This section provides information about ingredients to avoid. As in many industries, there is a lack of oversight and control in the cosmetic and personal care industry. Although all cosmetics products that are manufactured and sold are supposed to be registered with Health Canada, reporting is not controlled and some companies do not comply.

It is ultimately the responsibility of you, the consumer, to be aware of the ingredients in the products you're using. We are providing this list of "ingredients to avoid" to help you make better-informed decisions when purchasing cosmetics and body care products.

Sun Island Body Care complies with Health Canada and all of our products contain all-natural skin beneficial and environmentally friendly ingredients. We do not use any manufactured chemicals or petrochemicals. Our fragrances are custom blended using aromatherapy grade essential oils, high-quality phthalate-free fragrance oils, as well as our own botanical infusions.

Section Contents

  1. Synthetic Fragrances
  2. Parabens
  3. Ureas
  4. 1,4-dioxane
  5. Petrochemicals
  7. Sulfates
  8. Chemical sunscreens
  9. Quats
  10. Antibacterials
  11. Synthetic polymers
  12. Synthetic colours
  13. Chelators
  14. Nanos
  15. Animal testing

Synthetic Fragrances

Many synthetic fragrances will contain phthalates. (pronounced THAY-lates). Phthalates are synthetic chemicals used as fragrance stabilizers and make plastic more pliable. This chemical is known to be an endocrine disrupter that mimics hormones and may alter genital development.

Avoid synthetic fragrances or look for a phthalate-free label. A better choice is a product that contains fragrance derived from essential oils!


You will find this ingredient in many skin care products. Its primary purpose is to preserve other ingredients extending the shelf life of the product. Parabens contain bactericidal and fungicidal chemicals that also mimic hormones, specifically estrogen and have been associated with breast cancer.


Another form of preservative is used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. These preservatives may be listed as Diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, or DMDM hydantoin and sodium hydroxymethyl-glycinate. The concern around Ureas is based on the fact that they slowly and continuously release small amounts of formaldehyde which is classed as a known carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Formaldehyde is a restricted ingredient in cosmetics in Canada, and cannot be added in concentrations greater than 0.2 percent in most products. It should be noted, however, that no restriction exists on the low levels of formaldehyde released by the Ureas listed above!


Dioxane and its derivatives may be found in cosmetics and body care products including toothpastes, deodorants, shampoos and mouthwashes. This ingredient is a chemical carcinogen created when ingredients are processed using petroleum-derived ethylene oxide. Common ethoxylated compounds include sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) and polyethylene glycol (often listed as PEG). Watch out for these ingredients: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth (or any other -eth), PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol.


Any chemical derived from crude oil is a petrochemical. Ingredients derived from petrochemicals such as petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin should not be applied to the skin as they will form a barrier that prevents the skin from breathing and clogs the pores.


These ingredients are used as foaming agents, pH adjusters and synthetic stabilizers. They are known as “amines” (compounds of ammonia). They can cause allergic reactions, irritation to the eyes, dryness of the hair and skin.


Sulphates were already included above under Dioxanes. Sodium Lauryl and sodium laureth are detergents that give cleansers, soaps and shampoos lather ability. Sulphates are derived from petroleum and considered a petrochemical, but may also contaminate natural oils such as coconut and vegetable oils that have been contaminated by pesticides. Sulphates cause irritation to the eyes and can contribute to skin conditions.

Chemical Sunscreens

Oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate, have been shown to disrupt endocrine activity. Only use products that use natural sunscreens such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.


Quaternary ammonium compounds are found in bathroom cleaners and fabric softeners. Quats are known to irritate sensitive skin, cause allergies and trigger asthma. They will not naturally degrade and are toxic to fish. Ingredients to avoid include benzalkonium chloride, steardimonium chloride, cetrimonium bromide, and cetrimonium chloride. Quats are necessary for conditioners, and the following ingredients are the mildest form of quats that are acceptable: guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, hydroxypropyltrimonium oligosaccharide, and SugaQuats.


Antibacterial ingredients do not naturally break down in the environment and contribute to bacterial resistance. Ingredients to avoid: triclosan and chlorophenesin.

Synthetic polymers

Ingredients derived from petroleum are created to provide viscosity to skin care products. The manufacture of these ingredients generates toxic by-products. Ingredients to avoid include sodium polyacrylate and carbomer.

Synthetic colours

Ingredients manufactured from coal tar contain heavy metal salts that could release toxins onto the skin causing skin sensitivities and irritations. Animal studies have resulted in finding almost all of them to be carcinogenic. Ingredients to avoid include FD&C or D&C, followed by a colour and a number.


Chelators are non-biodegradable. They are used in personal care products to remove impurities from low-quality raw materials. Ingredients to avoid include disodium EDTA and tetrasodium EDTA.


A new technology that permits ingredients to penetrate the skin. Some research suggests that when tiny nano-sized particles penetrate the skin, they could potentially cause cellular damage. Avoid any product that incorporates nano-sized particles, nano-delivery, or nano-technology.

Animal Testing

The cosmetic industry has a bad history of abusing animals in the research and development of new ingredients. Most countries now ban animal testing.

More Information

Some additional reading on the subject of ingredients to avoid.