Your skin is the largest organ of your body. It is living and breathing. Anything we rub onto our skin will be directly absorbed into the bloodstream. This wouldn’t be so unsettling if all the skin care products we have available to us were perfectly natural, and chemical free!

While women are thought to be the heavy users of personal care and cosmetic items, unknowingly applying an average of 515 chemicals on their faces/bodies every day, the Environmental Working Group reports the average adult uses about 9 personal care products daily.  Besides the obvious chemical ridden perfumes/colognes, and hair dyes, this list of products include soaps, shampoos and conditioners, body creams/lotions, make-up (lipstick, mascara, etc), shaving creams, and toothpaste (to name a few). The majority of companies are still using testing on animals, or use animal byproducts. Not to mention, the average woman spends an average of $650 yearly on beauty products! The most disturbing factor of all, only 11% of 10,500 chemical ingredients in beauty products have been tested for safety. 1 in 13 women are exposed every day to ingredients through their personal care products that are known or probable cancer causing chemicals, and reproductive toxins.

So how can we reduce our exposure to such harmful products? Simple – go green. We are constantly finding vegan, eco-friendly solutions and alternatives to improve the environment as well as ourselves, why not give our skin the same treatment?

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the products you currently use. Women – I’m talking all make-up items, all hair products, all face washing/care products, deodorant, nail polish, perfumes, lotions, self tanners, as well as toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. Men – take a look at your colognes, moisturizers, shaving creams, after shaves, as well as deodorants, toothpaste and mouthwash.

Red Alert List

The Environmental Working Group advises that consumers avoid any products that carry any of the following ingredients (listed in order from most hazardous to least):

1. Coal Tar: We are essentially ingesting crude oil when we use products carrying any form of coal tar! A known carcinogen, it is most commonly found in dandruff shampoos and anti-itch creams. Coal-tar based dyes such as FD&C Blue 1, or FD&C Green 3 can be found in some toothpastes and mouthwash (If you are a vegan, these dyes may contain animal pigments). Aside from cancer, FD&C can also cause several health problems, including behavioral and learning problems.

2. Fragrance: This universal term is used by companies within the cosmetics, cleaning, and candle industries to hide hundreds of unnamed chemicals and ingredients. Amongst these ingredients includes phthalates, which disrupt the endocrine system and can potentially cause reproductive and developmental harm; particularly in baby boys.

3. Hydroquinone: Commonly found in skin lighteners, facial moisturizers, and hair dyes, Hydroquinone is a neurotoxin and is allergenic. EWG lists it as a possible carcinogen, and mutagen.

4. Aluminum: Listed as toxic, carcinogenic, and mutagenic.  Aluminum is most often found in nail polish, eye shadow (as a color additive), as well as in deodorants.

5. Triclosan: Filled with dioxins (which are highly carcinogenic) this chemical can weaken the immune system, cause birth defects and decrease fertility. Often used in antibacterial products (including deodorant, soap, dish-washing liquids, etc), toothpaste, and cosmetics.

6. P-Phenylenediamine: Also known as 1,4-Benzenediamin, p-Phyenyldiamine and 4-Phenylenediamine, this is the chemical that gave hair dye a bad name. A potential carcinogen, it can also damage your nervous system, cause lung irritation, and cause severe allergic reactions.

7. Lead and Mercury: Lead, a neurotoxin, has been found in several beauty products, including lipstick, toothpaste(hydrated silica), foundation, as well as sunscreen! Mercury can be found in a cosmetic preservative called thimerosol (used in some vaccinations – possibly linked to increased rates of Autism) and has been linked to nervous system toxicity, as well as reproductive, immune, and respiratory toxicity, according to the EWG’s skin deep guide.

The EWG further advises to stay clear of numerous other chemicals (The orange alert list), some of which can create the formation of carcinogenic chemicals called nitrosamines. Health issues, tumor growth, reproductive problems, hormone disruptors, and organ malfunctions are just some of the negative effects these chemicals can have on the body; Parabens, Triethanolamine (TEA), and Benzyl Alcohol to name a few.

The Animal Ingredients List

Animal ingredients are commonly found in personal care products because they are quite often cheaper than synthetic and vegetable-derived ingredients. Slaughterhouses have found an easy and profitable solution to disposing the byproducts of the billions of slaughtered animals every year by selling them to food and cosmetics manufacturers. On PETA’s website, you can search for companies who are cruelty free, and don’t use any animal ingredients. PETA has generated a list for vegans to follow as a guide of animal byproducts to watch out for in any personal care products. While this list is extremely long, the following lists some ingredients that are commonly found in personal care products:

Animal Fats and Oils – found in cosmetics

Bee Products (Bees Wax, Honeycomb, Bee Pollen) – found in shampoos, toothpastes, deodorants, lotions, and cosmetics

Carotene (Beta Carotene, Provitamin A) – A pigment that can be derived from animal tissue and used as a coloring in cosmetics

Casein (Caseinate, Sodium Caseinate) – a milk protein found in hair preparations and beauty masks

Colors & Dyes (FD&C)– Pigment that can be derived from animal sources. As previously mentioned on the red list under coal tar, commonly seen in toothpastes and hair dyes.

Estrogen – Female hormones from pregnant mare’s urine – found in creams, perfumes, and lotions (Also found in birth control pills)

Glycerin (Glycerols) – Can be derived from animal fat and found in toothpastes, mouthwash, make up, and soaps.

Lecithin (Choline Bitartrate) – Can be obtained from eggs, blood, nerve tissue and milk and found in soaps, shampoos, and make up.


After analyzing your current health/beauty care line up, consider the following:

  • Any products you currently use (whether daily use or once and a while) that contain ANY of the above mentioned chemicals, throw out immediately!
  • Products that are free of animal byproducts and the 7 red alert ingredients but do however contain several Orange alert ingredients, use up but do not buy again!


Many products claim to be “natural”, “unscented” or “organic”– but be wary – this often means that synthetic ingredients have been added to mask the odor, as well as additional chemicals and additives. When it comes to skin care products, ALWAYS read the ingredients list. Some of my favorite brands that offer natural vegan skin care products are:

Still feeling unsure about your products? There is a fantastic website from a company called Safe Cosmetics, which you can use to rate your products from 0-10 (0 being the safest, 10 having the most chemicals).

Image Source: Shandilee/Flickr