The Dirty Dozen: 12 Common Toxins Found In Beauty Products

While there are countless artificial ingredients and toxic nasties hiding in most mainstream beauty products, there are 12 in particular that give cause for major concern.

Often referred to as The Dirty Dozen, these ingredients and chemicals have been shown to be highly questionable with potentially devastating health implications.

Grab a pen and paper and familiarise yourself with these common toxins so that you can steer clear of them next time you’re shopping for cosmetics and toiletries.


Found in basically every mainstream beauty product you can get your mitts on, parabens (which usually appear on the ingredients list with prefixes like Butyl, Isobutyl, Propyl, Methyl, Ethyl etc.) are artificial preservatives that are added to products to help prevent bacteria and mould growth.

Parabens are a concern because they can mimic our own natural hormones, which can lead to endocrine disruption; a condition which has been linked to some types of cancer. Parabens have also been associated with skin irritation, dermatitis, rosacea, increased sun damage, headaches and dizziness.


If that department store beauty product you’re testing has even the slightest hint of a scent to it, chances are it’s loaded with synthetic fragrance. Usually listed as ‘parfum,’ or ‘fragrance,’ on the ingredients label, an artificial fragrance can have dozens – even hundreds – of ingredients.

It’s impossible to know exactly what chemicals have been used to create that specific scent, because beauty companies aren’t legally required to reveal their fragrance compositions. Artificial and synthetic fragrances have been linked to headaches, dizziness, skin irritation, nausea and endocrine disruption.


Found in some of the most popular beauty products on the market (including perfumes, nail polishes, and hairsprays), common phthalates include Diethyl Phthalate and Dibutyl Phthalate.

Phthalates are a type of plasticising chemical that’s used to make a product’s texture more spreadable or pliable, or alternatively to make a product adhere to the skin.

Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, and they have been linked to lung, kidney and liver damage, and can potentially cause birth defects as well.


Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) are found in products that lather up (think shampoo, foaming cleansers, body wash, liquid soap, bubble bath and even toothpaste) and are a type of foaming agent.

They are incredibly harsh ingredients and can often be found in industrial cleaning products like engine degreasers. Both SLS and SLES irritate the skin by stripping away it’s natural protective barrier, and have also been linked to allergies, eye problems, and hair growth issues.


An antibacterial and anti-fungal agent, Triclosan is added to common toiletries like hand soaps, deodorants, toothpaste, hand sanitiser, and cosmetics.

While the idea of a germ-fighting additive might not sound bad in theory, Triclosan has been linked to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (known as ‘superbugs’) and also ends up in our water systems where it can affect the aquatic environment.

In addition, Triclosan has also been linked to endocrine disruption which can lead to serious medical conditions.


Petroleum and petroleum-derived substances including mineral oil and paraffin are commonly found in lip balms, lipsticks, lip glosses, body oils, moisturisers, body balms, hair gels and conditioners.

Petroleum is a type of petrochemical that’s derived from crude oil, and it can cause a wide array of skin problems as it coats and clogs your pores and leaves a slick barrier on top of the skin.

In addition to preventing the skin from ‘breathing,’ petroleum, mineral oil and paraffin can also be contaminated with all kinds of toxins and impurities.


Listed on the ingredients label as Imidazolidinyl Urea, Diazolidinyl Urea, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Quaternium, DMDM Hydantoin, Nitropropane, Bronopol, Oxaldehyde and Glyoxal, Formaldehyde is commonly found in nail polishes and hair straightening treatments.

It’s been banned from use in cosmetics in some countries and is a known carcinogen that has been linked to lung disease (including lung cancer), lymphoma and leukaemia.

It makes it’s way into the body through fume inhalation, and can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, and has the potential to accumulate in the body which can lead to toxicity.


Also known as Quinol, Benzene and Diol, Hydroquinone inhibits melanin production and can be found in some skin lightening creams and anti-pigmentation products like brightening serums and skin whitening treatments.

It has been banned in some countries, and the FDA has stated that Hydroquinone may be carcinogenic, as studies have linked it to the development of tumours and leukaemia. It has also been linked to skin sensitivity and increased sun damage, skin irritation and organ toxicity.


