Clean Beauty Beginner Guide

First of all I want to start out by saying, I am no expert at this. I am truly a beginner when it comes to understanding clean beauty but I hope you can relate and want to follow along with me. On the other hand if you are a clean beauty guru reading this, I would love any additional suggestions, tips or tricks that you have! Ok let’s get into it…

As I’ve talked about in my “Saying Goodbye” post, when you are diagnosed with something scary like Cancer, you go searching for the reasons of why this happened to you. My transition into clean beauty is fueled by the fact of not knowing why. It has been helping me feel like I am 1. Somewhat in control of my health outcome and 2. Contributing to increasing my likelihood of a long healthy life and not fueling any possible Cancer cells left in my body. It also makes me feel good to pay attention to what I am putting on my skin or using in my hair which gets absorbed and moves into the bloodstream.

The key for me to figuring out this lifestyle change was starting slow. There are toxins in almost everything….I want to be as free of harmful products as much as possible but knowing myself, I needed to be sure to balance how quickly I implemented this lifestyle and didn’t let it consume my every day from the start. For those who know me well, they can attest to how excited I can get about something, and my impulsive personality to go from 0-100 in completing whatever hobby or task I’m interested in. It’s a blessing and a curse. Being a motivated, persistent individual is great, but with certain things I need to exercise the act of patience and thoroughness. That is what I knew I had to do at the start of my clean beauty quest. That way I can make sure I’m doing it properly and not going on a spending frenzy for new products. Though I am very excited to dive in and start posting reviews for you all! Here are some tips on how I got started transitioning into a Clean Beauty lifestyle:


If there is one thing I use daily its lotions, potions and serums to hopefully ward off aging and wrinkles. No wrinkles please, am I right? I needed to do the proper research first, and make sure the findings were consistent enough across multiple platforms. What I found out is there is a sizable list of toxic ingredients that are being put in everything from cleansers to nail polishes. It was eye opening and also a bit sad. I love makeup, skincare, and nail polish, could I find non-toxic replacements for everything?

I did my research in a pretty basic manner. I google searched “toxins to look for in beauty products” and started clicking around. Once I had a general list of toxins I started copying and pasting each one I found into a digital sticky note so I can research them individually. It was really helpful so I could see what each is, why they are dangerous, and where they are found. I’ve started a list for you at the end of this article so you can reference some of my findings. I’ll continue to create posts that have more information on different products and how it relates back to this list. Like I said I am no expert and I still consider myself a bit of a beginner. I plan to discuss with Naturopathic doctors and clean beauty experts to be more informed and I will share!

My most valuable finding was that centered around “Carcinogens’. For those of you who don’t know, Carcinogens are substances and when exposed to these substances over time, this can lead to cancer. As noted by the American Cancer Society 

Cancer is caused by changes in a cell’s DNA – AKA it’s genetic “blueprint.” Some of these changes may be inherited from our parents, while others may be caused by outside exposures. Environmental factors can include a wide range of exposures, such as:

  • Lifestyle factors (nutrition, tobacco use, physical activity, etc.)
  • Naturally occurring exposures (ultraviolet light, radon gas, infectious agents, etc.)
  • Medical treatments (radiation and medicines including chemotherapy, hormone drugs, drugs that suppress the immune system, etc.)
  • Workplace exposures
  • Household exposures
  • Pollution

Some carcinogens do not affect DNA directly, but lead to cancer in other ways. For example, they may cause cells to divide at a faster than normal rate, which could increase the chances that DNA changes will occur. To read more click HERE

Knowing this, a large part of my research was looking for the toxins that are considered Carcinogens or when reacting with other chemicals become one.


Once I did my research, I did a full sweep of my makeup drawer and medicine cabinet to see if any products I owned had labels like “No Parabens” “Cruelty free” or “Sulfate Free”. I put the ones that did have some sort of non-toxic claim to one side and the ones that did not to another.

I did this because I found a lifesaver of a resource (pun not intended but it kind of works so I’m going with it) – This site makes is very easy to look up brands and type of products to see what type of toxicity risk is associated. You can see how it works in the video I recorded below. I encourage you to go check it out for yourself too! I was lucky enough to find that my collection of Tarte Cosmetics, falls in the low to moderate risk category, depending on type of product, which means I won’t be getting rid of them right away. It’s free of a lot of toxic ingredients that I am watching out for. Specifically Parabens which can fool your body to think it is Estrogen in your system. That’s a no go for me with an Estrogen positive type of Cancer. This means any Cancer cells left in my body feed off of Estrogen and I don’t want any real or fake hormones growing bad cells.



