the best (safest) cosmetics: a list

Posted on August 16th, 2010

The other week I posted about getting a toxic audit on my flat (cough, cough…I have to now move out, such is the dire state of my bedroom). And also about the toxic state of our beauty products. Since then I’ve studied further, and this Time magazine interview with the authors of the new book No More Dirty Looks popped into my inbox over the weekend. A few stats that might make you feel sick:

* Putting chemicals on your skin is actually far worse than ingesting them, because when you eat something the enzymes in your saliva and stomach help break it down and flush it out of your body. Cosmetics absorb directly.

* Women who use make-up on a daily basis can absorb almost 5 pounds of chemicals into their bodies each year.


A stack of you wanted to know what to buy, what to look for.So here’s some extra info:

1. The best advice I can give:

Use less products.


Check out Good Guide. And download their iphone app. The site surveys 16,000 products and lists the best in each category. And the worst. The FREE app allows you to scan barcodes and they give you a rating out of 10. If you live in the US, you should definitely use it. I spent an afternoon going through my products and not all of them are recognised.

Me, I’m not tossing the stuff I already have…that’s a waste. I’m using it up and will gradually replace with safer alternatives, researching as I go. Which I’m glad to read is also the No More Dirty Looks chicks’ approach. I’m working through my cosmetics stash, with my main approach being to use products with as FEW INGREDIENTS AS POSSIBLE. I do the same with food. So, Triology Rosehip oil and lavender oil (on my spots) are a good start. I’m also going to start using Natural Instinct products* – Australian made and totally committed to this kind of cause. My sister-in-law swears by it.

* Although update: see reader Vanessa’s comments below. Sigh…

2. Avoid fragrance, just avoid fragrance.

One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds—even thousands—of chemicals, and fragrances are a major cause of allergic reactions. When a product lists “fragrance” or “parfum” as an ingredient, run the other way. Companies are not obliged to tell you what exactly it is that’s making it smelly… it’s Russian roulette. And, yes, this applies to perfumes…they are stenchy endocrine disruptors. Not convinced? Read this.

3. Read the label and avoid these ingredients:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. This is a really good starting point. Anything with SLS…high-tail from it – it’s a common ingredient in anti-freeze and engine degreasers. For a full rundown,see Dr Mercola‘s site.
  • Paraben, a chemical found in underarm deodorants and other cosmetics that has been shown to mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen and can drive the growth of human breast tumors.
  • Phthalates, plasticizing ingredients (present in nearly three-quarters of 72 products tested by the US Environmental Working Group), which have been linked to birth defects in the reproductive system of boys and lower sperm-motility in adult men.
  • Talc, which has been linked to ovarian cancer
  • Musks, used as fragrances, can accumulate in your body, and have been linked to skin irritation, hormone disruption, and cancer in laboratory studies.
  • Methylisothiazolinone (MIT), a chemical used in shampoo to prevent bacteria from developing, which may have detrimental effects on your nervous system.
  • Toluene, made from petroleum or coal tar, and found in most synthetic fragrances. Chronic exposure linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus.
  • Mineral Oil, Paraffin, and Petrolatum, these products coat your skin like plastic, clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins. They also slow cellular development, which can cause you to show earlier signs of aging, and are a suspected cause of cancer and disruption to hormonal activity.

4. Here’s how to avoid toxins in your sunscreen.

* Essentially, avoid spray or powder suntan lotions with nano-scale zinc oxide (it can be inhaled; much of Europe is currently phasing it out). My sister-in-law Chrissie provides this link for finding out if your sun cream is nano-free.

* Avoid oxybenzone (absorbed through skin; causes hormone disruption; links to cell damage, and cancer).

* Make sure it has at least 7 percent zinc oxide to replace oxybenzone (Zinc isn’t absorbed into the skin; it remains on the surface). Check out Invisible Zinc. And Lavera Sun Block SPF 40 Neutral.

5. Here’s how to avoid toxins in your shampoo.

Know this: When you put shampoo or conditioner onto your scalp, the 20 blood vessels, 650 sweat glands, and 1,000 nerve endings soak in the toxins.

6. Here’s a great “what’s in your cosmetics” quiz by treehugger.

7. Here’s the deal on mascara

Someone asked about mascara…The Good Guide rates the safest mascara as (wait for it): Loreal Paris Voluminous (R) Waterproof Mascara Black and Maybelline Fresh Lash Waterproof Mascara, Dark Brown

The most unsafe: Clinique Long Pretty Lashes Mascara, Black.

Interestingly, Loreal’s products rate quite well (probably because they have so many, some are bound to make it into the “good” list). Miessence products seem to rate really well. Here’s a list of the best and worst cosmetics for some afternoon reading.

7. And here’s a list of suggestions from some very generous readers and twitterers and Facebookers:

Vanessa helpfully provided this: An update on mascara: I just got the Jane Iredale Longest Lash mascara and it’s really good, no smudges and a soft, lush look. I know Good Guide says the L’Oreal Voluminous mascara is the ‘best’, but it does have parabens in it (propylparaben) and scores a ‘moderate hazard’ four on the Skin Deep database. The Jane Iredale scores ‘low hazard’. So, you know…

Also: I hate to be a downer, but DO NOT buy Natural Instinct products. The ACCC hammered them last year for not disclosing that they use toxic chemicals in their products, including sodium laureth sulphate (article here: It was on a few beauty and baby forums. At very least, steer clear of the foaming-type products (foaming cleanser, shampoo, soap et al.). I’m still using up their sunscreen, but have so little confidence in the company now that I won’t buy it again. Dodgy brothers!

