I’ve done several toxin-free cosmetics lists over the years, each with several updates…resulting in a bit of a jumble. So I’ve pulled them apart and rejigged them all with updated information.

Picture 5
Image via Pinterest

And before I go on… I really want to emphasise that making the switch to safer and cleaner shouldn’t be about buying more stuff. It’s about making a slow, gradual, informed switch as your current products run out.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people about how you and I can best act on the very real fears we have that our foundations and hair dyes and deodorants are not good for us. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Use less stuff

Reduce the chemical load where you can. It takes some getting used to – wearing less makeup and less products – but it’s doable. It makes sense at all levels. I don’t wear foundation (where possible) any more. I wear a bit of powder, mascara and eyebrow pencil. No hair product. No nail polish. Less is more.

2. Read the labels 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. 
  • Paraben. This chemical is found in underarm deodorants and other cosmetics and has been shown to mimic the action of the female hormone oestrogen and can drive the growth of human breast tumors.
  • Phthalates. These plasticising ingredients (present in nearly three-quarters of 72 products tested by the US Environmental Working Group) have been linked to birth defects in the reproductive system of boys and lower sperm-motility in adult men.
  • Talc. It’s been linked to ovarian cancer.
  • Musks. Used as fragrances, these 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 to toluene has been 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 ageing, and are a suspected cause of cancer and disruption to hormonal activity.

3. Learn a little more

Follow the debate and support groups that are agitating for the government to police these chemicals better. The Environmental Working Group’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics should be followed. In Australia, sign up with National Toxics Network.

 4. Use what the experts recommend

This topic is waaaaay too hard to navigate if you don’t have a chemistry degree. Best to be inspired by women in this realm who’ve researched their choices. Do what they do, rather than researching from scratch. To this end, I’ve asked a stack of contacts for their best buys. Talking to these experts we all agree: it’s not always feasible to go completely chemical-free. We can simply reduce the chemical load by making safer choices where we can.

I’ll be sharing this safe beauty shopping list from the experts in tomorrow’s post. As well as details on what I currently use. Same place. See you back here.

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Josephine

    Great sharing. I’ve started to look more at what’s in the skincare products & makeup I use. In terms of mascara, I use Eyes of Horus. I saw it in a healthfood shop in Byron and it said all natural, with almond oil. I’ve been a fan of Ere Perez for a few years … always on the hunt for other good products. I have short eyelashes and after about 3 months of using Eyes of Horus, I noticed my eyelashes had grown, not by much, but they had definitely grown. https://eyeofhorus.com.au/ It’s become my favourite. I don’t think I could go back.
    In terms of skin care, I am a massive fan of oils as moisturisers, on their own or mixing them with a cream for an extra boost in winter. My beautician make their own CoQ10 oil which is amazing. Also love Neal’s Yard from Covent Garden in the UK. Can also buy here in DJ’s.
    I often get ezcema in my ears or behind my ears and get psoriasis around my hairline. My beautician put me onto Cosmedix rescue. It’s amazing and smells lovely like cherries. I use it after laser treatment as well. Clears up the ezcema in a few days.

  • sir kodak

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  • gina

    Hi sarah where do i buy avalon organics in australia in person.looking everwhere.i live in the western suburbs of sydney,thank you

  • Claire

    I live in the uk and I am trying to find some chemical free sun cream for me and my family.
    Do you know any uk based companies that may sell it? I’m really struggling.


  • jennifer

    You should check out motives cosmetics mineral based makeup it’s really great on the skin and lashes are real hair motivescosmetics.com/jenztrendz you can check out the ingredients and they are very affordable makeup lasts a long time

  • Victoria

    I really think the only way to be sure is to know your manufacturer – it’s hard to be a consumer these days. I found http://www.saarinenorganics.com on holiday down the NSW far south coast, a small farm growing all their own herbs and making their own cream base too, you can tell just by looking at it that it’s all natural, no bleach. Best results I’ve ever had in healing my dry, itchy skin.

  • Amy Bishop

    Hi can you please tell me if Natio is a good brand to use?

  • Sonya

    Interesting, never thought
    about gave so much consideration to the makeup I’m using. Will take all of
    these suggestions into consideration! I use Lavilin – apply it to my underarms
    after I shower, 1-2 times a week. Works soooo well.

  • Rosi


  • Rosi

    Hi Sarah – I have recently tried to purchase CEA ocean mineral superfood spray and am not having luck finding it -is it still available to your knowledge? If not is there anything else like it available? Also can you please tell me if you know of a company or individual who makes organic base creams -I react to most essential oils unfortunately – Thank You

  • Claudia Miceli

    COCONUT OIL!!! fab stuff to clean your skin, condition your hair, make toothpaste and natural deodorant.

