How safe are your skin care products? All of those anti-aging, brightening, UV-protecting, and clarifying lotions, cleansers, and serums may be hiding a dirty little secret — toxic chemical ingredients.
If you want to clean up your skin care routine, the first step is to know what to avoid, and why. It’s just as important to know what to avoid as it is to know what is nontoxic to buy. In this article I have a large section on my absolute favorite products that I’ve found over the years that work as promised, are actually nontoxic (not greenwashed), and feel and smell amazing.
What you’ll learn in this article:
- How skin care products can leach into your body
- The dangers of chemicals found in many skin care products
- Chemicals to watch out for
- Natural compounds that work just as well
- My top recommendations for clean skin care products (that I use myself)
Feed Your Skin Like You Would Feed the Rest of Your Body
If you’re a health-conscious individual, you likely have specific quality standards around food. Given the options, you’re choosing high-quality organic cuts of meat, and vegetables that aren’t sprayed with chemical fertilizers.
For most people in the wellness space, it’s pretty cut and dry — avoid foods that can introduce unwanted chemicals into your body, and focus on foods with a high nutritive value.
What many people don’t realize, however, is that the topical application of some chemicals can be just as harmful as taking them internally. While it’s true that your skin acts as a protective layer for your internal body, it isn’t fail-safe.
In fact, your skin is living tissue, just like every other organ in your body. When chemicals come into contact with it, they can penetrate the top layers and travel down into living tissue and eventually reach your circulation.
That means that when you apply anything topically, you’re essentially feeding your body through your skin. This is bad news if you’re putting beauty products on your skin that contain toxic chemicals.
The Dangers Of Chemicals In Your Skin Care Products
Some of the health issues associated with the chemicals you may find in your products include:
- Endocrine/hormone disruptors
- Reproductive issues
- Organ system toxicity
- Excitotoxicity (excites and then kills cells)
- Allergies and sensitivities
- Respiratory tract irritation
- Estrogen disruption
- Thyroid disruption
What’s In Your Skin Care Products?
Not all skin care products are created equally. In fact, some manufacturers take great care in sourcing ingredients that are safe and effective – see my top pics and favorite natural beauty products for facial skin care below. However, the majority of the products you find on the shelves these days are loaded with chemicals that could be slowly damaging your health.
Below is a list of just a handful of chemicals that are found specifically in skin care products.
Polyacrylamide stabilizes products and binds ingredients. It can break down into acrylamide, which is a known carcinogen and may cause reproductive harm and developmental toxicity.
This chemical is banned in the EU, but not in the US .
Polytetraflouroethylene (aka PFOA or Teflon®)
Polytetraflouroethylene is a compound that’s often found in anti-aging lotions and creams. This chemical is especially dangerous for pregnant women and children — but should be avoided by everyone. The health concerns associated with PFOA include breast cancer, reproductive toxicity, and endocrine disruption.
Resorcinol is a compound that’s primarily used in the rubber industry, but can also be found lurking in some skin care products like peels and creams that treat acne and eczema.
Some concerns with resorcinol include endocrine disruption and organ system toxicity.
Fragrances are often used in skin care products, not for their functional purposes, but to either mask the scent of other chemical ingredients or to give a pleasant smell.
“Fragrance” is a catch-all term for over 3,000 different chemical compounds, so you never really know what you’re getting. Some fragrances are linked to cancer, allergies and sensitivities, endocrine disruption, and reproductive toxicity. 
Hydroquinone is most commonly found in skin care products as a skin lightener, but can also be found in some skin cleansers. This is another compound that’s been banned in the EU. Health concerns include respiratory tract irritation, cancer, and organ-system toxicity.
You may also be exposed to hydroquinone as a byproduct of synthetic vitamin E. While natural vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant, the synthetic version should be avoided.
Octinoxate is a UV filter that can be rapidly absorbed through your skin. It’s found in skin creams and sunscreens to protect against UV-B rays from the sun, and can also be found in hair products. The primary concern with octinoxate is that it can mimic estrogen and cause dysfunction in your thyroid. 