A writer on Treehugger swears by Argan oil.

AJ: Try BBE boutique for outstanding body products, using only the finest Australian ingredients.

Sharni: Tania Louise products on facebook

Oscar de Vries:

A few years ago I decided to develop my own all-natural shaving oil called OSCAR. It’s now in Coles, Priceline and more and more pharmacies and health food stores. When my teenage daughter developed an adverse reaction to using VEET on her legs, I decided to bring out a natural shaving oil for Women, called BRAZILIA. It’s now available from Priceline and we’re donating $0.50 for every bottle sold to the McGrath Foundation.

Jo W: Good organic shampoos and conditioners are really hard to find, my fav is JASON Biotin but it’s increasingly hard to find. Moisturiser/ face care – Dr. Hauschka moisturising day cream is great. Their steaming-with-muslin face care tecnique with their cleansing creme (it’s a bit like peanut butter…) is really great, speak to one of their staff for help before trying. The ‘Yes to Carrots’ range (in Oz) is cheap and cheerful and is a great fill-in for when you can’t get your hands on your favourites.

Emma: 12 months ago I switched to Moo Goo and use their chapstick, face moistureriser, body cream, bodywash which I use as my face cleanser and milk soaps.For around the house I use eco store plant based products from NZ. They’re available in Coles & Woolworths now and cost the same as most other brands.

Tania Louise: I am a cancer patient and have proved that certain chemicals are killing us slowly…During my treatment and the subsequent isolation period (with large amounts of thinking time), I started getting cross about the chemicals I had in my toiletry bag (imported also). So TANIA LOUISE was born, my boutique facebook gift store, stocking aussie handmade mineral makeup, skincare, beauty products and cleaning products all aussie made and with top grade ingredients.

Nat: Akin Rosehip Oil.

Charlie: There is a shop called Ovvio in Paddington. Anthia who is a naturopath, and organic lifestyle educator, teaches clients and patients a no nonsense, fad free, honest and informative approach to achieving health and happiness, she has a shop in Paddington where you can buy tea, herbs, household cleaning products, beauty products including shampoo, toothpaste, make up, nail polish.

Kimia: if you’re looking for diversity, some great blogs to check out are:

Nadine: Grown products

Jenny: I’m in the US and I’ve just started buying most of my beauty products on I’ve totally stopped using any hair products that come in plastic bottles, and I only use all natural bar shampoo, conditioner, body soap and face soap. And most people on Etsy list ingredients so you know whats in it!
steph says: I use Dr Hauschka and Living Nature for makeup and Jurlique for skincare. They have a great range especially Hauschka, which is natural and organic but the real deal, they have been around for a while, longer than Juriique. Bare minerals is good also. I get Dr Hauschka at DJ’s or health stores, Lavera is more affordable and at most health stores.

Vanessa: I use Trilogy cream cleanser, followed by Trilogy rosehip oil (my FAVOURITE discovery!), Natural Instinct sunscreen, and occasional exfoliation with a slice of lemon or a bicarb paste. Then I use Trilogy Everything Balm for, well, everything: lips, hands, body, and even on my face if it’s very dry….I’ve heard good things about Jane Iredale mascara, however.Err, can I also add: OPI nail polish is toluene- and formaldehyde-free, and Spa Radiance make a formaldehyde-free nail hardener that works.

Monica: MyChelle Dermaceuticals Sun Shield, SPF 15; Kiss My Face body lotion; Organic Wear makeup and Eau de Zum essential oil fragrance — not “fragrance.”

Chrissie: The best high end brand for chemical free, organic cosmetics and toiletries is Jurlique, although it’s pretty expensive. Many Australian pharmacies now stock Natural Instinct which is great, and cheap, and even uses ethically sourced palm oil, so you’re not harming any orang-utans while washing your hair!

Feel free to add more ideas, if you haven’t already…x

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  • Vanessa

    Love this, Sarah!

    An update on mascara: I just got the Jane Iredale Longest Lash mascara and it’s really good, no smudges and a soft, lush look. I know Good Guide says the L’Oreal Voluminous mascara is the ‘best’, but it does have parabens in it (propylparaben) and scores a ‘moderate hazard’ four on the Skin Deep database. The Jane Iredale scores ‘low hazard’. So, you know…

    Also: I hate to be a downer, but DO NOT buy Natural Instinct products. The ACCC hammered them last year for not disclosing that they use toxic chemicals in their products, including sodium laureth sulphate (article here: It was on a few beauty and baby forums. At very least, steer clear of the foaming-type products (foaming cleanser, shampoo, soap et al.). I’m still using up their sunscreen, but have so little confidence in the company now that I won’t buy it again. Dodgy brothers!

    And Invisible Zinc, which it doesn’t use chemical sunscreens, unfortunately has other nasties in it. :(

    If I find a good, non-greasy sunscreen, I’ll post it here. Does anyone else know one?



    Sarah Reply:

    Hey Vanessa, thank you so much for your comments. Very generous of you to share…I”ve updated my post…


    Lisa (Yrlocalmarkets) Reply:

    Lavera is an excellent organic brand of makeup (from Germany) which is available in many health food stores (and on lots of online sites) and they produce mascara, eyeliner, lip gloss, lipsticks and pretty much most cosmetic products. They’re nasty-free and are excellent products. I thought I would really pine for my old (toxic) faves but Lavera is awesome. I also use Ere Perez illuminiser, which makes you look like a million bucks!


    Colleen Reply:

    Just checked out Lavera foundation as I am desperate for something good —- it has heaps of badiess esp the coal tar dyes Cl…. please double check it.