I found this step helpful in exercising the patience I normally don’t have. I originally wanted to go on a spending spree and try out all the natural nontoxic products I could find, but my bank account would not have been happy with me. So I took a step back and thought about what I use daily. Face moisturizers, serums and deodorant made the top of that list. I put some sort of lotion or serum on my face morning and night so I figured I should start there. Deodorant was always another one I use every day so I automatically chucked my old one. I then went to my local Whole Foods and paced in the skincare isle for about 30 mins trying to figure out what I wanted to try. There’s really no right or wrong answer to this, it’s all about trial and error, but most of all have fun with it. I tried to use my knowledge of what ingredients the product should NOT have as my main criteria. I find it really fun to continually try out new products over time. I’ll be sharing my reviews on the most recent products I picked up in a blog post coming soon! If you want to see more on the products I’m trying let me know in the comments here or on my Instagram page. I’m also very excited to try out some natural non-toxic makeup products I’ve been researching. Makeup is the next category of items I use consistently in my every day life.

Below you’ll find my beginners guide to toxins found in our beauty products. I hope this is a helpful and quick reference for you if you are transitioning to a Clean Beauty regimen.

DISCLAIMER – I’m sure I’ve missed some toxins on this list. Like I said its nearly impossible to avoid every toxin, but these are the ones I felt were most relevant to my situation. I’m sure I’ll be learning more soon and can add on to this list. Also I apologize in advance for my terrible punny humor….


What is it?

Parabens are used as a synthetic preservative in many beauty products. This toxin allows for your skin care and other beauty products to survive for months or even years! The scary part is the CDC reports that they assume to detect parabens in all American bodies…..what!? This toxin is in a lot of products we use daily! Check your labels people.

Why is it Dangerous?

Parabens can mimic hormones like estrogen in the system which is a cause for concern for any of those hormonal Cancer fighters out there! With hormones being mimicked, hormonal positive Cancers have the opportunity to feed, which we definitely don’t want. Limiting the amount of Parabens that get absorbed into the body is something I am paying much attention to. notes that the body can absorb as much as five pounds of cosmetic chemicals every year…..what?? That’s crazy right? Since this toxin can mimic hormones in your body, it can disrupt function of the endocrine system. This system is the messenger of hormones through a group of glands in the body. These glands include –the pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, hypothalamus and adrenal glands. discusses studies done against Breast Cancer and Paraben exposure. A high, lifelong exposure to estrogen can increase Breast Cancer risk, now add on top of that the Estrogen that Parabens are making your body believe are there…not a good combo. A study done at Cornell University reports that Estrogen and synthetic chemicals that act like Estrogen play a role in stimulating the division of breast cells and can affect other hormones that stimulate breast cell division. Our bodies cannot break down synthetic materials easily, that goes for the mimicked hormones that Parabens create. Because these fake hormones do not break down, they can accumulate into fat cells and breast tissue which are fatty in nature.

Where are they found?

Common parabens to look for on labels inclue methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. It makes it a bit easier because you can scan for anything that says “paraben” at the end of it. This toxin can be found in a lot of commonly used products and foods including:

  1. Cosmetics – check your foundation and concealers!
  2. Skin care products like Moisturizers and Cleansers
  3. Cosmetics – check your foundation and concealers!
  4. Shampoos, conditioners
  5. Sunscreens
  6. Deodorants/antiperspirants
  7. Toothpastes
  8. A preservative in food (particularly processed foods)

Try to look for labels that have “Paraben Free” on the front, but always double check on the back to be sure. Some companies can be sneaky!


What is it?

Phthalates are used as plasticizers – this means it is a substance added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity, it can also be used a lubricants in cosmetics. People are exposed to phthalates in a lot of different ways. Eating and drinking foods that have been in contact with containers and products containing phthalates and also using beauty products that contain these chemicals, which unfortunately aren’t put onto ingredient labels.

Why is it Dangerous?

Since we are all ingesting, inhaling, and absorbing toxins through our skin and phthalates are in a lot of commonly used products, a significant phthalate load moves to our bloodstream pretty consistently. Similarly to Parabens these toxins can wreak havoc on our endocrine system by mimicking hormones!

Where are they found?

Phthalates are found in hair spray, deodorant, almost anything fragranced (from shampoo to air fresheners to laundry detergent). When it comes to cosmetics, the word “fragrance” or “parfum” on a label almost always means phthalates. What you want to see are claims like: “no synthetic fragrance” or “scented with only essential oils” or “phthalate-free.” And always use only natural air fresheners.

But don’t let this entirely freak you out though. If you’re like me you are probably reading this like “ah, I use plastic all the time!” This toxin, unfortunately in the world we live in, is impossible to fully avoid, unless we go live in the middle of nowhere (which sounds kind of cool). Little changes can make a difference though! Like not heating up your lunch in a plastic container, instead opt for the glass Pyrex versions or a ceramic plate. Paying attention to the plastics we drink out of like water bottles and swapping things in that are made of glass is a great alternative to avoid this toxin. With Beauty checking the label for that sneaky word “Fragrance” will help too! It’s crazy how products can get away with such a big loop hole.

