Because my Clean Sunscreen Guide was so popular, I decided to continue the theme but this time chat about make up.

Whether you wear it a little or a lot, if you’re a female, there will likely be occasions where you put some on. In my twenties, I was the queen of Maybelline and Revlon, however as I dived into the world of low tox living, make up inevitably came under the microscope and as with everything else we apply to our bodies, make up can contain things that can lead to health issues.

Now before I share what to avoid and why, I want to touch on something called greenwashing. As more and more people become aware of the hazardous impact of certain ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products,the demand for products to be free from these ingredients increased. Sadly, that doesn’t mean companies remove these ingredients all together, it just means they changed their packaging and marketing! 

Green washing is when a company misleads the consumer based on packaging. Brands can falsely label their products with buzzwords like “natural” and “eco” in order to capture the conscious consumer’s attention. They can use natural colours in their packaging and even use shapes and symbols that appear to be earthy and safe. Some common claims to be cautious of include: organic, all-natural, no harmful chemicals, hypoallergenic and even cruelty-free.

There are many definitions of clean beauty, but at its core, clean beauty means that you can use a product without risking your own health. The ingredients list must contain only safe, clean ingredients. I’m using clean beauty products to mean a product is free of hormone disruptors and carcinogens. 

When looking for a clean beauty brand, it’s important the company list all of its ingredients and label accordingly. A good example of lack of transparency in the beauty industry is including fragrance in beauty products. Fragrance is not an ingredient, but since the industry is highly unregulated, companies can hide ingredients under the umbrella term “fragrance.”……. But more on this in another blog post perhaps 🙂


Lets move on to why it’s important to choose a clean make up brand. 

The average woman applies 12 products to their skin daily and absorbs around 168 chemicals (a 2007 study said the average woman absorbed up to 2kg of chemicals a year)!

PFAS, or ‘per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances’, are a class of about 9000 chemicals. They are sometimes dubbed “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down and have been found to accumulate in humans. A study released in June 2021 by Erickson (2021) found high levels of toxic PFAS substances were found in over half of makeup products purchased in the US and Canada. While the study was conducted out of the US and Canada, many of the brands tested are sold in New Zealand, including L’Oréal, Mac, Cover Girl, and Clinique. Some of the highest levels of PFAS were found in foundations (63 percent), waterproof mascara (82 percent) and long-lasting lipstick (62 percent), according to the study. The study also found some 88 percent of the tested products failed to disclose these chemicals on their labels!! This makes it impossible for us as the consumers to avoid them and sadly the regulatory agencies still allow companies to claim PFAS as a trade secret, much like they do fragrance!

Studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. Both chemicals have caused tumors in animal studies. Human epidemiology studies show effects on infant birth weights, the immune system, and thyroid hormone disruption.

What to avoid: Top 10 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid At All Costs

If you wanted to know the safety or toxicity profile of every cosmetic ingredient, it would become your full-time job. As I’ve just discussed, you can’t even trust product packaging to know whether a product is what it says it is. So, how do you eliminate toxins from your beauty routine?

Start with these 10 toxic ingredients to avoid at all costs:

  1. Parabens like Propylparaben and Iosbytylparabene ~ hormone effects 
  2. Fragrance (sometimes written parfum) ~ allergies, cancer, nervous system concerns 
  3. Chemical UV filters Octinoxate and Oxybenzone (in products claiming SPF)
  4. Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)
  5. Triclosan and triclocarban ~ thyroid and environmental concerns 
  6. Anything ending in ‘phthalate’ like Dibutyl phthalate
  7. Anything ending in ‘sulphate’ eg. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) ~ skin damage, toxic contaminants
  8. Formaldehyde
  9. Polyethylene (PEGs) like PEG-10 laurate, basically PEG followed by any number! ~ toxic contaminants 
  10. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)


Tips for transitioning:

  • Take it slow, don’t be overwhelmed. When you run our of something, replace it with a better option! You do NOT have to drop hundreds of dollars at once. Know better, do better right?
  • Find a brand/s you love and stick with them for a while. Let your skin get used to the new lack of chemicals (you may even find you go through a period of detox and have a few break outs as your skin adjusts, but persevere!)
  • If one brand doesn’t work for you, try another. There are more and more companies answering the call for quality without compromise and I’ve listed my favourites below. 
  • Find a tool to help you read labels. I don’t buy my make up in stores anymore, but if you do, I recommend downloading Chemical Maze app on your phone, so you have something with you on the go to decode those labels in the chemist/retail store. 

Other great places for general information include The Good Face Project and Environmental Working Group Deep Skin Cosmetics Database. Click HERE to download their ‘Shoppers Guide to Safe Cosmetics’

Brands I love and trust: 

  • Ere Perez. I use their mascara, mango lip gloss, beetroot cheek and lip tint and chamomile eye palette. The team at Oh Natural have generously given you 10% off by using Nicky10 at checkout.
  • La Mav Organics I love their BB Cream, use their mineral foundation, concealer. Use the code NICKYSKINNER15 for 15% off.
  • Inika I love their eyeshadow, eye pencil and liquid eyeliner
  • Aleph Stunning radiance range of luminisers and their lip tints and to die for
  • Antipodes lipsticks are also a favourite, use the code NICKY20 for 20% off their whole range! (valid until 28th Oct)
  • Karen Murrell are another brand I trust and use. They’ve generously gifted you guys 20% off their amazing range of non tox lipsticks, by using the code: ‘nourished’ at checkout.

I hope this has been helpful, and if you’ve loved it and plan to try something, comment below or share this link with a friend x