  • Vanessa

    Can I add, on a more positive note, that Etsy is terrific, but don’t forget about your local craftspeople. I went to my local farmer’s market for the first time last week and bought some gorgeous handmade, totally non-toxic soap (a goat’s milk and an olive oil) from a lovely couple who live up in Donvale ( Do check it out and support your local greenies. :)


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  • Vanessa

    You’re welcome! I hope you don’t get too discouraged – Natural Instinct is the only really dodgy company I’ve come across. :)


  • shanna

    You are correct most fragrances are not good for you. What I do is getting an empty spray bottle, and put water from my reverse osmosis (you could use bottled or mineral water) and add drops of essential oil, I like lavendar, and shake it up, and use that as a fragrance. Perfectly natural and lavendar is so soothing :)


  • Mia

    Thanks for that link to No More Dirty Looks Sarah – those guys sound great! I love the idea that you CAN pamper yourself a little, without pumping yourself full of toxic chemicals. Also their point about hoarding beauty products because you buy one, it doesn’t work, you buy another but don’t throw out the first one – I totally agree with that. I do it all the time, with a cluttered beauty cupboard as a reminder.

    I really enjoyed your idea of using less stuff. So simple and kind of obvious when you think about it, but so wise. I think it speaks to a bigger social problem, that women seem to spend so much time, money and effort “beautifiying” ourselves, when the end result is essentially covering ourselves from head to toe. With everything from make-up and hair colour and fake-tan and fake nails and even fake hair, it seems to me like the modern day Western equlivalent of a long Muslim veil, sheilding our true selves from criticism.

    Or maybe Im reading too much into this. :) Anyway, I know I will be having a clean-out of my beauty cupboard tonight!


  • Shannon @

    As someone who has purchased organic groceries for years this is pretty alarming. I honestly didn’t think your skin adsorbed that much. I use a lot of products from lush but I know most of them still have sls in them. Surprising to see so many Loreal & Loreal owned products on the good list considering their complete lack of scruples when it comes to animal testing, I wouldn’t have thought they really cared too much. Jane Iredale are amazing quality cosmetics, a bit on the pricy side but I love them.


  • renae


    Does anyone know the deal with Aesop? It seems to have two ingredients listed that were mentioned above (ammonium laureth sulfate and methylisonthiazolinone) but i always got the impression they produced relatively natural products, not to mention how much i love their products. Sad!


  • Amy

    I’m downloading the Good Guide app this moment!

    I hope that in phasing out the ‘bad’ products I unknowingly use, that my eczema may become more manageable.

    The chemicals within beauty products is not something I’d ever stopped to really consider before (and now seems so obvious!). I’ll definitely try to be more discerning in the future. Until now, my focus has been based only on price vs. pretty packaging!


  • Sasa

    I had a whole body eczema attack (after 20 years of no eczema though I had it as a kid) a few months ago and while I totally freaked out since it looked so weird and was so itchy, I also decided to take it as an opportunity to avoid chemicals and sodium laureth sulfate.

    I live in Austria and I’m lucky to have access to a lot of German products – there are a few very good brands. For my face, I use Dr. Hauschka products, for my body and hair I use Logona Pur and for sunscreen, I use Lavera. None of these contain any chemical fragrance or sodium laureth sulfate, and are not animal tested. The sunscreen is 100% mineral which means you have to rub it in really well if you don’t want that whitish look but at least I’m not falling into the ultimate irony which would be getting cancer or something from a product which purports to help avoid it.

    Instead of the usual washing liquids I boil soap nuts to use for my laundry which is nice as it doesn’t leave that overwhelming scent of commercial products and is non-toxic to boot.
    If I really want something white white in my laundry, I buy these little cloth things you throw in with the laundry and it soaks up any dye residue and dirt.

    I was camping last week and ran out of coconut oil which I use to moisturise my legs and I subbed olive oil and I think I actually prefer it now. It has a very subtle fragrance and sinks in really fast.


  • ErinLogic

    Like all others – great blog. It is scary how much we all just don’t know. Legally, cosmetic companies don’t have to list all your ingredients on their packaging – where an ingredient forms less that 1% of the total volume it doesnt have to be on the bottle. Australian cosmetic labelling standards are no where near as detailed or policed as they should be.

    In saying that, another skin care line to add to the list is Sodashi ( It’s a tad expensive, but the ingredients are great and results are even better. Not too well know, but its an Australia brand stocked mostly in spa’s. They ship throughout the world and they’re labelling policy is to list everything.

    I use mostly the ‘Balance’ range which is for oily skin – and I’m really impressed. Their ‘exfoliant’ is a concentrate of essential oils which work with the skin, rather than an abrasive scrub. Highly recommended.


  • Steph

    I use and love USkincare ( after my Naturopath recommended it to me. I’ve run a few of their products through the Skin Database and it doesn’t seem too bad. To be honest, the best thing I ever did for my skin and acne was stop using products and spend more time focusing on what I eat/drink. As naff as it sounds, it comes from the inside out…

    Never knew exactly how toxic fragrance was. So my question is what are you all doing with your perfumes? Most girls I know own and love LOTS of different perfumes. Any suggestions would be most welcome!

    Thanks so much for this Sarah – it’s been very enlightening!


  • Greta

    How about Lush Cosmetics? They seem really good, but sometimes it’s hard to know… Aw, I’m just going to finish all of my other stuff and then start using jojoba oil for EVERYTHING. Including mascara.


  • jess

    Recently I’ve been thinking that you really *do* get the stuff you need just when you need it – how did you know, Sarah?!

