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A Short List of Common Chemicals In Skincare To Avoid

We believe in clean, nontoxic beauty here at AFRENAI: The brands in our shop are those that we believe hold themselves to very high standards in terms of choosing ingredients and formulations that are not harmful to our bodies & health. We know we can’t control everything, but the products that we bring into our homes and put on our bodies every single day is a good place to start.

In the AFRENAI shop, we do the vetting for you, so you know that your intention to shop clean aligns with what we’re offering, but knowledge is power, so we thought we'd share 5 common beauty ingredients of concern and the reasons why they’re so notorious.



The word fragrance is a catchall term that can disguise up to 3,000 synthetic or natural chemicals used to make a beauty product smell delicious. Fragrances are considered a trade secret, so they don't have to be disclosed.

What's the harm? Fragrance can be a trigger for allergies and asthma attacks, since we don’t know exactly what ingredients are being used in both short and long-term exposure. 



Phthalates, which help fragrances last longer, are a group of chemicals used to keep materials and products (nail polishes, hair sprays, plastics) pliable. Abbreviated to DBP, DEHP, and DEP, these plasticizers are endocrine/hormone disruptors are often hidden in the term ‘fragrance'. 

What's the harm? Phthalates have been linked to reproductive and hormonal harm in children and men, with reduced sperm count, reproductive malformation & infertility. 



Parabens are a group of preservatives and antimicrobial chemicals that prevent the growth of nasty things like bad bacteria and mold in your beauty products. The presence of this toxic preservative — an endocrine disruptor — is indicated by any word that ends in paraben, like methylparaben, propylparaben, etc. 

What's the harm? Parabens mimic estrogen in the human body, with evidence linking them to reproductive organ harm, thyroid disruption, hormone-related cancers, and obesity. Exposure to parabens through beauty products was recently linked to early onset puberty in girls.



Another preservative that you’ll never actually see listed on the label, formaldehyde is recognized globally as a human carcinogen, and that’s why it's been eliminated from most common cosmetic products, though it's still commonly found in keratin smoothing treatments.

What's the harm? Formaldehyde is linked to asthma, cancer, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity.


Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)

An anionic detergent and surface-active agent or surfactant found in many personal care products (soaps, shampoos, toothpaste and such), as it is a very effective foaming agent. Palm oil is used in their production of SLS, making it inexpensive and widely used, thus the devastating impact its cultivation has on the environment.

What's the harm? SLS can cause skin irritation and allergies. The much bigger problem is that in the process of making it less harsh for the skin (ethoxylation), a carcinogenic byproduct emerges: 1,4-dioxane, which shows up on the label as SLES.


For a full rundown of chemicals to steer clear of, check out Beautycounter’s printable Never List.