An online video course in which make up artist and hair stylist Nat van Zee will teach you all the things you need to know to buy healthy beauty products. With resource text, research data and shopping links.

  • Learn why to switch
  • How to interpret marketing
  • Why and how to read the labels
  • Which toxins to avoid
  • What is natural and organic?
  • Which certification logos to trust
  • Which products to switch first
  • Where to shop




      Firstly, we’d like to point out that toxicity exists both in nature as in man-made chemicals. There are plenty of natural ingredients that have the power to aggravate our skin. Equally there are many artificial chemicals that are safe and non-toxic. The issue is that many new chemicals are released into our environment every year with little or no data on how they will affect us long term. 

      Below we’ve listed known chemical compounds that are potentially harmful. Generally they’re allowed in our products under the scientific notion that the 'dose makes the poison’, but the reality is that we don’t just use one product a day. In fact, the average woman feeds her skin 12-18 beauty products a day. Absorbed via the skin, these synthetics mix with environmental toxins from all around us. But don’t stress out just yet - we can help ourselves simply by switching to clean products.

      Alcohol denat (denatured alcohol)
      A petrochemical byproduct. Usually contains benzyl alcohol, making it undrinkable. Can cause eczema, contact dermatitis and chemical sensitivities. Used in all commercial perfumes as solvent. 

      A common ingredient in antiperspirant sticks and some make up. Skin irritant, linked to Alzheimer's and lung disease. 

      Benzyl alcohol
      A preservative derived from petroleum. Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Severe irritant for eyes, skin and respiratory system. 

      Bismuth oxychloride
      Bismuth is used in cosmetics because it gives a sheen to the face, is soft to the touch, and is extremely inexpensive. A byproduct of lead and copper refining, bismuth oxychloride is a heavy metal. Often found in mineral make up, yet acute sensitivity is common with skin rashes and irritation.

      BHA and BHT
      Encourages the breakdown of vitamin D, can cause lipid and cholesterol levels to increase. Linked to cancer and hormone disruption.

      Emulsifier used in regular creams and lotions. Highly irritating and already banned in some countries as a cosmetic ingredient.

      Diethanolamine (DEA)
      DEA is used as a skin softener and humectant in personal care products. It can be carcinogenic when combined with other ingredients. It's a skin irritant. Similarly to DEA, TEA and MEA share the same hazardous characteristics.

      Chemical compounds made as reaction products involving ethylene oxide. Ethoxylated materials include ingredients such as Laureth, Myreth, Ceteth, Ceteareth, Glycereth, etc. Trace contaminants in some ethoxylates have been implicated as potent carcinogens. 

      A preservative which includes Imidazolidinyl Urea, Diazolidinyl Urea, DMDM Hydantoin and Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate. A known irritant and carcinogen. It is often hidden in other ingredients. 

      Fragrance (Parfum)
      Companies are not required to disclose the chemicals used in fragrances. All synthetic fragrances contain phthalates. Phthalates are allergens and hormone disruptors. Fragrance as a whole is toxic to people suffering from asthma, allergies and scent sensitivities. Fragrance can also contain hidden preservatives – highly toxic and causing health issues. Note: In the EU, labelling requires the use of word parfum - in certified beauty products this would mean essential oils or certified organic plant essences.

      Used as solvents for preservatives, fragrance, and other substances. Also is referred to as humectant, emollient and preservative. Glycols are irritating and harmful to the skin. This group includes Propylene, Butylene, Pentylene, Hexylene, and Caprylyl Glycols, Capryl Cglycol, Caprylic Glycol.

      Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE)
      For a long time, this was believed to be the only one truly natural preservative on the market. However independent analysis showed that most commercially produced GSE used in skincare preservation was contaminated with parabens which lend the preserving qualities to this ingredient. However some GSE is produced to be paraben-free and you can check this with the manufacturer.

      Nano particles

      Nano particles are 500 - 100000 times 'thinner' than a human hair. Used in sunscreens, foundations and skin glow products, their size helps to sink the product into the skin. But these also have the potential ability to travel through cell membranes , bio accumulate and potentially change DNA. No data is available on their effects on longterm health.

      Phthalates are synthetic chemical compounds, mainly used as softening agents and to create fragrance. Look out for these lurking in your plastics - squeeze bottles, shower curtains and soft plastics. Possible carcinogen. 

      Parabens are synthetic compounds used to preserve a vast majority of cosmetic products, including skincare, make up and even make up tools (for example, pressed or loose powder puffs). Include methylparabens, propylparabens, butylparabens, and ethylparabens. Parabens cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. They are known estrogen mimickers and may cause hormonal inbalance.

      Derived from non-renewable raw materials, such as oil or natural gas. These include acrylamides, ethoxylates, mineral oil, polyethylene glycol (PEG), and propylene glycol.

      PEG (Polyethylene Glycol)
      Emulsifier and plasticizer. Contains carcinogenic impurities.

      Petrolatum or petroleum jelly
      Highly occlusive, clogs pores and causes acne, a suspected carcinogen. Petroleum by-products can pass through the brain barrier and cause ADD/dyslexia symptoms.

      A synthetic ether alcohol preservative. Causes contact dermatitis.

      A synthetic emollient which provides glide to the formula. Cyclomethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Methicone, and Phenyl Trimethicone can be irritating to the skin. Widely used in skin care and hair care preparations. Some Ilia products contain Dimethicon is a small amount

      SLS (Sodium Laurel/Laureth Sulfate)
      Widely used in soaps (including soap bars), shampoos, tooth paste and cleansers for easy foaming and other properties. A harsh detergent which dries out skin and hair and is a known skin irritant.

      Synthetic dyes
      Synthetic dyes are byproducts of the petroleum industry. The molecular structure of these products are so small that they can pass through the brain barrier. This can manifest itself as turning numbers backwards when writing or reading, peeling skin, acne, or ADD symptoms. Many people have allergies to artificial colourings.

      Talc has been associated with possible asbestos contamination. Asbestos is a very powerful and dangerous carcinogen, linked to ovarian cancer and is a suspected respiratory toxin. Most often used in baby powders, foundation and even some skincare.EU legislation demands purified talc, and organic certified products do contain talc that is considered safe. Corn starch is an alternative yet can be contaminated with GM residues.

      TEA (Triethanolamine)
      Contains ammonium salts. It is a toxic eye irritant and sensitiser.

      Tetrasodium EDTA
      Widely used in liquid and hard soap, cleansers, shampoos, creams, lotions and other preparations. Helps easily produce rich lather and is used in skincare as emollient and preservative. A known skin irritant.