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Ingredients to Avoid in Skin Care - Part 2

Ingredients to Avoid in Skin Care - Part 2

Heather Wilson
clean ingredients clean skin care product education skin care skin care 101 tips

Heather is a Licensed Esthetician and Director of Brand Development at InstaNatural

Welcome to Part 2 of our Ingredients to Avoid in Skin Care series! If you haven't had the chance to read Part 1 where we cover Sulfates, Mineral Oil/Petroleum/Silicone, and Polyethylene Glycol (PEGs) - click here

At InstaNatural, we believe in the power of natural and safe skin care products and we aim to educate and empower our customers throughout their journey. We hope that this list of ingredients to avoid in your skin care provides you with the information to feel confident in your skin care decisions. In this post we will expand on the content provided in Part 1, covering Artificial Fragrances, Preservatives and Ethanolamines Compounds (MEA/DEA/TEA). 

Artificial Fragrances

Many personal care products utilize fragrance to incorporate a pleasant aroma into the experience. Our sense of smell is closely tied to memory and through the basic principles of aromatherapy, aroma can impact the way we feel – it can improve our mood, soothe us to sleep or energize our minds. Fragrance has become something so personal to consumers that the development of proprietary aromas has allowed brands to establish an experience that cannot be found in another product. As a way for brands to protect this trade secret, “Fragrance” is an ingredient that does not have to be fully disclosed to the consumer. This means when we read “fragrance” on a label – we have no idea what is in it.

Artificial fragrances are created using synthetic compounds that may have allergen, irritation, or toxicity concerns. Furthermore, most artificial fragrances contain phthalates, which are plasticizers used to make plastics more flexible. They are used in fragrances because they make the aroma last longer. There are many different types of phthalates, however they have concerns to be endocrine disruptors, allergens, respiratory toxicants, and some types may pose human cancer concerns.

It is important to note that an ingredient listed as “Fragrance” can be 100% natural, but due to the way aroma blends are created, the number of natural ingredients used to create these blends are too long to list on a product’s label. However, many natural brands are willing to share what is in their aroma blends and understand the concerns that consumers have.

Products to Check: All Skin, Body and Hair Care, Perfumes, Candles, Household Cleaners


If a product contains water, it can grow bacteria. In order to prevent this from happening, and to ensure your products last longer than 30 days, preservatives are required to be used in skin care products.

Preservatives have gotten a bad reputation, however not all preservatives are bad. Avoiding unsafe preservatives such as Parabens, Butylated Compounds (BHT/BHA), Methylisothiazolinone, Diazolidinyl Urea and Quaternium-15 is one of the easiest ways to clean up your personal care products. Due to consumer demand, even conventional brands are moving away from these ingredients.

Parabens have been widely associated with their possible link to cancer and can be absorbed through the skin, blood and digestive system. Butylated Compounds (BHT/BHA) are linked to many health concerns such as endocrine disruption and organ system toxicity. Methylisothiazolinone has been linked to concerns such as lung toxicity and ingredients such as Diazolidinyl Urea and Quaternium-15 are formaldehyde-releasers, which is a known carcinogen.

Through consumer demand, many brands have found safer preservative options – and the science is continually advancing to provide more options and continued data on the available ingredients.

Products to Check: All Skin, Body and Hair Care, Baby Products, Household Cleaners

Ethanolamines Compounds (MEA/DEA/TEA)

Ethanolamines are ammonia compounds that are used in a wide variety of household and personal care products. You can tell if a product contains one of these compounds as the ingredients often contain “MEA”, “DEA”, or “TEA” within their names.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel conducted studies on the ingredient and concluded that they were “safe for use” but only when used in rinse-off products and for short durations. Otherwise there is a risk for irritation and potentially other health concerns. They also recommend that these ingredients should not be used in products in which N-Nitroso compounds, which are potentially carcinogenic, may be formed. 

Additionally, Diethanolamine is an ingredient that is banned from use in personal care products in Europe. In 1998 the National Toxicology Program completed a study that found an association between topical application of DEA and certain DEA-related ingredients and cancer in laboratory animals* and there are additional studies that show DEA and MEA have the potential to cause developmental abnormalities during pregnancy.

While the ingredients are currently considered safe by the FDA and CIR, the EU feels differently and there is enough data to make us question the need for this ingredient. Due to the potential risk factors, which include cancer, organ system toxicity, and environmental concerns – we feel it is best to stay away, especially when there are plenty of safer alternatives available.

Products to Check: Cleansers, Body Wash, Shampoo, Conditioners, Household Cleaners.



How We Do Things

At InstaNatural, we make continual efforts to ensure the products we create are safe and effective, utilizing as many natural and naturally derived ingredients as possible, and always staying up to date as new data becomes available.

We incorporate natural essential oils or 100% natural aroma blends in place of artificial fragrances.

And we incorporate safe, effective and naturally derived preservatives instead of the unsafe options.

As the industry continues to advance, we are committed to advance our developments as well. This is why you can trust InstaNatural to offer products that ensure your health is never compromised, while providing results. You can learn more about our formulation standards by checking out the Core Clean Promise.

We understand that the information available can be daunting – and we hope this series and the products we create help you along your journey.

Ready to make the switch? Take our Skin Care Quiz to learn which of our collections would be ideal for you!