Your Toxic Relationship With Beauty Products Ends Now


Detox. It has been on our minds and to-do list for a while. Processed foods, brimming wardrobes, social media, bad habits, and beauty products… We are not talking goop-level detox, but we do like our life the way we like our people: Non-toxic. Sure, it’s impossible to clear everything bad from your system — or even your store room — overnight. But if we’re serious about taking better care of ourselves, then we need to start with mindfulness and awareness.

The first place we thought to look is our beauty shelf and make-up bag. What are we putting on our body? Our skin is the largest and fastest growing organ. It is porous and incredibly absorbent. Like a sponge, it soaks up what you put on it and that enters your body. So, if it has never crossed your mind to read the fine prints on the labels and packaging of your moisturisers and foundations, you might want to start with the ingredients list. Most skincare and beauty products are laden with contaminated, carcinogenic and toxic ingredients such as parabens, phthalates, preservatives and artificial colouring that are not nurturing, rejuvenating or healing in the slightest. We only have one body, let’s care for it wisely.

Don’t know where or how you should start? Here’s a list from Lily Kew, founder of Kew Organics, who warns us of these 10 ingredients to look out for — and avoid — the next time we go shopping for our beauty products.


What is it? Meet the second most common skincare ingredient. It’s found in 75% to 90% of beauty products. It’s a very cheap preservative, anti-fungal agent and anti-microbial compound.

Why is it harmful? This toxin actually mimics estrogen, disrupting normal hormone functions and has been detected in human breast cancer tissues.

What to look for: Anything beginning with: Methyl, Ethyl, Butyl, Propyl, Isobutyl.


What is it? Fragrance and parfum are basically phthalates, which are found in just about everything – even products marked as “unscented”.

Why is it harmful? It causes headaches, dizziness, asthma and allergies. It acts as a hormone disruptor and has been linked to reproductive defects, insulin resistance and developmental problems in children.

What to look for: “Fragrance” or “parfum”. Stick to products that are naturally scented with essential oils or fruits instead.


What is it? It extends the shelf life of your products.

Why is it harmful? Simply put, it’s carcinogenic, it promotes tumor growth and negatively impacts wildlife and nature. As it is toxic to the skin, lungs, liver, kidney, thyroid, bloodstream and immune system, it’s best to steer clear of it. In addition, it mimics estrogen and has harmful reproductive effects.

What to look for: BHA and BHT (Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoulene), DBP, DEHP and DEP.


What is it? Good old petroleum, used in just about everything, including your trusty Vaseline. And btw, it’s the same ingredient that your motor oil is made from! Gross.

Why is it harmful? It contains 1,4-dioxane which has been listed by the World Health Organisation and Environmental Protection Agency as a known carcinogen.

What to look for: Petrolatum, Xylene, Toluene, Mineral oil and Liquid paraffin.


What are they? Those vivid, pretty colours in your make-up. Although beautiful, they are immensely damaging.

Why is it harmful? They are made from coal tar and are carcinogenic, depositing heavy metals on your skin.

What to do: Avoid anything beginning with FD&C or D&C.


What is it? Primarily used as a foaming agent, it’s found in most facial cleansers.

Why is it harmful? It has ethylene oxide and 1,4-Dioxane in it which are linked to cancer, harmful to the nervous system and interfere with human development.

What to look for: Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)


What is it? A nutrient found in moisturisers and anti-aging skincare products.

Why is it harmful? It damages DNA and can speed up the growth of skin tumors when used topically, is damaging to our reproductive system and carcinogenic.

What to look for: Retinol, vitamin A, retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate, all-trans retinoic acid, tretinoin.


What is it? An embalming fluid that is used to prevent bacterial growth.

Why is it harmful? It is carcinogenic, linked to asthma, neurotoxicity and developmental toxicity, causes allergic reactions and is harmful to your immune system.

What to do: Avoid any product that has words with “eth” in the ingredients or quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol).


What is it? It’s used to thicken, stabilise and soften skincare products such as sunscreen, cream and shampoo, acting as a moisture-carrier.

Why is it harmful? It’s laden with two known carcinogens, ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane and heavy metals. Yikes!

What to look for: Aside from PEG, look out for polyethylene glycol, polyethylene oxide and polyoxyethylene.


What is it? It’s an emulsifier and foaming agent used in sunscreens, moisturisers and cleansers.

Why is it harmful? It’s a carcinogen that’s linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruption and impaired brain development.

What to do: Look out for MEA, DEA, & TEA, also known as: monoethanolamine, diethanolamine, and triethanolamine.

 Lastly, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it!

It may seem like a pain at first, we get it. But once you get in the habit of reading ingredient labels and know which ones to avoid, it gets easier. Trust us.

A good rule of thumb: If you do not recognise the ingredient or have trouble pronouncing it, it’s more than likely not skin-friendly. And it’s definitely not organic. Don’t worry, for those who are new to organic skincare, we will steer you towards some trustworthy products that we love – the ones that slow the aging process and keep your skin healthier, longer. So next time you grab your favourite fragrance-loaded lotion or chemical-laden moisturiser, ready to slather it all over your skin, just remember:
Beauty is a long-term investment, not a cheap fix.

This story was first published on Kew Organics’ blog. Watch this space for our interview with Lily Kew later this month.


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