Toxic ingredients to avoid when buying beauty products

Chemicals in cosmeticsYou only have to look at the ingredients list on a moisturiser or bottle of shampoo to realise the amount of synthetic chemicals that many of the major brands use. And when you consider just how many products you come into contact with on any one day, from foundation to furniture polish, that’s a pretty hefty dose of stuff you might prefer to avoid.








So what should you look out for if you’re trying to avoid chemical ‘nasties’? Well, for a start, there’s:


Parabens are basically preservatives that prolong a product’s shelf-life.  Some have been found to mimic oestrogen, and traces have been found in breast cancer tumours. While there’s no definite proof that they increase the risk of breast cancer, many people prefer to err on the side of caution.


Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)

SLS gives lots of lovely bubbles and helps to get everything from car engines to skin squeaky clean.  But it can really dry the skin out, irritate eczema, psoriasis and other skin complaints, and leave skin feeling rather ‘stripped’. It’s also known to really irritate eyes.



Phthalates help products to retain colour and scent, so they’re frequently used in cosmetics. They’re endocrine-disrupters and have been linked to a wide range of problems, from early puberty to cancer.



Formaldehyde has been found to cause cancer in laboratory studies. You would think it would be obvious that such a harsh chemical wouldn’t be great for our skin, but formaldehyde can still be found in nail varnishes, shampoos and various other products.


There are also lots of other chemicals that can find their way into products, from synthetic fragrances linked to respiratory problems, to antibacterial chemicals which have been found to disrupt hormones. 


So why don’t more people switch to natural alternatives? Well, the two main reasons people tend to give for not switching are:


‘Natural products can’t work as well’

‘Natural products will be more expensive’


In our opinion, natural products can work just as well as, if not better than, high-street brands. They’re usually designed to work with your body for long term benefits, rather than just short-term fixes, although customers often report instant results. They won’t strip your skin of its natural oils, or dry your hair into a frizzy mess, and are less likely to cause irritation. Instead, they’ll nurture your skin and hair, feeding it with antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients.


Many of our natural brands carry out extensive trials, with some impressive results. Take Alva Sanddorn Moisturising Fluid with Royal Jelly – dermatological tests showed that skin moisture levels increased by 76% after four weeks of use, while the depth of fine lines and wrinkles was reduced by almost a third. Dermatological tests of the Weleda Citrus Hydrating Body Lotion showed that after four weeks of usage skin moisture had increased by 25%.


But are natural products more expensive? Not necessarily. Prices differ, just as they do on the high street, but you can certainly pick up some great products if you’re on a budget.


If you’ve come to rely on a brand or a product, it can be difficult to make a switch, as it’s not always easy to know what to go for. We’ve tried to do the hard work for you, making it easy to search for products by type, and by price. You can also search by criteria, whether a product has been accredited by Cruelty Free International, The Soil Association, or Ecocert, to give you extra piece of mind. 


We have put together a guide of our best selling cult natural beauty products, so you can easily see what other customers are buying, and how much they love them! Have a read here. 


Big Green Smile doesn’t sell products that contain any ‘nasties’. So you can shop with us safe in the knowledge you’re avoiding parabens, SLS, phthalates and other things that are best kept in the lab, not your bathroom cabinet.