    Thanks so much for this info. I’ve been using coconut oil for a moisturiser for about two months now and I’m totally addicted – it’s wonderful stuff – very hydrating and soothing and the added bonus of a lovely fragrance without all the chemicals.

    But the big thing for me was the day I realised that I just hated wearing makeup….and stopped. I’d never really worn it much before but I work in a pretty uptight professional environment where it’s the unspoken rule but phooey to that I say. It’s been brilliant – my skin feels so much better and I feel better about myself. I look at my face in the mirror in the morning and I feel …good. On a psychological level, how good can it be for you that one of the very first things you do in the morning is cover yourself up and plot new and better ways to change the way you look because the way you look now isn’t good enough?

    So now I get my eyebrows professionally shaped every month a wear a little mascara sometimes and that is absolutely it. Amazing.

    Also @Greta – I’m not sure about Lush. Firstly the scents are so absolutely powerful that i get a headache just walking into the store (and how good can that be?) and I’ve made a few inquiries (ingredients, chemicals etc) with the store staff on a number of occasions and no one has ever really be able to help me – it’s been really vague. Before I quite cosmetics altogether I was devoted to Jurleique (sp?) mainly because the staff are so damn informed!



  • Vanessa

    Another update: scratch my endorsement of the Jane Iredale mascara. Today I spent time in an air-conditioned shopping centre, and voila: panda eyes. Sigh.

    Re: Lush, I know they put SLS in most of their foaming products. Best to steer clear.

    Sorry, I’m full of good news today. :(


  • Olivia

    I’ve been a fan of Lush products for a few years now, due to the fact that they promote themselves as using natural ingredients (which are listed on their website), etc, etc. However, I’ve just realised that most of their products contain parabens, and some of them list fragrance as an ingredient – a big no-no, as Sarah pointed out. Some of their products also contain limonene which the Skin Deep database does not recommend.

    It’s really confusing when companies promote themselves as using natural ingredients, etc, etc, and yet include these supposed nasties in their products.

    On a slightly different topic, I recently ordered some products from Miessence rated either 0 or 1 on the Skin Deep database, only to find, on receiving the products, that they include (undesirable) ingredients that weren’t listed under the website description. I emailed the company asking why these ingredients were not listed on the website and got the reply that they “are allergens listed at the end of the ingrediients on the labels and are naturally occurring
    components of the organic essential oils in the products”… ?!

    Finally, I just want to say thank you to Sarah for the fantastic posts on this topic. Hopefully it will lead to a more informed society, and stricter regulations regarding labelling and inclusion of ingredients in cosmetics.


  • Mia

    Has anybody tried the No Shampoo idea that has done the rounds a few times? I dont know if Im enough of a hippy to forgoe styling, although the idea intrigues me.


  • Naomi Lee

    Trilogy Rosehip Oil – and their moisturiser – are heaven sent – they are the only product I’ve found that prevents my skin drying out in wintery Melbourne (all that central heating is drying, drying, drying – urg!!).

    I can also recommend rms beauty ( organic cream-based mineral make up – their luminiser is lovely, as is their lip/cheek colour. The pots are small but last for ages as there is so much pigment in them – I apply with fingertips and only use the tiniest dab of blush on my cheeks in the morning and the rest goes on my lips. You can buy some of their products from Spa Organics website in Australia .

    Oh, and I was in the Body Shop last week and the assistants told me they are updating their hair products to remove Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.

    Thanks for sharing Sarah…


  • Vanessa

    @Mia: yep, I’ve tried no ‘poo. I have very fine, highlighted hair, and no ‘poo left it oddly stiff and limp at the same time. Really horrible. The same happened with shampoo bars. BUT people with thicker and uncoloured hair seem to find no ‘poo and soap/shampoo bars absolutely terrific and get soft, shiny, manageable locks (real Wella Woman stuff). I’m stuck with the pricey natural shampoo. Sob. So unfair.

    By the way, I actually chatted to the soap man at my local farmers’ market last week and he confirmed that fine or coloured hair just doesn’t do well with shampoo bars, which was reassuring.


  • Y

    Hi Sarah, I love this post and am keen to try the organic skincare brand you suggested (and the brown rice recipes from yesterday!). I liked it so much, I linked to it from the most recent post on my blog (dedicated to online shopping) As you will see, I am also enamoured with the trilogy rosehip oil…Cheers Y


  • Mia

    I read that a baking soda rinse (1 tsp baking soda in a cup of warm water) works well instead of shampoo. You can use more or less with greasier or finer hair. It needs to be followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse or some conditioner to close the hair cuticle afterwards though. I tried it this morning followed with conditioner, and it certainly gets the hair clean, but I think I used too much baking soda as my hair is TOO clean – all fluffy and fly-away!

    I think further experimentation is in order.


  • Shannon @

    Dr Bronners magic soaps are really good sls free products & there is fragrance free versons of all thier soaps. They are fair trade & cruelty free. The castile liquid soaps are really good because you can use them for laundry, body wash, hand wash, shampoo, diluted for general cleaner ect ect.


  • Hanna

    Shannon – I scrolled down to the end of this comment stream just to say Dr Bronner’s! And you’ve beaten me to it! I wash my very fine, very curly hair with it, I wash my oily skinned prone to breaking out but also very fragile and very very fair (I’m a redhead) skin with it – I use the beautiful mint one on my hair and the rose one or the pure no-scent one on my face and body. I litre lasts for about 6 months when I use it for EVERYTHING. I recently had a facial treatment in Paris (where else!) and the woman said that she couldn’t recommend me to do anything else, that whatever i was using to wash my skin was great.
    When things get really cold and dry I use olive oil from the kitchen (I also drink it neat sometimes when i feel really dry) or cold-pressed sesame or macadamia oil, or coconut oil. Because these things are really – well, oily, sometimes I mix half and half with non -petrochemical sorbolene cream. When things are really really bad I melt pure shea butter and rub it on then sit naked and let it absorb for half and hour. If I do this every day after about three days my skin becomes like a baby’s. But it’s a drag, and you need a large supply of shea butter. I import my own from Ghana – i was married to a West African and he put me onto it. Our daughter eats it straight, like many West Africans, it’s totally harmless.

