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A principle of skincare should be to do no harm.

Unfortunately, there is a whole host of potentially toxic chemicals to avoid which have made their way into many skincare products. Some of these have been shown to cause harm to some people.

Did you know?

To help our customers navigate their way around some of these ingredients, we have created a list below, showing some of the main culprits and to explain why they are not good for your skin. 

Please also consider all the potentially harmful ingredients especially used in hair products. You can read more about these on our natural hair care page.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is a by-product of oil -  the black stuff drilled out of the ground and converted into gas or petrol for your car. Other names for it are petrolatum, parafinum liquidum, liquid paraffin or petroleum jelly.

It is used extensively in skincare and medical skincare preparations because it is a very cheap moisturising barrier. Unfortunately, whilst a barrier might help reduce moisture loss or protect skin, mineral oil does not allow your skin to breathe.

Our skin is one of the ways we eliminate toxins. Covering it up with an unbreathable layer may cause skin to start behaving badly because the skin is prevented from doing what it is meant to do naturally - breathe!

Palm Oil

Thankfully Palm Oil (and derivatives of) is getting a lot more press these days. Palm oil or palm kernel oil is sourced from large areas of natural habitat which have been cleared by farmers to grow palm trees. This means a drastic decline in habitat for the orangutan which has now become an endangered species.

Palm oil is used extensively in the cosmetic and food industry (check if your local chip shop uses it) because it is a cheap oil to produce.

The animal and environmental cost of this monoculture is not taken into consideration. Always check for palm oil in skincare products - it's what sodium lauryl sulphate is made from (see paragraph below on SLS).

Avoid Palm Oil, and all Palm Oil related ingredients in food and cosmetics. Conscious Skincare was featured as a recommended brand in The Good Shopping Guide because of our palm-oil free status.

We do not use palm oil or palm oil derivatives in any of our products; we never have and we never will. Save The Orangutan work tirelessly to rescue, rehabilitate and release orangutans who fall victim to the expanding mono culture production of palm oil. You can read more in this Rainforest Rescue article about how bad palm oil is for the climate, indigenous people, wildlife and our environment.

Palm Oil is destroying the Orangutan habitat



This is an abbreviation of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, sometimes called SLES (sodium lauryl ether sulphate).

It is made from palm oil and used extensively in skincare products as a foaming agent. There is a lot of evidence which suggests that it can be a skin irritant and can cause cosmetic dermatitis.


Parabens occur naturally in certain plants as a protection system for the plant.

In cosmetics, these are used to preserve a product; to prevent bacterial and fungal growth. The ones used in common skincare products are synthetic (man–made from chemicals) as it is a much cheaper way to produce them.

The most common parabens are methylparaben and propylparaben and there is a great deal of research which suggests a link between synthetic parabens and health issues.

For those reasons we keep our products paraben free and choose Soil Association and Ecocert approved preservatives when we need to use them.

Permitted Colours

There are a number of permitted colourants that can be added to products, but we let our ingredients dictate the colour of a product. Adding a colour to a product has no positive benefit for your skin. We do not add any artificial colour to our formulations.


This is generic term given to fragrance added to a product. It is widely used in the skincare industry, and is often used to 'hide' any number of synthetic ingredients. The word often appears alone with no indication of what the fragrance is made from. There are many irritants to be found in these fragrance mixes so again we leave it to our natural ingredients to dictate the aroma of a product. We also offer a Pure range of fragrance free products.


A substance added to plastic to increase its flexibility. Phtalates can be found in a vast range of products from furnishings to liquid soap and there is a great deal of concern about exposure to this chemical and its links to asthma, endochrine disruption and cancer. Again, this substance is not used in any of our products.


Our products are mainly anhydrous (made without water), or the pH of the formulation means that no preservative is required.

The preservatives used in our products are ones approved by the Soil Association or Ecocert. You can read more about our approach to preservatives.

We do not use preservatives such as;

The BBC Watchdog article also lists a number of products from face creams to baby wipes that contain this potential irritant.


PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers.

PEGs are commonly used as cosmetic cream bases and are also used in pharmaceuticals as laxatives.

Depending on how they are made, PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide, classified as a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane which has also been classified as a possible human carcinogen.

Ethylene oxide can also potentially harm your nervous system. The California Environmental Protection Agency has classified it as a developmental toxicant based on evidence that it may interfere with human development.

1,4-dioxane doesn't easily degrade and can remain in the environment for a long period after it is rinsed down the drain. It can be removed from cosmetics during the manufacturing process by vacuum stripping, but there is no easy way for consumers to know whether products containing PEGs have undergone this process.

'In a study of personal care products marketed as "natural" or "organic" (uncertified), U.S. researchers found 1,4-dioxane as a contaminant in 46 of 100 products tested.'

Potential cancer causing contaminants are always the primary concern, but PEG compounds themselves also show some evidence of genotoxicity. If PEGS are used on broken skin, they can cause irritation and potential systemic toxicity.

The industry panel that reviews the safety of cosmetics ingredients concluded that some PEG compounds are not safe for use on damaged skin (although the assessment generally approved of the use of these chemicals in cosmetics). 

Unfortunately, PEG functions as a "penetration enhancer," which means it increases the permeability of your skin.

It therefore will allow greater absorption of the product — including harmful ingredients! Definitely one to avoid!


You need to look out for 'Cyclomethicone' and ingredients ending in "siloxane" e.g., cyclotetrasiloxane.

These silicone-based compounds are used in cosmetics to soften, smooth, and moisten. They make hair products dry more quickly and deodorant creams slide on more easily. They are also used extensively in moisturizers and facial treatments.

Siloxanes can also be found in medical implants, water-repelling windshield coatings, building sealants and lubricants.

Environment Canada assessments concluded that cyclotetrasiloxane and cylcopentasiloxane — also known as D4 and D5 are toxic, persistent, and have the potential to bioaccumulate in aquatic organisms.

The European Union classifies D4 as a endocrine disruptor, based on evidence that it interferes with human hormone function and a possible reproductive toxicant that may impair human fertility.

This is by no means a complete list as there are so many potentially harmful ingredients used the skincare industry. Hopefully it gives you an idea of some of the main ones to watch out for!

Conscious Skincare lists in full all ingredients used during manufacturing on our product listing pages so you can read what each product contains.