  • Alana

    Tania Louise is an amazing organic skincare range… I think you’d love it! https://www.facebook.com/Tania.Louise.Store or tanialouise.com.au Would love for you to check it out and support her… she is a young Mum who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and became very conscious of the chemicals she exposed herself to and that’s how her company was born 🙂 She is now happy healthy and vibrant and so passionate about her products. {Tania Louise: Australian Owned & Australian Made Organic, Mineral, Botanic, Natural & Ethical Skin Care, Hair Care & Cosmetics}

  • Julia Clare

    I’ve been following Lynne Farrow and Dr Brownstein’s Iodine Protocol for a full year. I never realized how much skin needs iodine! This summer I haven’t burned badly and I’ve tanned more evenly where the sun has hit. My liver spots have shrunk away to almost nothing, and new ones stopped appearing. Clearer, moister eyes and other mucous membranes, healthier gums and much slower plaque/tartar accumulation on teeth. Iodine can of course be used topically too but not on the more tender skin or eyes as it burns! There’s a lot to learn to use iodine safely, DO read the books first.

  • tess

    What about Arbonne Products?

  • Min

    Eyelash extentions BECAREFUL! I too thought this was a fantastic way to avoid mascara and eyelash tints I had extentions on for 2.5 years I had them taken off as my vision was getting blury and my eyes teary from the glue. Now I have to wear my glasses All the time as the toxic glue worsened my vision. I went from only needing to wear glasses occassionally to now needing them all the time. So beware the glue is toxic

  • Tracy

    Or better still, reach into the pantry! My sister and I (My Sister’s Pantry Sth Gippy on Facebook) have developed a skin health line (Ripe.Skin.Food) made purely out of foods – totally safe, it’s edible – all of it! No chemicals or preservatives are added to prolong the life of the products, improve their smell, texture or colour. It’s not about the product’s life on the shelf but the life of your skin so some of our products need to be kept in the fridge. I have been using my line for 8 months now with amazing results. My skin has learnt to heal itself from the inside out by ‘eating’ all the natural nutrients, proteins and vitamins from the organic food I put on it. Next step – edible mascara and tinted moisturiser.

  • Suzanne

    It would be great to pin this.

  • Kat

    I think you mean Thursday PLANTATION lavender oil not Thursday Island

  • Amy

    Thanks so much for this article!! And the comments from everyone. I have been trying to navigate all of the brands / ingredients myself.

    There is a really good US site that rates cosmetics etc. on their toxicity: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep but I found they were more American brands, but could be useful for others.

    Two questions….

    I bought the Arbornne range at a party, on the basis that it is all organic/natural, but since then have been reading some negative comments online. What are other people’s thoughts on this brand? I realky can’t understand all the ingredients in products.

    I want to use natural, but still want to use anti-ageing products…. Any ideas?


  • Digby Beckley

    Here’s a good resource to find all the best organic & natural products in Australia – http://goo.gl/J8jpX4

  • Lauren @ fromalovinghome

    Sarah did you look at ‘Luk’ Beauty Food? I haven’t tried them but the ingredients are all food based. Looks interesting.

  • Sasha

    Thank you Sarah for this helpful article. I want to share with people the shampoo I have just discovered that I have found to be the most pure of the organic/natural ones I’ve investigated (with the exception of miessence shampoo and conditioner but unfortunately these products leave my hair dry) and leave my hair feeling amazing. The brand is IRaw. They’re an Australian company and their products are really effective. Just wanted to pass on in case others are looking for a pure shampoo and conditioner that doesn’t have a single nasty AND makes your hair look and feel beautiful.

  • Jodie

    Hi, I am looking for fat and oil free cosmetics (mineral powder foundation, blushes, eyeshadows, primers etc). Can you help me with this? I am overwhelmed with information that it has me doubting whether they are 100% fat free & oil free. Thanks ?

  • I switched to Nude by Nature years ago and have been using Eye of Horus eye make-up for a number of years now too, both are Australian companies which I am happy to support … as a professional performer I am used to heavy chemical stage make-up but have found that both of these brands perform just as well as the stuff I used to use.
    As for cleansers and toners you can’t go past olive oil w/ water and apple cidar vinegar … plus they’re fun to make, I store mine in old liquor bottles I picked up on my travels.

    • Rosy

      I, too, have used Nude for years but have wondered if it’s the best choice. The ingredients list for the mineral powder is as follows :

      INGREDIENTS: Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, Magnesium Stearate, Kaolin, Jojoba Esters,
      May contain: +/- [C.I. 77491, C.I. 77492, C.I. 77499 (Iron Oxide), C.I. 77007 (Ultramarine Blue)].

      What the hell is all that ‘may contain’ list about? Can anyone shed some light on it?

      • Rosy

        Actually, a lot of the ingredients are no good according to the safe cosmetics site. Dam.. time to find another powder!

  • Cara

    I have certainly done a clean out of products, Mukti, Sukin, Inika and Adorn are all good products. Still trying to find a safe deodorant – Mukti have a good one, but doesn’t always work.

  • Habib

    Please mention Nudus Australia a rich and beautiful lippy every women should have.

  • Great post. I ended up making my own because I found it all too confusing and I really love it on lots of different levels x

  • Kathryn Ledson

    Sarah, why are you using make up at all? I’m not intending to flatter, but perhaps this is a question women should be asking. Why do we need to paint and decorate ourselves? For what purpose? To make us acceptable?

  • Kate

    Synergie Minerals is amazing too!

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  • Ann

    LOVE the Rocky Mountain Soap Company products !!!!