These chemicals are added to your products to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold but are associated with cancer, endocrine disruption, developmental toxicity, reproductive harm, and many more conditions. Some common names to watch out for include formaldehyde, DMDM hydantoin, polyoxymethylene urea, bronopol, ethylparaben, and glyoxal.
Look for natural preservatives in your products like Vitamin E and rosemary oil. 
Phthalates can be found in fragranced lotions as well as other personal care products. These compounds, also labeled as DEP, DBP, DEHP, and fragrance, are linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and endocrine disruption. Look for phthalate-free products, and be aware that phthalates may also be listed as “fragrance.” 
My Favorite Natural Skin Care Recommendations
There are a few brands out there that care just as much about your internal health as they do about your external beauty. These companies draw from a pool of natural, safe, nontoxic ingredients that can enhance the health of your skin while nourishing your body.
While you could certainly go on your own heroic google journey to try to find products that contain the above nutrients and avoid harmful chemicals – I’ve already done the work and have some fantastic products that I use every day.
Below are my top recommendations for clean skin care products that will nourish you both outside and in. I rotate all of these in my beauty regime. I’m 48 and have washed my face and applied moisturizer to my skin daily since I was 13. I think it’s really paid off!
I’ve tried EVERYTHING on the market. These are my go to brands for natural skin care.
Annmarie Skin Care
Annmarie skin care is a fantastic line of products that are made with organic, clean ingredients. They are some of my absolute favorites! I’ve been using them for years. The natural essential oil fragrances, the impeccably sourced ingredients, sustainable packaging – all meet my very high standards.
Some of my top picks from Annmarie’s line of skincare products include:
Phytonutrient Cleanser — made with nutrient-dense herbs and moisturizing mango butter. This is HANDS down my favorite cleanse EVER! The natural fragrance is sumptuous. There’s just something about it that I can’t get enough of.
Citrus Stem Cell Serum — great for all skin types to tone, firm, and brighten.
Wild Fruit Serum — fantastic for rejuvenating and hydrating your skin.
Herbal Facial Oil — perfect for normal and combination skin to balance, moisturize, and soften. The scent is just to die for!!
Anti-Aging Oil — one of the cleanest oils out there for aging skin, packed with antioxidant-rich seeds that firm and tighten your skin while providing moisture and hydration.
Neroli Toner – one of my favorite scents is orange blossom – also known as neroli. After I wash my face I spray this toner to give nutrients and relax before I go to bed. It’s heavenly! My favorite facial toner ever.
I’m such a huge fan of this line of skin care that I even got a special offer for my readers.
For only $9.99 you can get a 7-day restore trial kit which includes a cleanser, toning mist, and an anti-aging facial oil. This 3-pack retails for $56, so I couldn’t recommend taking advantage of this opportunity to try it out more.
Primal Life Organics
Primal Life Organics offers a sumptuous line of paleo, vegan, and gluten-free beauty care products. Trina Felber is the founder and Creator of Primal Life Organics. Trina is a 29+ year nurse with a Masters in Nursing Anesthesia.
Trina is the international best-selling author of Beauty’s Dirty Secret. She is dedicated to helping others realize the dangers in everyday cosmetics and skin care, and spreading awareness for the importance of using plant-based, nutritional skin care products. The loving care that goes into her products really shines through.
My favorite Primal Life Organics products include:
- Coffee Bean Elixir – Coffee is a super antioxidant to fight free radicals on your skin. Honestly, I’m addicted to coffee and love to put it on my face too!
- Blu Berry Elixir – this brightening serum is just divine. The smell is so good my fiance nabbed it from my bathroom!
- Aura Gemstone and Hemp Facial Serum – I love the frequencies on gemstones in products I use on my face and the many benefits of hemp.
- Carrot face wash – I love cleanser as I feel like it doesn’t strip off my delicate facial oils. It smells wonderfully healthy too.
I’ve tried almost every product in this line, and I absolutely love them all. Zatik products are made using fresh raw botanicals cultivated on USDA certified organic farms — making them one of the freshest brands out there. Here is a link to all of their skin care products.
