Ingredients to avoid in cosmetics

Just as we can look at the list of ingredients in the food we buy at the grocery store, it is possible to validate the ingredients contained in cosmetic products. However, the exercise can be difficult to decipher. Here is a basic glossary that could help you make your choices. Remember that even if a product is 'natural', it is not necessarily non-toxic or non-polluting.


  • polluting ingredient
  • potentially toxic or irritating ingredient



To extract an alcohol, you need a solvent. All solvents generate waste that is harmful to the environment, and therefore pollute. Alcohol itself is not polluting, but its extraction is. In addition, these are texturizing agents mainly derived from palm oil.

  • cetyl alcohol
  • cetearyl alcohol

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There are two families of alcohols: volatile alcohols (liquid alcohol that can be taken to disinfect) and fatty alcohols, such as the alcohols mentioned above, which are alcohols extracted from vegetable fats.


Often contained in shampoos, sulfates are foaming agents. Aggressive, irritating and drying, they strip the skin and hair of their necessary natural oils. They can cause dandruff, irritation and make your hair greasy more quickly.

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine
  • Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS)


Preservative agent, cousin and replacement of paraben, it is a non-biodegradable molecule which easily passes the epidermis barrier. It is suspected of being neurotoxic and the cause of cancer and reproductive disorders. Health Canada authorizes it, but at a certain percentage. Japan has completely banned it. Avoid at all costs, especially in children's products.


Preservative agents, they are hated because they potentially cause allergies, irritations, hormonal disruptions, in addition to being carcinogenic. Even though parabens have almost disappeared, we still find them on the market.

  • Butylparaben
  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Etc

Coco Betaine

This ingredient is a foaming, sulfated agent derived from coconut oil that is both natural and petrochemical in origin. It is potentially irritating because of its extraction method.

  • Coco-Betaine
  • Cocamide MEA or DEA
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine


Chemical product used to color or perfume. They can disrupt the endocrine system, affect the developmental cycle and be potentially carcinogenic. They are banned in Europe, but not yet in North America.

  • Phthalates
  • DEP
  • DBP
  • DEHP
  • Perfume/fragrance


When a company lists ''fragrance'' as an ingredient, it is not required to disclose its composition. This means that any number of irritating chemicals could make it up. Some of these may be linked to asthma, allergies and hormonal disruptions.

When it comes to candles, the risk is much less, but it is necessary to validate whether the components of the fragrances are free of benzene, toluene , acrolein , formaldehyde , acetone or benzopyrene .


Thickening agent potentially derived from the petroleum industry, carcinogenic and irritant.

  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG)
  • Propylene glycol (PG)
  • Butylene glycol (BG)


Talc is a mineral powder widely used in blush, eye shadow and mattifying products. Talc can potentially and naturally contain asbestos.

In July 2018, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.69 billion in damages. 22 women and their families accused the brand that their wipes, composed of talc, had caused the ovarian cancers to which they suffered.