Lipsticks isolated on white background


This is Wendyl Nissen’s list of six of the most toxic ingredients to look out for and why. The information initially came from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and was shared in the book Mother’s Little Helper – The Complete Guide To Raising Children Chemical Free. 

Many beauty products contain a myriad of harmful toxins that can pose serious risks to our health and the environment. Ingredients like parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, and sulfates are commonly found in cosmetics and skincare items. These chemicals have been linked to various health issues, including hormone disruption, allergic reactions, and even cancer. Additionally, when these products are washed off, they can enter water systems, leading to pollution and harm to aquatic life.

When pregnant and breastfeeding it’s even more important to keep away from nasty chemicals in your personal care and beauty products.


You will find these used under the names ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben. Beauty product manufacturers need to make sure that their products survive on shelves for up to two years or longer, so they use parabens as a preservative in many beauty products. There are no definitive studies that link parabens with breast cancer but they are known to disrupt hormone function because they mimic natural oestrogen, which sets off a reaction that can lead to breast cancer.

Alternative – Living Nature produces cosmetics that use manuka oil blended with other ingredients as a preservative, and other natural cosmetic companies use other alternatives, so see if you can source some natural products and do check the labels. I’ve picked up so-called natural beauty products and been appalled at some of their ingredients, because some natural cosmetic companies stop using parabens only to replace them with equally nasty preservatives and other names. An investigation by Consumer magazine found that only Living Nature and Dr Hauschka brands contained no synthetic preservatives, unlike Trilogy, Sukin, Skinfood, Natio, Huni, Earth’s Organics, Avalon Organics, Antipodes, The Aromatherapy Company, Giovanni Organic aircare, Jason Pure, Natural & Organic, Olive, Planet Earth, Spa Organics and St Ives.

If you have time during your pregnancy, you are best to make your own fresh creams and moisturisers out of pure, natural oils, beeswax and aloe vera. If you have dry skin, a good almond or apricot oil will work well as a moisturiser, or if you have more oily skin you can use pure aloe vera gel as a moisturiser. Just make sure you buy the real stuff from a reputable health shop, not the stuff with green colouring sold in chemists.


This is used in anti-bacterial soaps and detergents, deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, fabrics and plastics. This is another hormone disruptor which can interfere with the body’s natural hormone system and cause illness. The main concern, if you are pregnant, is that a study found traces of it in umbilical cord blood. The last thing you want is a hormone disruptor hanging around while your baby is in vulnerable periods of development.

Alternative – Be wary of any product that states it is “anti-bacterial”. If you are really concerned about bacteria on your chopping boards, buy our Anti-Bacterial Spray (click here) or simply wipe over with a cut lemon. And as for washing your hands, the United States Food and Drug Administration found no evidence that anti-bacterial washes containing tricoslan were superior  to plain soap and water for protecting consumers from bacteria. A good rule to follow with soap and water is to sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself three times before you stop washing your hands. 


This is an ingredient used in nail polishes, nail glues, eyelash glues, hair gels and it has also been found in baby shampoo, baby soap and body washes. I found this as an ingredient when I analysed baby wipes. Its use is restricted in the European Union and Canada, and it is banned in Japan and Sweden. It is considered to be a probable carcinogen, which means it can cause cancer and it can cause allergic skin reactions and rashes in some people.

Alternative – Take a break from nail polish, artificial nails and body washes. Instead, buy a buffering kit from your local pharmacy to bring your nails to a natural shine, and make your own body wash (click here for the recipe).


This is everywhere in toys, shower curtains, air fresheners but also nail polish and fragrances used in many cosmetics. It can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems and appears to have nasty effects on sex hormones. One study found that phthalate exposure in pregnant women, as measured by urine samples, has been associated with a shortened distance between the anus and genitals in male babies, indicating a feminisation had occurred during genital development. And another study found that baby boys exposed to phthalates in breast milk had alterations to their hormone levels.

Alternative – Most beauty products that contain phthalates don’t list them on their labels, however the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found them in nearly 75  percent of tested products. You’re already avoiding nail polish to keep formaldehyde out, but it is best to avoid anything with fragrance added to it as phthalates are a common component. But just because a label says”fragrance-free” there is no legal standard for those words, so you can never be too sure.


Now these are really not nice, but also very confusing, so I’ll try to keep it as simple as I can. Two substances called diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) are used together as a preservative. But over time they break down and recombine to form nitrosamines. Both DEA and TEA are commonly used in cosmetics to adjust the pH or act as wetting agents. The problem with nitrosamines is cancer, and they are listed as possible human carcinogens by the US Environmental Protection Agency, among others. They are used in most personal care products, including mascara, concealer, conditioner, baby shampoo, pain relief salve and sunless tanning lotion. But because they are impurities, they are not listed on product labels.

Alternative – You’ve already stopped using most of your personal care products, so that just leaves conditioner and sunless tanning lotion. I’ll give you alternatives for shampoo and conditioner at the end of this chapter, but there is no natural or old fashioned alternative to tanning lotion. Personally, I just need to smell it to know if it’s full of chemicals and I’m amazed women rub this stuff on their skin just so that they can turn that unique shade of orange. For the duration of your pregnancy, and hopefully forever, you are going to accept that the colour you are is your natural skin state.


I know there is lead in red lipsticks, and so do the people who make them. An independent laboratory test in 2007, by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that more than 33 brand name lipsticks contained detectable levels of lead, and a third of these lipsticks exceeded the US Food and Drug Administration’s limit for lead in candy. None of these lipsticks listed lead on their ingredients label.

Lead is particularly dangerous for pregnant women because it easily crosses the placenta and may enter the foetal brain, where it interferes with normal development. Lead has also been linked to miscarriage. Cosmetics companies will tell you it’s such a tiny amount that it won’t hurt you, but lead levels build up over time. And I’m sure you’re all read the  ridiculous claims on the internet that the average woman consumes kilos of lipstick during their lifetime. But I know I eat a fair bit of my lipstick, so you do have to be aware that you can be consuming lead with it if you like to wear red lipstick. If you’re pregnant, throw it out and change your lipstick colour.

Alternative –  You can make your own Beetroot Lip Tint, which I found quite a lot of fun but not quite as red as I needed. Or you can opt for a natural lipstick that lists cochineal or carmine in its ingredients, which shows they are using this to colour it instead of lead. Nana used carmine all the time. Do note, though, that it is extracted from the insects of the same name, so it’s not suitable for vegans.

Choosing natural beauty products can significantly reduce exposure to these harmful toxins. Natural products often use ingredients derived from plants, minerals, and other organic sources, avoiding synthetic chemicals altogether. These ingredients are typically gentler on the skin and less likely to cause irritation or adverse reactions. Moreover, they are often produced using sustainable practices that minimise environmental impact. By opting for natural alternatives, consumers can prioritise both their health and the planet, embracing a beauty routine that’s safer and more eco-conscious.

Side note: Instead of commercial shampoo and conditioner opt for a natural shampoo bar or use the Holistic Hair range.

Our Green Goddess Face Creams are safe to use whilst pregnant.