    And lastly – I’m a big believer in ingesting your oils as well. Cook your meat in the fat, then ditch the fat. Don’t drink or eat skimmed or lite or low-fat anything. I’m convinced that fats are in foods to make their vitamins and minerals more digestable and to help us maintain a healthy level of oils in our skin. If you’re worried about weight gain or cholestrol – just eat less. White sugar and processed oils are far more dangerous than the fat from an organically-raised lamb or egg.

    About the only things I can’t find satisfactorily are hair conditioner for myself (very oily, fine curly hair which breaks if it’s not conditioned) and my daughter (very fine afro hair which cannot even be combed unless drenched in conditioner), and sunblock which I absolutely have to use(I got red cheeks doing the dishes in front of my kitchen window today – sun is out but it’s about 10 degrees). Any ideas? At the moment I use Clarins High protection day screen – it’s very light and does the job and is made of zinc block, but i don’t know if it’s nano.



  • Nikki Parkinson

    My good friends and authors of Like Chocolate for Women, Kim Morrison and Fleur Whelligan, have created a range of totally chemical free and organic aromatherapy and skincare range (Twenty8). I’ve been using since November and my skin has never been better. The price point is great too.;

    For a luxury organic experience, I can’t go past Sodashi. Megan Larsen is an absolute genious and a pioneer in the luxury organic skincare industry – the company’s based in Perth but the product is stocked around the world. You name an exclusive spa, and it’s there! In Australia, think Four Seasons Sydney, Qualia on Hamilton Island and Wolgan Valley.

    Oh, and I’m actually allergic to Zinc, so those sunscreens are out for me :( Still trying to find a suitable alternative there. If I wear every day my skin bubbles up in inflamed lumps. Not fun!


  • stacey

    Endota skincare is quite nice and reasonably priced for proffesional products. They’re all natural and organic and 1% of profits goes to bush heritage. I love their rosehip oil, desert lime and peppermint foot cream and honey and macadamia moisturiser. Will definitely be thinking a bit more about what i’m putting on my skin after reading this! Thanks Sarah


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  • Dianne Caine

    I spent two years researching presevatives and fragrances for my products. I only found one company in the world that make some safe and non toxic fragrances. That company is Bramble Berry, you are correct in saying that fragrances are awful and toxic, especially if they have phalates in them. And I will let you know that Grapefruit Seed Extract for a presevative is also toxic. The manufacturers process of this product is horrific, so please avoid this product also. The skin is the largest organ of our body and absorbs everything that we put on it. I deal with manufacturers all around the world and if they dont tell me what they use to break down raw materials I will not deal with them. Until you deal with manufactures on the scale that I do, please also be careful of the word ‘organic’ on your body products, if the creator has not done their homework on what the manufacturer has used to break down the materials they also can be toxic. eg: a coconut that has been grown organically is great, but ever wondered what chemicals are used to break that organic coconut down with to get it to a white powder. Its not always pleasant for us as humans to be putting on our skin everyday. I began my research into toxic chemials into prodcuts when my daughter was diagnosed with a inoperable brain tumour at the age of 6. When I tired to find products without nasties in them it was so hard, so that is why I have formualted my own range, with extensive research. After 9 years of formulating products for me it all comes back to the manufactuer and the chemicals they use. Forget the word ‘natural’ anything in a bottle is no longer natural. Dont be afraid of some synthetics as again it can depend on how they are handled by the maufacturer. I have tried really hard to make a product that has ‘safe ingredients’ but it has been a hard challenge. Water is a chemical it all depends on they way it is used. So everyone keep up the good work of educating each other about toxic harmful chemicals we use everyday.


  • anonymous

    did you know that LUCAS PAPAW OINTMENT is vertually ALL Petroleum Jelly (petrochemicals) !!


  • Dianne Caine

    Yep it sure is ALL petroleum. Not many ingredients on there either. Makes me wonder how they get away with it.


  • Harry

    Hi Sarah. I followed your link to the Natural Instict website and then searched their ingredients list. I was surprised to find sodium laureth sulphate big and easy to read as number two on the list for a bodywash.
    I followed a couple of other links and found this – at the website
    Tuesday, April 21, 2009
    Natural Instinct leader in misleading claims: Get your refund NOW

    I am absolutely disgusted to find that Natural Instinct and Organic Instinct brands which are owned by Natural Products of Australia Pty Ltd have been so incredibly and deliberately misleading and deceptive in the promotion of their not so natural personal care products.

    The company has been found to guilty of deliberately failing to list all ingredients on the on the ingredients lists such as Sodium Laureth Sulphate, listing some chemicals by incorrect names, and claiming that some products are “made from 100% pure oils and certified organic herbs” when in fact, only a very minor proportion of the product uses these. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has told it to publish corrective notices in newspapers & magazine. You can read more specifics on the link below.