Buy Fragrance free whenever possible!

DEA (diethanolamine) – STANDS FOR “DON’T EVER ACT” (not really)

What is it?

Every wonder what makes your cleansers so sudsy? Welp look no further, DEA (diethanolamine) and DEA compounds are used to make cosmetics creamy or sudsy. It can also be found in brake fluid, degreasers and antifreeze – ummm EEEW, why are we putting this on our bodies?

Why is it Dangerous? 

Apparently DEA on its own is not too harmful, however this compound in conjunction with other chemicals in our products can create a very potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA). When this is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers. Nope, hard pass.

Where are they found? 

DEA is mainly found in moisturizers and sunscreens, while cocamide and lauramide DEA are found in soaps, cleansers, and shampoos.

There are a few names used for DEA variants in skin care products, and here are a few things to look for on the label:

  • Cocamide DEA or Cocamide Diethanolamine
  • DEA Lauryl Sulfate or Diethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate
  • Lauramide DEA or Lauramide Diethanolamine
  • Linoleamide DEA or Linoleamide Diethanolamine
  • Oleamide DEA or Oleamide Diethanolamine
  • Any product containing TEA or Triethanolamine


What is it? 

This toxin is just like it sounds (though if I tried to say it out loud I probably couldn’t pronounce it), they are used to increase the shelf life of a variety of cosmetics and they work by continuously releasing small amounts of formaldehydet. Which is baaaaad.

Why is it Dangerous? 

Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. Remember when I was talking about these before? Carcinogens can lead to Cancer depending on exposure, length of exposure and the person’s genetic makeup. But if we can avoid it, why not?

Where are they found? 

These can be found in Nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, hair gel, and hair-smoothing products. Look for ingredients like DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15, and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate on cosmetic labels.


What is it?

PEG Compounds are used as thickeners, solvents and moisture-carriers in cosmetic products.

Why is it Dangerous? 

Depending on how they are manufactured, these ingredients can get contaminated with Carcinogenic substances like ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Damn those Carcinogens again! Even when not contaminated, PEG compounds have been shown to cause skin irritation.

Where are they Found? 

In any cream based products you use look on the labels for things like: Sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, chemicals that include the clauses xynol, ceteareth and oleth.


What is it? 

Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent found in a wide variety of antibacterial soaps and detergents. It was initially developed as a surgical scrub for medical professionals, but in recent years it has been added to a host of consumer products [SOURCE]

Why is it Dangerous?

The ingredient is said to cause skin and eye irritations in the short run, and conditions like antibiotic resistance and hormonal disruptions with sustained use. I don’t have time for things that mess with hormones. I need to keep those in check on my wellness journey so this one is certainly on my bad list.

Where are they Found? 

This ingredient is found in antibacterial cosmetics like deodorants, cleansers, and hand sanitizers as well as in many deodorants, toothpastes, fabrics and plastics. Look for these items on your product lables:  Triclosan (TSC) and triclocarban (TCC). Don’t worry the FDA has no evidence that this ingredient is any better at destroying bacteria versus a more natural solution.


What is it?

Both of these toxins are used as preservatives in a variety of personal care products. Both of these chemicals are also used as preservatives in foods. These

Why is it Dangerous?

BHA and BHT are classified as possible carcinogens. Long-term exposure to these ingredients has been linked to liver, thyroid, and kidney problems. These also have been linked to Endocrine System disruptions. DISLIKE.

Where are they Found?

Found in lipsticks, makeup, sunscreen, antiperspirant/deodorant, fragrance, and moisturizer creams. Read labels and avoid products that contain BHA or BHT.


That’s it for now, thanks so much for following along! Leave any questions or comments you have below.





8 thoughts on “Clean Beauty Beginner Guide

  1. Great article. It’s crazy for years we have been using products that are causing more harm than good. I would like to suggest a book that I am reading right now called Green Enough. I bought mine from Amazon, but you can find it at your local bookstores as well. The author Leah Segedie speaks on endocrine disruptors that are in our food, household cleaners, cookware/bakeware, beauty products and more. I’ve been making a clean sweep for over a year now and even more so since reading her book. I honestly thought as long as nail polish said formaldehyde free it was safe. Since reading this book there are way more chemicals in nail polish than I thought. I’ve switched to Butter London. Ms. Leah also has two Facebook groups Mamavation and ShiftCon. She keeps everyone up-to-date on the latest sneaky labels, what Congress is doing, etc. Thanks for posting!


  2. Wow! I loved this post so much! So informative! I downloaded the app and I started checking all my products. Changing the products I am using to clean because it’s so important to me to know what I’m putting on my body. I’m so inspired by your courage to take your health and diagnosis in your own hands. ❤


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