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skincare ingredients we don't use harmful

10 Harmful Ingredients We Don't Use - And Why

Not all skincare products were created equal. There’s a dictionary-length list of toxic and questionable ingredients attached to most products available today.

The problem? You don’t always know what those products are or how to avoid them. Plus, you don't get much help in this area from most companies or regulatory bodies like the FDA.


There’s basically no federal regulationof the cosmetics industry in the US. While there are over 1,300 chemicals banned in the EU, the US has only banned 11.

On top of that, cosmetic products in the US can go straight from manufacturing to store shelves without any approval or safety testing. If there’s a complaint, the FDA has no authority to issue a recall.

Talk about the wild wild west.

At Eight Saints, we’re focused on keeping it simple. We use efficacious ingredients that either directly benefit the skin or help support the ingredients that do.

We also reject potentially dangerous ingredients that could be damaging to your health. That includes these 10 harmful skincare ingredients we never use. Here's why.

1. Butylated Hydroxy Anisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

These synthetic antioxidants are commonly used to extend product shelf life. But don’t be fooled - these are notlike natural, good-for-you antioxidants. Instead, they are likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors that may cause liver damage.

Found in: Lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams, and other cosmetics.

2. Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid (EDTA)

EDTA is a chelating (binding) agent added to cosmetics to improve product stability. It’s supposed to keep active ingredients in a formula from binding with trace elements, like minerals, that are present in water. It also prevents a product’s texture, odor, and consistency from changing.

But, it has been shown to cause irritation to the eyes, skin, and lungs. And it may be toxic to non-reproductive organs. Yikes!

Found in: Hair color, moisturizers.

3. Hydroquinone

This skin-bleaching and skin-lightening chemical is meant to inhibit the production of melanin. In the short term, this can help with dark spots and discoloration. In the long-term, though, the chemical is linked to cancer, organ toxicity, and skin irritation.

It can also cause a skin disease called ochronosis, which causes blue-black lesions to appear on the skin - permanently.

Avoid hydroquinone (especially in concentrations higher than 2%), skin lighteners that don’t label their ingredients clearly, and lighteners that contain mercury, calomel, mercurio, and mercurio chloride.

Found in: Skin-lightening creams.

4. Oxybenzone

This sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber is found in the majority of over-the-counter sunscreens. It acts like estrogen in the body and, as a result, is linked to endometriosis and altered sperm production.

This high-risk chemical can also cause irritation, sensitization, allergies, and possible hormone disruption. On top of that, it has been known to be harmful to coral reefs, which is why it’s been banned in Hawaii.

Found in: Sunscreen, moisturizer.

Sub for: Sunscreens with zinc oxide, titanium oxide, or avobenzone.

5. Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others)

This is one that you may have heard about a lot,but perhaps don't understand fully.

At their most basic, parabens are a family of preservatives (methylparabens, propylparabens, butylparabens, and ethylparabens) that are commonly used to extend shelf life by preventing the growth of bacteria and mold.

According to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, longer chain parabens like propyl and butyl paraben - along with their branched counterparts, isopropyl and isobutylparabens - may disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders.

Overall, the FDA acknowledges several studies linking parabens - which also mimic estrogen - to breast cancer, skin cancer, and decreased sperm count. Despite that, it has yet to rule them as harmful.

Look for and avoid ingredients with the suffix “-paraben" in favor of those marked "paraben-free".

Found in: Shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, foundation, makeup, moisturizer, shaving gel, shampoo, personal lubricant and spray tan products.

6. Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others)

Phtalates are a class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable and to make fragrances stick to skin.

They can be extremely dangerous - particularly to children. It’s best to avoid them all together (even if you’re an adult) as they can be serious endocrine disruptors and may even cause birth defects. Congress has already banned several types of phthalates from children’s products.

Found in: Synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray, and plastic materials.

7. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG compounds)

PEGs are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. They are also the primary components of those tiny plastic beads found in face scrubs and exfoliating washes.

While PEGs themselves aren't harmful, they can cause irritation when used on broken skin. The big problem is that they’re frequently contaminated with ethylene oxide (a known carcinogen that easily penetrates the skin) and 1,4-dioxane (which causes respiratory problems and is banned in Canada).

And they go right through our sewage systems into waterways, where they are often consumed by marine animals.

Found in: Creams, sunscreen, shampoo, exfoliants.