    I think most people who know a little about labelling would have realised that the products were far from 100% pure oils and certified organic herbs, but this latest deception is really so very manipulative.,28383,25344143-5007185,00.html



  • K.Dirs

    Great info! I was talking with my girlfriends about these issues a couple of weeks ago and how product packaging can give you the idea that products are good/safe etc… but unless you read the ingredients you don’t really know! I have found 2 books really helpfull – ” Milady’s skin care and cosmetic ingredients dictionary, Michalun and A consumers dictionary of cosmetic ingredients, Ruth Winter, MS REALLY great! I recently bought them online and would highly recommend them for people who want to know what each ingredient does and if its considered safe etc…

    In regards to good products, my friend referred me to a brand called Kukui. They are australian and from what I can see on the web, they have great ingredients, no nasties (parabens, SLS, fragrance or grape seed extract!). They are not too $$ either. Have placed an order with them (cleanser and face mask) and I’m looking forward to receiving the products! Will let you know what I think of them when I get them! Their web is if anyone interested!


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  • Dianne Caine

    well done Harry, they now have been taken over and revamping the packaging, but not the ingredients. Its such a false product. If only people realized why they are so cheap.


  • Vanessa

    Oh bloody hell, did I say Spa Radiance nail hardener? I meant SpaRitual! Sorry to anyone who googled it and came up with zilch.


  • Tegan

    Hi Sarah,

    I’m passionate about natural skincare. I left my job as a Priceline cosmetician to work at Lush, a company brought up by a few other people. If any of you have received vague information from staff, inform the manager. Our role is to inform – the company is all about being upfront and honest.

    I often get asked about sodium lauryl sulphate, preservatives and perfumes used in our products. While I cannot claim to speak on behalf of the whole company, my answer to customers is this: Lush is aware of the concerns, but there is also a certain extent of media hype that, frankly, outweighs the scientific evidence.

    We’ve been using the same formulas for over 20 years, we openly list our ingredients on our products, in our catalogues and online, and it is my opinion that they are safe synthetics. Skin is delicate, and at my store in Perth we ensure that every customer’s needs are matched.

    I love Lush for its ethics, its products, and most importantly, its no-tolerance approach to animals testing. Customers always compare us to The Body Shop, but have you read their ingredients lately? And did you know they’ve been bought by L’Oreal, a company which refuses to sign any binding agreement to stop their animal testing practices.

    Please ladies, consider the welfare of animals when making cosmetic choices.
    Love your work, Sarah!


    J Reply:

    I know this is really old, but I just wanted to share –

    I have dry sensitive skin, and always thought I had dandruff growing up. Going sulfate free in all my cleansers (even washing up and washing machine cleansers) has helped me incredibly. I tried Lush’s shampoo (the one for dandruff, smelled like a campfire?) about 2 years ago while looking for a shampoo, and it made me so sensitive and itchy. Almost immediately after drying my hair.

    I can understand a company not making a fairly major change to their products based on what they believe is inconclusive evidence, but for me its not about scientific studies – that particular ingredient clearly reacts with my skin, so I just don’t use it. For any reason, ever. It actually makes my bleeding disorder worse – when my skin or scalp get sulfate dried and itchy, I tend to bleed from scratching. Not pretty.

    My skin care products are from a small Tasmanian company that uses nut and plant oils and honey as the active ingredients, and I now don’t have dry skin anymore! Its a complete turn around from my previously sulfate-laden existence.


  • Katherine

    so why are you promoting the clinique super skin/super food dinner party. Super conflict-of-interest, or Super-hypocrisy is all i can gather from this. Integrity?

    You listed SLS and parabens as toic and harmful. They are the major listed ingredients in Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturiser. How can you preach one belief and then compromise that stance by partaking in such an event? I am confused. Well, maybe not so confused. is it about the $ $ $ ?



    Sarah Reply:

    Hi Katherine, I appreciate your point but it’s not really a conflict. Firstly, I’m not promoting the products. I’m there to encourage eating superfoods. Second, I’m careful not to bash big corporations. Otherwise I’d be branded a hypocrite for everything I do (I’ve worked for News Ltd, I wear running shoes of origins I”m not wholly sure of etc). If a company is investing in sharing info that’s helpful, I’m happy to be involved. Also, the more big companies engage in this kind of stuff, and the more they see that consumers are interested, the more likely they are to change their ingredients.


  • Kay

    Nobody’s mentioned Alchemy products! Their shampoos and conditioners don’t contain any parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals or other nasties, and on top of that they give great results. After using these products on my hair for a while, the red, angry scalp I’ve had for years has calmed right down to normal. On top of that, I know I’m not putting any bad products into our drains and, ultimately, out to sea.

    A point about L’Oreal products – Nestle has a large stake in this company, there are still doubts and criticism about the way Nestle promotes its baby milk formula (google Baby Milk Action).


  • Nikki Love

    Has no-one mentioned The Purist Company who make the A’kin and Al’chemy range of products? They’re an Australian company that make sulfate and paraben free shampoos, facial cleansers, body moisturises. My mother and sister in England order it online, and my sister goes through the ingredients with a fine toothcomb, so if she recommends I can only assume it must be good! Here’s the website:


  • Nikki Love

    Sheesh, maybe I should read more carefully!

    Kay beat me to it lol :)


  • picardie.girl

    Off to buy No More Dirty Looks from the Book Depository now… thanks Sarah. x


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  • jessie

    i have been using a blend of grapeseed oil, jojoba oil and castor oil, with lavendar mixed in for the smell, as my face cleanser for a few weeks now, and it’s been really lovely, overall. (a few dicey days around that time of the month, but there always are.) i use grapeseed oil, which is antibacterial, as my moisturizer at night, too, and i wake up with lovely glowy skin–despite the fact that my skin is oily, it seems to really like grapeseed oil! everything was available easily from the local health food store, too. (the secret is to take it off with a really hot washcloth…apparently the heat helps the oil penetrate to do its little job.)

    i also use coconut oil as body cream and make a toner from apple cider vinegar diluted with water and mixed with a little lavendar oil. when i exfoliate, i use raw honey and brown sugar mixed together. i too, am beginning to believe that the fewer ingredients, the better!


