Green Beauty: Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare Products

"Green beauty" is no longer just a buzzword in the skincare world. In fact, natural organic skincare products have steadily found their way from the back alleys of Whole Foods to front and center in beauty retail aisles and in many beauty magazines. There's a good reason for this. A shift in consumer mindset toward healthy living has boosted the demand for natural organic skincare products. The green beauty lifestyle (that's right, it's now a lifestyle as it has passed fleeting trend status) has also sparked the interest of consumers to uncover the truth behind brands that claim to be "clean" and "toxic-free." 

But to those new to green beauty, finding the right natural organic skincare products could be daunting. How does one know which ingredients are good and which ones to cut from one's daily beauty routine? Which tools or websites offer reliable information as to which brands are truly certified natural organic? 

ilike Organic skin care celebrates 60 years of clean beauty.

ilike Organic skin care celebrates 60 years of clean beauty.

To help separate truth from myth when it comes to green beauty, Szilvia Hickman, owner of Szep Elet, exclusive distributor of ilike organic skin care, strips it down to simple terms as she talks clean beauty.

The Gospel of Beauty: Why is it more important than ever for shoppers to be educated on clean beauty products?

Szilvia Hickman: The organic and natural segment of the personal care market continues to be one of the fastest growing in the cosmetics and toiletries industry, reflected in double-digit annual percentage growth in the U.S. year after year

There is concern that daily exposure to a combination of toxic ingredients found in many skin care, personal care and cosmetic products could result in detrimental long-term health effects. As a result, consumers are actively seeking out clean beauty products to use as part of their daily skincare routine. 

TGOB: With this growing demand, it has also become more confusing for consumers to know which brands are truly clean and green. What should consumers keep in mind when finding the right natural organic skincare products? 

Hickman: As the “green” consumer-driven market continues to gain momentum, more and more brands are popping up with the words “organic,” “natural,” “chemical-free,” and “clean,” in their names and marketing collateral. In addition, companies are increasingly displaying organic trade or consumer group logos and agricultural certifications to show their professional affiliations and earn the trust and confidence of the discerning consumer. 

With thousands of skincare products on the market, there’s a lot of confusion about what products and ingredients are truly “safe” and “clean.” In particular, consumers are confused about the differences between organic and natural. Although often used interchangeably, the differences can be quite significant. As more and more companies embrace the shift toward clean beauty products, it’s imperative to discern quality and authenticity from “green washing.” 

TGOB: What are the top five common ingredients in beauty products that consumers should avoid?

  1. Parabens: Parabens are preservatives used in a wide variety of personal care products and foods to prevent the growth of microbes. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals can be absorbed through skin, blood and the digestive system.
  2. Synthetic Fragrance: According to the FDA, synthetic fragrance is defined as a combination of chemicals that gives perfumes, lotions, and other skincare products its distinctive scent. Fragrance ingredients may be derived from petroleum or natural raw materials. In addition to “scent” chemicals that create the fragrance, perfumes and colognes also contain solvents, stabilizers, UV-absorbers, preservatives and dyes. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds. Of those ingredients, some have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.
  3. Hydroquinone: In the skincare category, Hydroquinone is found in skin lighteners, facial and skin cleansers, and facial moisturizers, and is heavily marketed to treat and reduce hyperpigmentation, age and brown spots. One of the main health concerns of this ingredient is its link to cancer. Hydroquinone works by decreasing the production and increasing the degradation of melanin pigments in the skin. This increases the skin’s exposure to UVA and UVB rays, increasing the risk of skin cancer
  4. Phthalates: Phthalates can be found in color cosmetics, fragranced lotions, body washes and hair care products, nail polish and treatment and can be labeled as phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP and fragrance. The National Toxicology Program and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that DEHP is reasonably to be anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity of animal studies.
  5. Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) are used in many personal care products. These chemicals, which help prevent microbes from growing in water-based products, can be absorbed through the skin and have been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions. Formaldehyde is considered a known human carcinogen by many expert and government bodies, including the United States National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
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TGOB: What are the top five ingredients you would recommend that are safe in a beauty product?