8. Retinyl Palmitate and Retinol (Vitamin A)

Retinol is supposed to be good for you, right? Not always.

Retinol products have been found to have the opposite effect,damaging DNA and speeding the growth of tumors when applied topically and exposed to sunlight.

That’s no joke, and it’s just not a skincare deal we’re prepared to make.

Found in:Moisturizer, anti-aging skincare products.

Sub for: Vitamin C, peptides

9. Silicone

Silicone is interesting because it’s not actually toxic.That said, it can prevent additional moisture from getting into your skin, thereby dehydrating your pores and throwing off your skin's natural regulatory processes.

Found in:Leave-on skincare products, hair care products

10. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS and SLES)

SLS and SLES are surfactants that can cause skin irritation and trigger allergies. They have been shown to contribute to skin irritation, canker sores, disruption of the skin’s natural oil balance, and eye damage - yikes! They’re also widely believed to contribute to cystic acne, particularly around the mouth and chin.

And if that’s not bad enough, SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process that’s known to cause respiratory problems.

In short, it’s not for us.

Other names: Sodium laureth sulfates, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, alkylbenzene sulfonate, sodium cocoyl sarcosinate.

Found in:Shampoo, body wash, bubble bath, foundation, face wash, mouthwash, and toothpaste

Bonus: Synthetic flavor or fragrance

The word “fragrance” is essentially a cop-out for many companies that don’twant to admit to all the chemicals that they have in their products.

At their most basic, these “fragrances” are engineered scents or flavoring agents that may contain any combination of 3,000-plus stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens.

What’s worse - fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore can remain undisclosed. Yikes!

Found in: All types of cosmetics.


A Word of Caution: Look Out for Tricks

Many skincare and cosmetics companies know the buzzwords that you’re looking out for. So they include those buzzwords to make you feel better (whether they can really follow-through on the claims or not). Be cautious when you see comments such as:

  • Natural and organic: Natural products are great! And, at the end of the day, we all want our skincare routine to be as natural and unprocessed as possible. That said, keep in mind that the terms “natural” and “organic” are not regulated! (See Health Canada statement here and the FDA's position here.) Plus, the fact that something is organic does not automatically make it beneficial.
  • Free of: This is a big one. Companies loveto list everything that their products don’t contain, saying things like “paraben-free” or “sulfate-free.” That said, this could be completely irrelevant - a lot of shampoo companies claim their products are “silicone free” when shampoos never contain silicones to begin with - and it doesn’t shed light on the ingredients that arein there.
  • Dermatologist-tested: Being “dermatologist-tested” or “clinically proven” basically means nothing, since there’s no standard or industry level definition for that claim. Any moisturizer can be “clinically proven” to smooth wrinkles just by puffing up the skin with water in a lab!


On the Flip Side, Here Are Some Great Products That Sound Scary


Tocopherol is vitamin E, a key Eight Saints ingredient that moisturizes and hydrates your skin. It’s also a powerful (yet gentle) antioxidant that defends skin by neutralizing free radicals from pollution and other environmental stressors that weaken it over time.

Try our vitamin E face oil - High Society.

Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7

This is one name for the regenerating peptides that communicate with cells to trigger collagen production. Your skin is primarily comprised of collagen, which breaks down as you age. When topical peptides are applied, they signal your body to produce new collagen.

Using skincare products with peptides minimizes wrinkles and plumps skin - the right way.

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP)

This form of vitamin C reduces signs of aging by repairing damaged skin, accelerating collagen synthesis, and correcting hyperpigmentation. It is the most stable form of vitamin C, meaning it will not oxidize over time and become ineffective. SAP can easily penetrate the skin - unlike ascorbic acid - and won’t cause redness or irritation.

Ferulic Acid

Ferulic acid is an antioxidant made from the seeds of apples and oranges. It helps tremendously with anti-aging and free-radical damage.

Caprylic Glycerides

These stable fatty acids, found in many moisturizers and masks, are derived from coconut and help your skin stay moisturized and smooth.

So what should you do with all of this information?

Keep an eye on your labels and avoid ingredients that have been identified as major red flags. But this can all still be confusing - and you may miss a thing or two.

You can also evaluate the safety of products using the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. It lists thousands of products and brands and scores individual products based on the ingredients they contain.


Try our safe, natural ingredients in our Discovery Skin Care Kit! :)