  • Dianne Caine

    If you can get pure 100% Argan Oil (hard to find) it is amazing on your face. It absorbs really well as the molecules are small. Leaves skin fine and it..


  • Belinda

    Thanks so much Sarah and to everyone else for your very helpful posts! My recommendations are A’kin shampoo, conditioner and hair mask (been using them for years and they’re fab), and after many failed deodorant purchases have found Sukin to be good.


  • Elise

    Grown Organics & KORA Organics are the BEST chemical free, organic products. Grown for Hair, KORA for face. You won’t be disappointed. They are both beautiful, chemical free, and smell delicious.


  • Amy

    Sarah, thanks for this great, comprehensive post! It’s amazing what we put on our skin sometimes…

    I wanted to point out that mineral oil has kind of a bad rap, but that studies have shown that cosmetic-grade mineral oil (the kind you find in skin care products) is actually non-comedogenic:

    Also, while mineral oil is suspected of containing carcinogens, causing respiratory toxicity, et cetera, there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims nor suggest that cosmetic-grade mineral oil is unsafe for use on the skin.

    This is not to say that people shouldn’t seek out alternatives if they want to be absolutely sure that what they’re using is safe. But I wanted to point out that claims against mineral oil are greatly exaggerated.


  • Sharon Regenevive

    good post.. do you need a skin care serum


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  • Nichole S.

    After becoming a sales rep for Melaleuca and Amway, I’ve began to see how bad commercial products really are for us. When I stopped being a rep for the aforementioned companies, I realized how tied we’d become to retailers. So it got me thinking …. what if they change their formula, throw something new nasty in? What if they *gasp* stop making it altogether!? This was unacceptable to me, so I went in search of even more organic and natural solutions. I have been using the No-Poo hair care method (Baking Soda or Sodium Bicarb & water to wash my scalp and Apple Cider Vinegar + Water as a conditioner) for at least two years. Indeed the transition period was horrid but I’ll never go back. (Tip: if you find your hair is too oily in the transition, sprinkle some corn starch in your hair. Give it a moment to soap up the extra oil, then brush/comb out)

    For the better part of a year or more, I’ve been washing my face with raw honey (uncooked, just rub it on before you hop in the shower). If I want to exfoliate, I grab a bit of kosher salt, add it to the honey already on my face, massage, then rinse. I have been having a few more break outs lately, due to stress of going back to college so I’ve started trying Yes to Carrots!. Then I’ll follow it up with a very small amount of cold pressed GrapeSeed Oil as a moisturizer.

    There is also another face washing method that involves using equal parts of castor oil and olive oil, massage into face, place a wash rag on your face damp with water as hot as you can stand it and letting it cool off, then wipe the excess oil off, repeat another time or two until all the excess oil is gone. If extra moisturizing is needed, pat a very small amount of olive oil into face, then end with a cold splash of water to the face to close the pores.

    Now, before any one jumps on me for putting more oil on my face, let me explain.
    Oil remove oil.
    If you want technical, oils are nonpolar molecules and are only attracted and soluable in other nonpolar substances, which is why if you have cooking oil all over your hands and you just run them under the water it doesn’t do much. The water molecule is polar and repels the oil, which is why you get the classic “oil & water don’t mix” adage. The way that traditional soap is structured, it contains nonpolar parts which trap the oil inside the soap and it wisks the oil away.
    (Thank you G/O/B Chemistry classes!!)


  • Kay

    J wrote today “My skin care products are from a small Tasmanian company that uses nut and plant oils and honey as the active ingredients,”

    J, please, could you tell us the name of the company and where you buy their products??
    I’d be extremely grateful :)


    Jane Reply:

    I would say J is referring to Beauty and the Bees. They have a website and you can order online.


  • Dinah

    I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this, but how does Sukin rate? I have just started using their products and by looking at the ingredients, they seem good and my difficult skin is liking them. That said, I am determined to be as aware as possible about the chemicals and toxins that I put into my body but am unable to find out much about Sukin brand. I am also grateful for all the posts on here, have been taking notes! Particularly regarding hair care as it has always been an issue for me. I also understand people not wanting to plug their products but please share! Am keen for any information! :)


    Dinah Reply:

    Oh, and further to my other comments, I can go without nearly all products, but without a heavy duty body moisturiser, I feel like I have bugs crawling under my skin. I slather my entire body (except face) in Palmers Cocoa Butter as it is the only thing that keeps my skin from feeling too dry. Even that sometimes isn’t enough. I’ve tried many many different lotions but even the horribly greasy and heavy ‘dry skin’ formulas don’t work. I am now on the hunt for coconut oil as it may just be the best thing I’ve heard and not tried since I was a teenager. Everyone swore by it on the Pacific Island that I lived on and it was pretty magical :)


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  • Martine

    No one has mentioned KORA my Miranda Kerr it is the best I have used totally organic
    and RMS makeup
    These two are the safest and trusted
    and also Sukin is pretty good.


    Jacqui Reply:

    Hi, Kora is not organic despite what the name suggests. Sorry! Also Sukin is not that great either – check out the websites and look at the ingredients…


    Elise Reply:

    Kora is certified organic – check the labels, it even gives the percentage.. Always in the 90s


  • Amanda

    Sarah, What shampoo and conditioner do you use?

    Btw have found marvelous mascara called Suavana Bio and its only $19.95. My eye lashes have grown and stopped breaking since I have used it.