While it’s not commonly found in Australian-made beauty products, mercury can be lurking in certain mascaras, acne treatments and skin creams, along with ear and eye drops.

It will be listed on the ingredients label as Calomel, Mercurous Chloride, Thimerosal, Merthiolate, Mercurio, or Mercuric.

Mercury exposure can lead to mercury poisoning, symptoms of which can include tremors, numbness and tingling, irritability and depression, memory problems, vision and hearing problems, and organ damage – including brain damage.


You’ll find this anti-freeze solvent in brake and hydraulic fluids, along with some of the most common personal care and toiletry products like deodorant, baby wipes, toothpaste, moisturisers, shampoo, and run-of-the-mill cosmetics.

Propylene Glycol has the potential to cause serious health issues, including central nervous system disruption and organ damage. It has also been linked to hives, eczema, and allergic reactions.


Used primarily as a colouring agent in hair dyes and makeup, and also an active ingredient in some anti-dandruff shampoos, coal tar dyes will appear in the ingredients list with names like Aminophenol, Phenylenediamine and Diaminobenzene.

Coal tar dyes are known to be carcinogenic, and in some instances might also be contaminated with toxic heavy metals. In addition to this, coal tar dyes have also been shown to cause skin irritation and sensitivity.

12. BHA & BHT

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) are synthetic antioxidants, which are added to cosmetics like lipstick, moisturiser, and even baby products like nappy creams to extend the product’s shelf life.

They are suspected carcinogens and they also have the potential to cause endocrine disruption and have the potential to cause thyroid, kidney, and liver issues.


Five Of The Best Eco Beauty Bathroom Essentials

Most of us would admit that we spend an inordinate amount of time in our bathrooms on a daily basis.

And while we can’t all have a marble-adorned designer restroom complete with an oversized rain shower and an enormous claw foot bathtub, we can treat ourselves to a few beautiful little luxuries that will elevate our daily routines and pamper the senses.

Here we reveal five of our favourite eco beauty bathroom essentials that are guaranteed to add a touch of toxin-free elegance to those otherwise banal visits to the WC.

1. Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash

If you look up ‘invigorating’ in the dictionary, we’re pretty sure you’ll find a picture of this bad boy staring back at you.

With it’s heady, addictive aroma of lavender and freshly picked herbs, this revitalising cleansing gel is perfect for hard-working hands. As an added bonus, it’s also super gentle on your skin and never leaves your mitts feeling dry.


2. Vanessa Megan Peruvian Flower Hand & Body Cream

For soft, supple and beautifully fragrant skin, look no further thank Vanessa Megan Peruvian Flower Hand & Body Cream.

Infused with luxurious organic oils and butters, this divine body cream hydrates dry skin without leaving any greasy residue – just the uplifting scent of mandarin, earthy florals and vanilla.


3. Mukti Botanique Body Wash

Turn shower time into a ultra-refreshing experience with Mukti’s zesty Botanique Body Wash.

Featuring the invigorating scent of desert lime and lemon verbena this luxe cleansing gel is infused with nourishing certified organic botanical extracts, it truly is a beautiful way to stay fresh and clean.


4. MUSQ Lemon Myrtle & Mandarin Hand Wash

Up your bathroom’s style-factor with MUSQ’s chic Lemon Myrtle and Mandarin Hand Wash.

Enriched with eucalyptus, tea, rosewood, lemon myrtle and mandarin, this gorgeous wash thoroughly cleanses while also invigorating your mind, body and soul.


5. Dr. Bronner’s All-One Toothpaste in Peppermint

Cleaning your teeth isn’t exactly the most thrilling task, but at least when using Dr. Bronner’s All-One Toothpaste with 70% organic ingredients, you can enjoy that clean feeling and minty-fresh sensation while also being safe in the knowledge that your toothpaste contains no synthetic foaming agents, fluoride, artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, or sweeteners.



Five Minutes With: The Beauty Chef’s Carla Oates

As an organic beauty and health expert and a former beauty editor, Carla Oates knows more about the secret to great skin than the average gal.