  1. Plant-derived hyaluronic acid: Considered a superstar in the anti-aging skincare market because it immediately plumps, firms and moisturizes skin. Unlike other hyaluronic acid in the market, plant-derived hyaluronic acid is an ethically sourced, clean and cruelty-free product.  
  2. Plant stem cells: As we age, skin becomes thinner, dryer, age spots and wrinkles appear, we lose elasticity as collagen production declines and skin’s overall appearance is duller, lacking in that youthful vibrancy. Recently, science has zoomed in on a powerful new ally in the war against aging skin—plant-based stem cells. Why is there so much interest in plant stem cell technology? The answer may lie in the simple fact that it removes the ethical dilemma plaguing the scientific community. Plant stem cells allow us the opportunity to harness the power of stem cells without the controversy that surrounds human stem cell harvesting. Plant stem cells have a powerful regenerative effect on our skin, improving complexion and rejuvenate damaged tissue caused by age, environmental toxins and sun damage. 
  3. Natural hydroquinone alternatives: As I mentioned earlier hydroquinone—although it’s a hot topic in the skincare and beauty world – comes with some serious health concerns. For consumers looking for a clean, green alternative to hydroquinone, ilike organic skin care has discovered a powerful skin brightening ingredient called Undecylenoyl Phenylalanine, a trademarked organic compound derived from Castor Seed that reduces the pigmentation process. Application of this natural hydroquinone alternative reduces age spots, hyperpigmentation due to sun exposure, hormonal disorders or irritation, and sun spots without the risk associated with its chemical counterpart. 
  4. Natural colors: Rather than questionable food dyes, consumers should seek out skincare products that are colorful only because of the botanical ingredients that make up the formulation. Beets, calendula, chlorophyll, and carrot give products an authentic look without any worrisome side effects. 
  5. Natural microbead alternatives: Enjoy the perks of exfoliation without the pollution. Today, there are many natural alternatives to plastic microbeads. Look for exfoliating ingredients such as cornmeal, ground grapeseed or other seeds. 

TGOB: How do you address some consumers' concern that green beauty products may not be as effective?

Hickman: First I would start with the list, as mentioned above, of the ingredients that are commonly found in "non-green" skincare products and would ask them: Is your health worth that risk? There is increasing evidence that certain ingredients that were once deemed “safe and effective” have been found to cause or be linked to a range of health issues. Since skin is our largest organ, it’s important to understand that what you put on your body is as important as what you put in your body. Secondly, if looked at closely, many of the synthetic ingredients are cheaper, lab-grown versions of natural ingredients. Lastly, in terms of effectiveness of ilike’s products, our brand is dedicated to using only safe and effective ingredients; many of which have been tested and peer -reviewed in controlled studies. It’s the extra step ilike takes to ensure formulations are of the highest quality with concentrated ingredients that are results-oriented and never marketed on baseless claims. 

Szilvia Hickman, owner of Szep Elet, distributor of ilike organic skin care.

Szilvia Hickman, owner of Szep Elet, distributor of ilike organic skin care.

TGOB: How is ilike organic skin care different from other clean beauty products?

Hickman: What makes ilike organic skin care so unique is that we strive to maintain the natural state of the herbal ingredients— using handmade pulps versus extracts. Our organic ingredients are formulated and processed in a way that maintains the vitality of the natural active ingredients resulting in an immediate experience of the deep, rich penetrating effects of the ingredients as well as their magnificent aromas, textures and colors.

We pride ourselves of using only whole, raw, real ingredients handpicked, cold-processed and made in small batches to retain their full concentration and power. Incorporating the latest in skincare research and biotechnological advancements, ilike continues to lead the way in the global raw skincare movement. This commitment has led to the development of some of the brand’s best-selling, award-winning lines including the Grape Stem Cell Solutions and Hyaluronic Time Erase Complex skincare products. 

TGOB: Who founded the brand?

Hickman: Dánielné Molnár (lovingly known as "Aunt Ilike") founded ilike organic skin care. This year, we mark our 60th anniversary. Aunt Ilike's life-long passion of advancing the natural remedies from ingredients provided by "Mother Nature" is embodied in the skin-care brand. All of our ingredients are grown on our certified organic fields in Hungary where we also manufacture all of our products. 

TGOB: What resources, apps or websites do you recommend to help women educate themselves on clean beauty products? 

Hickman: There are several prominent national and international certification agencies I rely on to learn more about their certification programs and organic standards: 

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by ilike organic skincare. The clean beauty brand is available on and