    Also Gaia is brilliant for cleansers etc. Vegan and cheap!


  • http://Processing Gulam Shaikh

    Dear Sarah Madam,

    I am developing an App. that show the Total Cosmetic list with ingredient and price.
    for those People, who are used the Cosmetic from hair Oil or Shampoo to foot nail polish.

    Pls. for that I need a Support of the Cosmetic List with there Ingredients & the Price.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Gulam Shaikh.


  • Kirby

    I can’t speak highly enough of La Clinica products! ( Changed my skin SO much for the better. Now I’m now seeking organic/natural make up products to support my new skin care. Your site has been wonderful, as too all of the comments and recommendations – I’ve spent all weekend researching and I love it!


    Kirby Reply:

    PS. Can anyone recommend safe hair dyes?


    Mari Gold Reply:

    Kirby: there are hair colour ranges that are ammonia free such as “Organic Colour Systems”, or if you are concerned about putting colour on your scalp you could always opt for foils or cap highlights. That way none of the chemicals will be able to absorb into your skin.


    Kirby Reply:

    That’s wonderful, thanks Mari Gold!!

  • Dianne

    If you want a great shampoo and conditioner try Ookoo.
    All these products are the biggest selling skin and hair care range in the health food shops in Western Australia. Checked with manufacturers before making. There are no safe hair dyes. Even Organic/henna hair dyes have a toxic chemical in them.


  • http://none Mari Gold


    I just wanted to add an absolutely beautiful organic skincare range, they have just come out with organic mineral tinted mouse moisturiser and mineral makeup as well as a beautiful range of skin body mens and baby products. It’s called “Smitten”. Australian owned and manufactured as well :)

    Some other natural ranges I love are Sanctum, Organic Spa, Sukin, USpa, Adorn Cosmetics, Alexami Botanique, Belle Natural, Inika, NVey Eco and Plant Essentials.

    Kirby: there are hair colour ranges that are ammonia free such as “Organic Colour Systems”, or if you are concerned about putting colour on your scalp you could always opt for foils or cap highlights. That way none of the chemicals will be able to absorb into your skin.

    Thanks Sarah Wilson for your inspired approach to healthy living.


  • Lisa (Yrlocalmarkets)

    Hi everyone, just a tip also – when looking at “natural” brands, be sure to steer clear of anything containing phenoxyethanol – it is just as toxic as the sls, sle’s but many brands use it instead (like Akin). If you look it up on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website, you’ll see it’s nasty stuff and you don’t want to be putting that stuff on your skin and scalp!


  • Bianca

    I have been scrolling down the posts to see if anyone has mentioned Arbonne? I couldnt see anything so i apolgies if i am repeating any advice i may have missed. Arbonne produce beautiful botanical products inspired by nature. They are free of nasty chemicals, please see below for the Arbonne difference:
    • 100% vegan approved (no animal by-products)
    • Not tested on animals
    • No parabens/phthalates
    • No mineral oils, artificial dyes, colours or chemical fragrances
    • Botanically based, hypoallergenic and pH balanced
    • Dermatologist, Ophthalmologist & Pediatrician tested & approved
    And even better, the products are amazing!
    visit or send me an email


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  • Megan

    bit late for adding a comment, but thought it might help people trying to find good clean skincare products.
    I love the products at Cleanse Skincare ( I have found them all to be very effective (and I’ve tried quite a number) and it’s got a really strong ingredient policy, so all the hard work is done for you. Also the customer service was fantastic, as I had a few questions with regards to my skin type etc.
    Hope that helps!


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  • A.A

    The parabens causing cancer thing has been debunked, it’s better not to use them, but they wont’ cause cancer. The paraben and cancer study was done 10 years ago, with no further evidence made.
    Sometimes using plants, yes plants, can be just as bad as chemicals. Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it belongs on your face. Like weed is natural, but it doesn’t mean you should give yourself a cannabis facial.


  • Panda Hollywood

    I love LUSH Cosmetics. I use their 9-5 Orchid Oil Cleanser after I have removed my makeup with coconut oil. I use their Ro’s Argan Oil Body Conditioner but on my face as a moisturiser! My skin use to have blocked pores especially around the jawline and temples but now I don’t wear foundation or bronzer. I just curl my lashes, a bare pencilling of eyeliner, one coat of Clinique High Impact mascara in black and a light dusting of NARS Orgasm blush to give me a pop! NARS in Orgasm has been recommended as the BEST blush for all complexions; I recommend it to all. I use coconut oil as a makeup remover, a pre-hair dye skin protectant to avoid those pesky stains, as a shaving oil and as an in-shower moisturiser. (I massage it onto wet skin and rinse off and pat dry; moisturised skin without the heavy oiliness) I agree that it takes a bit to get used to but now I hate myself with foundation on; I hardly recognise my face in the mirror! I used Rose Hip Oil in the first month of project no-makeup to CALM my skin, let it breathe and heal. It became too heavy for me after a couple of months and so I switched to LUSH and I love my new face, well my old face, my new natural face ;) xo


  • Kat

    An update on Jurlique – they now sell their items in China, who requires every brand sold there to be tested on animals.


  • Saman

    I find it strange that the good guide has considered many brands but not LUSH. Have you come across a similar source for LUSH?


  • bulldogbabe

    I use one I buy in Majorca, it is by Top Tanning and called Aquasun, the clue is in the aqua, it is water based and does not contain any nasties, the reason I started using it was because of allergies to skin products, especially sun creams, the added bonus being it does not contain oils like most and seems to offer me a better protection from burning than the U.k products I have used in the past