The Naughty List: Ingredients You Don't Want To Gift (Plus Tips To Shop For Clean Skincare)

It’s that time of year! While Naughty and Nice Lists might be made by a big man in a red suit, we felt the need to make our own list.

This holiday season, we want to help you to clean up your gift-giving, get safe + effective skincare into the hands of those you care about and reclaim your health by swapping out dangerous, hormone-disrupting products for ones that won’t compromise your wellness, but will powerfully support it.

Because the consequences of this Naughty List are a bit more serious than simply getting coal in your stocking.

Research shows that the average woman uses 12 different products with 168 ingredients every single day (that’s a LOT of ingredients). When our skin is given what it needs to be nourished, it’s able to recognize + receive the nutrients and become self-healing, strong, and oh-so beautiful. BUT when the opposite is true, when we feed our skin with ingredients that are artificial and harmful to our cells, it puts a serious strain on our body and creates a toxic burden that can lead to inflammation and serious illnesses.

So we’ve made our “Naughty List” (and checked it twice) to help you simplify what to look for on the back of your beauty bottles and give you easy tips to shop for safe, effective skincare for everyone on your shopping list.


Before we get into the nitty-gritty of our Naughty List along with some technical terms + toxins to avoid, here are a few guidelines to help you navigate the product shelves and decide for yourself if they’re naughty or non-toxic.

  • Just because there’s a green leaf or the word “organic” on the front of the product package, be wary of what’s actually inside. This is where you have to get curious, do some digging and become your own skincare detective! Sadly, greenwashing is much more common in the skincare industry and is deceiving consumers that the products they’re purchasing are pure, natural, or organic – when in reality the ingredients list reveals otherwise.
  • Marketing messages may claim “NO” this and “NO” that – but rather than focusing on what’s NOT in the product, look at the ingredient label to see which ingredients are really being used instead. The natural beauty market has become highly saturated and unfortunately, product quality has become consistently compromised – so it’s up to you to discover the ingredients beauty brands have actually chosen to say “YES” to.
  • Ingredients are listed in descending order of concentration, so the first 5 are what make up the majority of the product. These first 5 create the foundation of the formula. (Only 5 ingredients in your skincare label? That’s a good sign!). If you come across an unrecognizable word among the first 5 listed, more times than not, you’ll want to opt for another product. And as other ingredients are added to the list, the amount used decreases. For example: if a beauty balm is advertising its healing benefits from calendula flowers, yet calendula is listed after several other unpronounceable ingredients, its benefit to the skin will be minimal.


We know it can be a lot to take in, so we’ll try to simplify what to look for on your ingredient lists. The following are 8 specific chemicals you want to avoid in your skincare products – and keep on the Naughty List for good.

FRAGRANCE or PARFUM: Known as the new second-hand smoke, this is one of the most toxic ingredients you’ll find on any label (even on many “natural” products!). These engineered scents contain any combination of 3,000+ chemicals and are linked to SO many health conditions – including hormone disruption, kidney damage and skin sensitivities. Look for products made with ONLY pure essential oils so you don’t have to sacrifice your favorite scents! And check out this video where we dive even deeper into artificial fragrances.

MEA (Monoethanolamine), DEA (Diethanolamine), or TEA (Triethanolamine): These acronyms act as emulsifiers (prevents separation of ingredients) and surfactants (foaming agents). In our opinion, any ingredient that needs an acronym on a product label is toxic material. Often found in cleansers, fragrances and makeup, they are linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruption and birth defects. Yikes.

BENZYL SALICYLATE: Found in most makeup, perfumes and personal care products, this ingredient acts as a fragrance and UV absorber and is a proven endocrine disruptor, immune system toxicant and allergen.

PEG COMPOUNDS: PEG compounds have several functions in skincare such as humectants (attracts moisture), surfactants, emulsifiers and penetration enhancers (increases product absorption into skin). Sounds like all good things, right? Well, when these chemical compounds are contaminated with carcinogens, they actually help to carry these impurities through the skin (remember one of its functions: absorption!) – with the possibility of contributing to birth defects and infertility.

PROPYLENE GLYCOL: This chemical acts as a fragrance, skin conditioner + absorption enhancer and is closely linked to organ toxicity and skin irritations. And because it improves product penetration, it helps to carry other harmful ingredients in the product through the skin. Oh, it’s also found in anti-freeze.

PHTHALATES: These plasticizing chemicals make products pliable and fragrances stick to skin, so we can smell good all day long. But with dangers of endocrine disruption, respiratory toxicity, birth defects and infertility, we don’t want this sticking to our skin, ever. Look for these acronyms (alert!) on labels: DBP, DEHP, DMP, DEP. It’s also commonly hidden under “fragrance” or “parfum” – remember, those are code words for “chemical cocktail”.

WATER: Clearly water is not a chemical, water is as natural as you can get! However, when water is among the ingredient list (often it’s the very first) of a lotion or cream, it comes with some strings attached: preservatives. The presence of water in a product requires some sort of preservative to protect it from the growth of bacteria or mold. And the majority of preservatives in skincare today are hormone disruptors, skin irritants, toxic and carcinogenic.

TALC: Often contaminated with asbestos (a highly toxic mineral), it’s health concerns are high and can include skin irritations, organ system toxicity, respiratory distress and serious cancer risks. Found in everyday powder products such as baby powder, deodorant, dry shampoos and mineral makeup, it helps to absorb moisture and prevent caking – but we really don’t think the risks are worth it.


Now that we made it through that list, it’s time to replace the naughty ingredients with nice ones! Here are our top 3 trust resources to help you shop non-toxic skincare:

1. Get on EWG: Our go-to for ingredient insight and safety. Not sure about a specific ingredient? The Environmental Working Group has a database of thousands of ingredients found in skincare to give you all the details on their health risks and hazards. Check out their Skin Deep Database here!

2. Download ThinkDirty: This is the perfect app to have by your side when you shop. To find out whether your go-to products are safe or not, download Think Dirty’s app on your smartphone. This easy-to-use resource ranks the safety of specific products on a scale of 0-10 – with 0 being the cleanest. (Our Natural Deodorant made their nice list and is rated a 0!)

3. Bookmark Pure Life Blog: Every week, we publish a new post from experts in different areas of beauty and wellness and provide holistic tips to simplify your skincare routine and detox your beauty products. Plus, we offer an entire line of non-toxic products for the entire family!

We know all this clean skincare and chemical talk can feel overwhelming, intimidating or even impossible. But we want to encourage you that you do have what it takes to make positive choices for your health and happiness. You have the power and the resources that are needed to detox harmful products you use on yourself + your family, and to replace them with safe, effective options.

And finally, this is our top tip when transitioning to non-toxic products:

Take a deep breath,
give yourself grace and
start the detox process one product at a time.

This season, one simple swap can make a world of difference for your skin and sense of wellness – and for those you love most. XO


Skincare can be one of the biggest contributors to our toxic load. Here are the ingredients you don't want to gift, plus tips to shop safe products! | Primally Pure Skincare

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Courtney O’Connor

Courtney Joy O’Connor is Primally Pure’s In-House Holistic Esthetician and Content Curator. Being in the beauty industry for over a decade, her experience + expertise with pure products, the healing power of touch and holistic skincare rituals are at the core of all she creates. She has trained extensively with industry experts across the country to offer her community the most educational content and transformative treatments. Courtney lives at the beach with her plant babies and loves road tripping, blending superfood bliss balls and exploring our big, beautiful world.