Carla is an avid naturalist and product formulator, and she has spent the better part of the last two decades creating beauty products using foods from her kitchen and herbs from her garden, which resulted in the development of her successful beauty supplement and skin health range, The Beauty Chef.

Carla was kind enough to take five minutes out of her busy schedule to chat with us and reveal her secrets for a healthy, radiant complexion.

EE: When did you first develop an interest in nutrition?

CARLA: I had eczema and allergies as a child, and I went to a naturopath when I was a teenager who put me on a diet. From eliminating certain foods and eating others, I noticed a big difference in my skin and wellbeing.

I was working as a beauty editor around 17 years ago and was concerned with the amount of toxic chemicals in skincare, and because of my own personal experience, I understood that radiant, healthy skin comes from within. So I made it my mission to help educate people on healthier skincare options.

I made it my mission to help educate people on healthier skincare options

I wrote a book published a book called Feeding Your Skin, and over the last fifteen years I have written hundreds of articles on natural beauty and health and researched the benefits of plant-based foods for our skin.

My daughter had eczema as a child, and so around 10 years ago I was researching gut health, lacto-fermented foods, and probiotics. I started making lacto-fermented foods and noticed a big difference in her skin and wellbeing.

I created quite a demand, and that demand grew to friends of friends – so it seemed a natural progression to launch The Beauty Chef. Glow Inner Beauty Powder was my first product – containing 24 bio-fermented, skin-loving super foods.

Glow Inner Beauty Powder

How does our gut affect the way our skin looks?

At The Beauty Chef, our ethos is ‘beauty begins in the belly.’ Digestive health is key for healthy, radiant skin. Our gut is where 70% of the immune system lies, where we metabolise hormones, where we make detoxifying enzymes and where we make nutrients.

So much of what goes on in our digestive system can impact our skin – more and more research shows this link. For example, those with healthier gut microbiota have a better fatty acid profile in their skin; meaning their skin is more moisturised and hydrated.

Those with dermatitis have been shown to have a disruption of normal gut microbiota. Where there is gut inflammation, there will be skin inflammation.

What are some of the biggest nutrition and health hurdles women face today?

The prevalence of processed and high human intervention foods in the average diet. I also believe that an overload of synthetic and questionable chemicals in our food, personal care and skincare is problematic to our health, which is why I recommend buying certified organic food, skincare and personal care products wherever possible.

Also stress! Stress and a lack of sleep. Stress robs the body of nutrients and increases stress hormones that can be as problematic to the body as refined sugar. When we sleep we release important antioxidants and youth hormones. A lack of sleep raises stress hormones, interferes with hunger regulating hormones, and depletes us of anti-ageing antioxidants, melatonin and human growth hormone.

What does a typical day on a plate look like for you?

When I get up, I drink our Glow Inner Beauty Powder in water with a splash of lemon juice. This is usually followed by a breakfast of eggs with mushrooms, tomatoes and salmon, or a buckwheat, miso, apple and date porridge.

For lunch I’ll have a big chicken or salmon salad with nuts, sprouts and avocado. For afternoon tea I’ll have a cold pressed juice, or perhaps a black bean and cacao protein truffle made using The Beauty Chef Chocolate Body Inner Beauty Powder.

Dinner is usually light – mostly salads, veggies and a protein source, like lamb or barramundi. In general I eat lots of carrots, nuts and fruit and drink two litres of filtered water throughout the day.

I love curries, slow cooked soups and stews with bone broth, lots of vegetables, herbs and spices – these are easily digested and great for gut health. We have some great recipes available on our website

You recently launched a topical skincare range – what prompted this?

I became concerned with the amount of toxic chemicals in skincare and cosmetic products. I believe that many of those harsh chemicals can not only compromise the skin’s protective acid mantle and therefore the health of the skin, but may also be absorbed into the blood stream.

One of my favourite products from the range is the Probiotic Skin Refiner, which embraces fermentation for the same reasons we use it with our inner beauty range. Research is showing that by supporting the flora on the skin topically, you can boost your immune system – so there is a direct relationship between what you put on your skin and your immune system.

