROPYLENE GLYCOL — Ideally this is a vegetable glycerin mixed with grain alcohol, both of which are natural. Usually, it is a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant. Has been known to cause allergic and toxic reactions.

5. PVP/VA COPOLYMER — A petroleum-derived chemical used in hairsprays, wave sets and other cosmetics. It can be considered toxic, since particles may contribute to foreign bodies in the lungs of sensitive persons.

6. 1,4-DIOXANE  — This ingredient is highly toxic but not listed on labels as it only shows up in products through a process called ETHOXYLATION. Where ETHYLENE OXIDE is added to another chemical ingredient - in this case, it's Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) - to make it less harsh.  SLS is converted into Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).  The 'eth' denotes the Ethoxylation process. This process can lead to contamination of the ingredient with 1,4-DIOXANE.  Senator Chuck Schumer has petitioned the FDA to ban this ingredient.

7. STEARALKONIUM CHLORIDE — A chemical used in hair conditioners and creams. Stearalkonium chloride was developed by the fabric industry as an antistatic agent and fabric softener. It is a lot cheaper and easier to use in hair conditioning formulas than proteins or natural moisturising ingredients, which do help hair health. This chemical is considered a known human toxicant and allergen by the EWG's Skin Deep database.


Ethanolamines are ammonia compounds used in products that foam, including bubble baths, body washes, shampoos, soaps, and facial cleansers. They're also found in a wide range of cosmetics, fragrances, hair care products, hair dyes and sunscreens. The most serious concern about these ingredients is that they may increase the risk of cancer, especially with repeated and prolonged use.

8. DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA)  — Found in soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners and dyes, lotions, shaving creams, paraffin and waxes, household cleaning products, pharmaceutical ointments, eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, blush, make-up bases, foundations, fragrances, sunscreens

9. MONOETHANOLAMINE (MEA) — A chemical used in hair dyes marketed to the consumer as "natural" because, unlike ammonia, it is odourless and less corrosive.

10. TRIETHANOLAMINE (TEA) — Often used in cosmetics to adjust the pH, and used with many fatty acids to convert acid to salt (stearate), which then becomes the base for a cleanser. TEA causes allergic reactions including eye problems, dryness of hair and skin, and could be toxic if absorbed into the body over a long period of time.