Going Green - What to Avoid, Why & How

February 12, 2014

This post has been a long time coming but I wanted to make sure I confident and happy in what to write before publishing anything. This post is going to be about which chemicals to avoid and why.

I've done a video about how to tackle the long process of 'going green' click *here* to watch it.

I have had certain chemicals in mind that I have prioritised as ones to avoid and I feel I know these well. After reading 'No More Dirty Looks' I feel much happier about what ingredients to avoid and more importantly why

I strongly recommend their book, it is a brilliant read plus full of invaluable information. An important resource for anyone trying to go/be 'green' and avoid chemicals. I cannot find it in stock at the moment (I have the Ebook) but here is a link to it on Amazon to start off your search for you: No More Dirty Looks

A lot of the information I list here is directly taken from No More Dirty Looks book as they have done all the leg work, research, cross checking, etc. 

It is all very well and good to look down a big long list of ingredients to avoid (see my permanent blog tab *here*) but if we are to be really educated and want to change what we use we need to know why these ingredients are to be avoid not just that we should avoid them.

There are so many ingredients (see my list!) so I wanted to focus on the 'main' ones... as I see them. 

We all have different standards, we all have different allergies... and, let's be honest, we all have different priorities. It is up to you as an individual to decide what you want to avoid, or reduce your use of. 

How do I shop? After much trial, error and regret I think I have finally found an effective way to shop for natural products. I look through the ingredients list (sometimes you have to go to different websites to find this) and anything that isn't clear to me I look up, either in my NMDL book or on www.ewg.org/skindeep if I still don't get it I turn to Google... but I use this with caution!  

Often found in deodorant - this is a neurotoxin that is possibly linked to Alzheimer's (debated) and breast cancer.It has been found in breast tissue during a human study.

These are used as emulsifiers, foaming agents or used to adjust the pH levels in cosmetic products.
DEA is the main one to avoid but all have been linked to skin growths, cancer and even brain development of baby mice in utero.

Apart from the icky idea of it being used to embalm dead bodies this should also be avoided as it is a carcinogen linked with various types of cancer. It can cause immune-system toxicity, liver problems and can be an irritant and an allergen. It can be listed in the ingredients as 'cormalin, formic aldehyde, methanal, methyl aldehyde or oxymethane'.
It's found in nail polish (as we all know) but it may surprise you to know that deodorant, make up, bubble bath, shampoo, baby lotions, 'Keratin' hair treatments, hair dye and hair growing products. 

This is a tricky one - it could be a natural fragrance or it could be any terrifying array of deadly chemicals. It can show up as 'fragrance, perfume or parfum'. If you find a natural product that you like but it contains 'fragrance' then contact the company directly to find out what this term covers. If it is an 'non-natural' or 'mainstream' product then step away sharpish!

These ones get a lot of press, and rightly so as they are used in pretty much every cosmetic and personal care item. It is used as a preservative in everything from make up to shampoo. You will see it listed as anything ending in 'paraben' e.g. methylparaben, ethylparaben, etc.
Studies have shown that parabens mimic the hormone estrogen, affecting both men and women. Parabens have been found in breast tumour tissue.

Found in perfumes, fragrances in products, nail polish, eyelash glue, hair spray, etc. Also listed as DBP, DEHP, DMP, DEP or dibutyl/diethyl ester. Phthalates are known hormone disruptors, suspected carcinogens, possibly toxic to fetuses and can cause birth defects in male babies. Can impair fertility, suspected cause of endometriosis and PCOS.

Listed as Propylene Glycol, PG, PEG, Ethylene Glycol, Diethylene Glycol, Polyethlene Glycol. This ingredient is considered mostly safe but it does penetrate the skin easily and high doses could be dangerous. It can cause rashes and acne, plus PEG can be contaminated with other, more risky ingredients which can piggy back on this and absorb in further than they normally would. 

Sodium Laurel Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate are found in pretty much everything that foams and froths up. I personally avoid this like the PLAGUE as it does not agree with me at all! It gives me the most awful itchy eyes, sinuses and skin! SLS is a high risk ingredient as it easily penetrates the skin and scalp but cannot be metabolised by the liver. 

Found in talcum powder, baby powder, liquid powder, eye shadows, face powders and sunscreens. Frequent use of talcum powder on the genital area appeared to significantly elevate risk of ovarian cancer. Inhalation studies has shown talc to be a possible lung irritant - so please don't use it on yourself or your baby!

Used in nail polish but also found in fragrance formulations and even during cola production! Makes me think twice about a diet Coke... It is listed as toluene, touluol, methylbenzene and phenylmethane. Linked to all sorts of scary things like miscarriage and leukemia. 

As I've said this is not a complete list, see my *tab* for a fuller list which is probably still not complete either! It really is a minefield out there. You will have to find your own ingredients that you are happy with and ones you want to avoid. It is a learning process, I am sure I will update this list soon with yet more things to steer clear of.

Is there anything major that I have missed? Is there anything you won't touch with a barge pole? Let me know!

Thanks for reading,


  1. Great post Rach :-) I think you covered all the major ones dear xx

  2. Informative post - these are my main ones to avoid too x

  3. Great post Rachel, the list you made is super useful to for a newbie like me, I do think your right when you say about knowing why to avoid these ingredients, I guess in a way as well it makes you want to find alternatives more as well. I can't wait to have a look through the book, and look at the products I'm currently using. I don't ever think I could be completely green but I'm wanting to have more knowledge and start introducing alternatives your posts are super helpful (the starter kit video is super helpful too) x

    1. Ahh good to hear! And, I think any changes you make will be positive no matter how small. Being safer in your products doesn't need to be painful, it should be exciting! A whole new world of beauty products to explore!! :-)
      Rach xx

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