Harsh chemicals not only compromise the skin’s protective acid mantle…but may also be absorbed into the blood stream

I love the fact that lacto-fermentation is a completely natural biological process. It breaks ingredients down (natural bacteria pre-digest the ingredients), making the nutrients more bio-available. We don’t need to make super-duper synthetic ingredients in a lab (which may send our skin and health into imbalance) to create ‘active’ ingredients.

Here, we have this incredible process that turns natural ingredients into super-natural ingredients that are active, balanced and rejuvenating – and it’s all done by nature! I love our Probiotic Skin Refiner as it is a skin hydrator, exfoliant and collagen booster – all in one.

Probiotic Skin Refiner

What’s a surprising fact about our skin that people might not know?

The skin, hair and nails are the last places in the body to receive nutrients, as they go to more important organs first, so nutrition is important for glowing skin.

What’s next for The Beauty Chef?

We’re launching The Beauty Chef Cookbook*. It contains more than 150 gluten-free and dairy-free recipes including healthy spins on traditional dishes, special occasion treats, simple family meals and time-honoured ferments.

*The Beauty Chef Cookbook by Carla Oates, $49.95, is available from October 2016 from and leading bookstores.


The Great Skin Diet

When it comes to having an amazing complexion with radiant, glowing skin, the fact is that anti-wrinkle cream and illuminator can only do so much. Your diet plays an integral part in both the function and appearance of your skin, and if you arm yourself with a little know-how and a nutritious pantry, you will nourish you skin from the inside out and be rewarded with an amazing complexion.

“Our diet provides us with nutrients to nourish our skin, including zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C and bioflavonoids to name a few,” says respected Sydney-based nutritionist and naturopath Tania Flack. In addition to nourishing our bodies and our complexions, our diet also also provides us with a range of antioxidants that help us fight the ageing process by combating free radicals (molecules which are a leading cause of skin stress, inflammation and accelerated skin ageing).

“If our diet is poor and we are eating processed foods that contain a high level of chemicals, additives, herbicides and pesticides, then this accelerates the ageing process,” says Tania. Continue reading to discover more of Tania’s top nutritional tips, and learn how you can eat your way to gorgeous, glowing skin.


While we all worry about that chocolate fudge brownie with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate syrup going straight to our hips, it turns out that it could be contributing to our crow’s feet as well.

“Sugars occur naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains and are part of a healthy wholefoods diet. However, extra sugars added to the diet are associated with accelerated ageing,” says Tania. Accelerated skin ageing can be caused by a number of things like sun damage and smoking, but one of the major causes is glycation.

Extra sugars added to the diet are associated with accelerated ageing

Glycation is a natural process that occurs within our bodies, and it involves protein molecules linking up with sugar, which triggers an inflammatory and oxidative process that damages the collagen and elastin within our skin.

While this process is normal and natural, an excessively sugary diet will intensify glycation, which will in turn speed up the ageing process – hence why sugar is one of your skin’s biggest enemies. “Ideally we should all try to avoid added sugar in our day-to-day diets and use it as a treat occasionally for special celebrations such as birthdays,” says Tania.


If you’ve well and truly left your teenage years behind but still struggle with acne and blemishes, reducing your dairy intake might help you on your way to a glowing, spot-free complexion.

“I do see significant improvements in skin when people eliminate dairy from their diet as part of a detoxification program to improve skin,” says Tania. “In clinic I have observed that dairy consumption seems to be associated with skin congestion, however the reasons for this are unclear. It is possible that the milk proteins including casein and whey may cause problems for some people and impact gut function.”

Impaired gut function can cause a whole host of problems for you and your skin, as it can ultimately interfere with your body’s detoxification processes, which will in turn put more pressure on the eliminatory function of your skin.

If you do decide to ditch dairy in an effort to reduce skin congestion, it’s important that you still consume plenty of calcium to keep your bones healthy and happy. Eating foods like canned salmon and sardines, kale, bok choy, watercress, almonds, calcium-fortified soy milk and tofu, chia seeds and sesame seeds will help boost your calcium intake.