In fact, all the products are produced at room temperature to retain the integrity of the nutrients and essential minerals that exist in oils and botanical extracts. These products are truly so clean you could almost eat them.
What I love about Purity Woods products is that they’re all USDA Organic certified, which is hard to find in the cosmetics industry. They use unique ingredients like maple leaf extract and camu camu that you won’t find in other products, and for the quality you receive the price is incredibly reasonable.
My two favorite products are their Elastin-Boost serum and Age-Defying dream cream. I love their smell and how my skin feels after I apply them.
Beauty Counter offers a wide range of skin care products from makeup to moisturizers to body wash and hand scrubs. Many of their products are EWG certified (the highest ranking for clean products according to the Environmental Working Group), so I see them as one of the safest all-around personal care brands out there.
Some of my favorite Beauty Counter products include:
- Countermatch Adaptive Lotion – I love this product’s almond scent. It also goes on non greasy and non shiny – so I’m moisturized without looking like an oil slick.
- Facial Oils – Facial oils contain a lot more antioxidants and nutrients than creams. They are especially suited to mature skin. I use facial oils regularly and find they don’t clog my pores like you’d think an oil would. They’re incredibly hydrating.
- Overnight resurfacing Peel – I LOVE this peel! Whenever my skin feels a bit congested or I get little blackheads I use this and the next day my skin is much clearer! Just apply and sleep overnight for a glowing complexion in the morning.
Alitura Naturals are clean, effective, and made with nutrient-dense ingredients. Ingredient quality is number one in their priorities, and it shows when you take a look at their ingredient lists. These products are more unisex. I love them and use them myself but the scents and packaging will appeal to men as well.
Three of my favorite Alitura products are:
Alitura Moisturizer — Made with 94.5% organic ingredients to restore and revitalize your skin.
Alitura Clay Mask — A true all-in-one facial mask that purifies your skin into its deepest layers.
Alitura Night Cream — A combination hyaluronic acid, plant stem cells, and potent antioxidants for a powerful anti-aging night cream.
Using all three of these products together make up the ultimate combo for a brighter, youthful, more radiant complexion.
Skin Care for Men
While most natural skin care brands market primarily to women, men are certainly not immune to the detrimental effects of skin care products. Even if you’re only using one or two products, men need to be aware of the ingredients they rub on their bodies everyday.
I’m a fanatic about healthy, beautiful skin! I wash my face every morning and night and apply various creams and oils to nourish and protect my skin. I take pride in my skin care and have used everything brand and product on the market. And these nontoxic skin care brands are what I’m currently recommending.
If you care about what you put in your body, then it’s just as crucial that you take care when choosing what to put on your body. Your skin, being a living tissue, can absorb both the nutrients and chemical compounds you apply to it.
Luckily, there are a handful of companies that have worked hard to create products with natural, organic, and clean ingredients. The above mentioned products have all been vetted by yours truly, and I love personally using them and recommending them.
These products are free of chemicals that can cause disturbances to your hormones, organs and body systems, and are packed with nutrient-dense ingredients that support the health and glow of your skin. Enjoy!
If you want to learn more about some of my other favorite natural beauty brands outside of facial care, please go here.
Let me know in the comments other brands that you love or have questions about.
Click Here for References+
- Pullar, Juliet M., Anitra C. Carr, and Margreet Vissers. “The roles of vitamin C in skin health.” Nutrients 9.8 (2017): 866.
- Kishimoto, Yuki, et al. “Ascorbic acid enhances the expression of type 1 and type 4 collagen and SVCT2 in cultured human skin fibroblasts.” Biochemical and biophysical research communications 430.2 (2013): 579-584.
- Köpcke, Wolfgang, and Jean Krutmann. “Protection from Sunburn with β‐Carotene—A Meta‐analysis.” Photochemistry and photobiology 84.2 (2008): 284-288.
- Miastkowska, Małgorzata, and Elżbieta Sikora. “Anti-aging properties of plant stem cell extracts.” Cosmetics 5.4 (2018): 55.