Upping your intake of fibre and wholefoods such as vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds will give your diet a massive nutritional boost and ensure that your skin (and body) is getting the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it’s craves.

In addition, eating the healthy fats will also improve your complexion. “Essential fatty acids found in fish and seafood provides an array of benefits for the skin. They are strongly anti-inflammatory and help to slow the ageing process,” says Tania.

Essential fatty acids can specifically help your skin by nourishing cell membranes, which will in turn strengthen your skin. Essential fatty acids have also been shown to support healthy hormone balance as well, which is a fantastic added benefit for women.

Great sources of essential fatty acids include fresh sardines, mackerel, salmon, prawns and scallops. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, all isn’t lost – foods like avocado, coconut oil and chia seeds will help boost your intake of the good, skin-loving types of fat.


We’ve all heard the old ‘eight glasses of water a day’ adage, but does your daily water intake actually play that big of a role in how your skin looks? According to Tania, the answer is a resounding yes.

“Dehydration can cause skin to look dry, and we should aim for a minimum of 1.5 litres of water per day and avoid excess alcohol and caffeine, which accelerate dehydration.” If you can’t part ways with your daily cup of tea or coffee or that cheeky glass of pinot on a Friday night (hey, we get it), make sure you have an extra glass of water for every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage you drink.

In addition, if you’re exercising you should aim to drink an extra two glasses of water for every half hour of exercise you do.


While supplements should never be used as a substitute for eating healthily, they can help give your diet and your skin a helping hand.

One of our favourite supplements for amazing skin is The Beauty Chef’s Glow Inner Beauty Powder. This tasty berry-flavoured powder combines a blend of organic and natural ingredients that are bio-fermented for gut health and packed full of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and amino acids, which nourish your skin from the inside to help give your skin a healthy glow on the outside.

The Beauty Chef’s Glow Inner Beauty Powder

Another supplement we love is Amazonia Raw Prebiotic Women’s Multi. Not only does this wholefood-loaded supplement boost your intake of vitamins and minerals, but it also contains fermented ingredients that act as powerful pre- and probiotics that promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Healthy intestinal flora help your body extract maximum nutrition from the foods you eat, which in turn boosts your overall health and wellbeing, and can also improve the appearance of your skin.

Amazonia Raw Prebiotic Women's Multi.

We know that antioxidants are one of your skin’s best friends when it comes to anti-ageing, but ensuring that you eat enough antioxidant-rich foods to create a noticeable improvement in your skin can be a tricky task (how many blueberries can one person eat in a day, right?). Enter Matcha Maiden Green Tea. Made entirely of stone-ground organic green tea leaves, this vibrant green powder contains the nutritional equivalent of 10 cups of antioxidant-rich green tea, which helps your body combat age-accelerating free radicals.

Matcha Maiden Green Tea


Neo Deo: The Natural Deodorant Revolution


You apply deodorant every day, but have you ever stopped to wonder what ingredients are lurking inside? Unlike natural deodorant, most mainstream antiperspirant deodorants contain aluminium compounds, which block your sweat glands to inhibit sweating.

While there’s no question that antiperspirants are effective at reducing sweat and body odour, aluminium in deodorant is a cause for concern. The aluminium-based compounds used in these products are made up of extremely small molecules that have the potential to be absorbed into your body.

Aluminium accumulation in the body has been linked to breast cancer, liver toxicity and Alzheimer’s disease; which is extremely worrying when you consider how many people use aluminium-based deodorants on a daily basis.

Read on to learn more about the potential dangers of regular antiperspirant, and why you should make the switch to natural deodorant today.


In addition to aluminium, most antiperspirant sprays and roll-on deodorants contain many artificial additives and chemicals that are known to be toxic. Some of these include:

  • Phthalates. These are plasticising chemicals that make cosmetic products adhere to our skin, and they are often found in heavily fragranced beauty products like perfumes and deodorants. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors (meaning they muck around with our hormone levels), and scientific studies have linked them to reduced testosterone and lower sperm quality in men.
  • Parabens. These are used as a cheap preservative. While they’re currently considered ‘safe’ for use in personal care products and cosmetics, parabens can mimic our own natural hormones which can lead to endocrine disruption – a condition which has been linked to some types of cancer. Parabens have also been associated with headaches, dizziness, skin irritation and dermatitis.
  • Triclosan. This is an antibacterial agent that’s often used in deodorants and antiperspirants. “Triclosan has been shown to interfere with thyroid signalling,” says Chey Birch, founder of popular natural deodorant and skincare brand Black Chicken. “Australia’s regulators said there is no immediate cause for public concern, but in the very same report they also stated that triclosan may be bio-accumulative, persistent in the environment, and very toxic to aquatic organisms. Products for human use that contain more than 0.3% triclosan must be labelled as poison.”

Perhaps what’s most worrying is the fact that tighter government regulations, stricter labelling laws, and more extensive research into the safely of these chemicals are pitted against the enormous profits earned by the big global businesses that dominate the personal care and cosmetic industries.

This is something that Chey finds very troubling. “When it’s not possible to prove beyond doubt the toxic load of a chemical, then the ingredient is deemed ‘safe to use’ – at least until accumulated evidence and hindsight proves otherwise,” says Chey, “and by then, for some of us, the damage is done.”


Despite what those antiperspirant TV commercials might lead you to believe, sweat is actually a healthy – and necessary – process. “When we sweat, it’s the body’s way of getting rid of toxins and waste so your whole system can run more efficiently,” says Chey. “Sweating also helps us maintain a healthy immune system because it reduces the amount of waste and toxins the body has to deal with – and of course, it helps regulate our body temperature too.”

Sweat is the body’s way of getting rid of toxins

As it turns out, sweat itself isn’t even the main cause of body odour – that particular (dis)honour goes to bacteria. “Body odour is caused when bacteria break down certain proteins in underarm sweat,” says Chey. Luckily, there are some fantastic toxin-free deodorants on the market that are not only safe and gentle on your pits, but they also neutralise bacteria naturally, helping to prevent body odour from developing.


Most people find it easy to make the switch from antiperspirant to a natural deodorant, but sometimes there can be a bit of a transitional period. “Occasionally, for first time users, it can trigger a pit detox,” says Chey. “The body begins to release all those clogged toxins as your pores relax and do their thing – body odour can be stronger than usual at this time.”

You can help speed up this detox process by working up more of a sweat and drinking plenty of water to flush out the toxins. “Eat well and maybe cut back your alcohol and caffeine intake until your system regains its natural balance,” suggests Chey.


If you’re ready to make the switch to natural deodorant, a deodorant paste is a great starting point. To apply, you simply use a pea-sized amount of product and warm it up between your fingers before massaging it into your underarms using a slow, circular motion. Black Chicken is currently the most popular natural deodorant brand in Australia, and it’s also friendly on the wallet when you consider that one tub will last you for weeks on end.

black chicken deodorant axilla

Here at THE ECO EDIT we’re big fans Erica Brooke’s range of unisex deodorant pastes. The pastes contain nourishing, soothing ingredients like shea butter and vitamin E to keep your pits happy and hydrated, and there are a variety of scents to choose from like wildflowers, neroli and vanilla. Erica also makes a double-strength formula, which is perfect for gym days. The brand also offers an unscented version for those with sensitive pits.


If you’re currently using an aerosol or spray-on deodorant, we highly recommend trying Indah No. 5 Active Spray Deodorant. They’ve cleverly used colloidal silver instead of aluminium, which is blended with a mixture of powerful herbal actives that will keep you smelling fresh. As a bonus, the gorgeous scent of this deodorant spray is so nice that you can use it as a natural perfume too.

indah active spray natural deodorant

If you’re more of a roll-on girl (or guy) and prefer a hands-free deo, we recommend Madara Bio-Active Deodorant. This little beauty comes with an easy-to-use roller ball applicator, which makes it perfect for popping in your gym bag – or for days when you just want a fuss-free deodorant option.