you are what you put on your skin

Let’s keep things straight: we don’t need to graduate from Medical School or have a major in Chemistry Science to understand the importance of the ingredients in our beauty regimen.

Here in Sun Kissed Blush, we pay attention to formulations, because the skin is our largest organ and same as with food, we want to know what we put on our body.

Depending on the country’s regulations, some ingredients and products containing these ingredients may be restricted, prohibited or limited in use for particular areas of your body and face (eyes, lips) or completely.

Unfortunately, there is an extensive list of ingredients and additives that are prohibited in other countries and yet are “generally considered as safe” by FDA – the only regulating body in the USA, when it comes to ingredients in your beauty products.

You may also ask about USDA organic certification, but it is not required by law to pass this certification for beauty products unless the brands want to state that the ingredients used in their products are indeed organic.

After our research on sunscreens, we came to a decision to check each product for hazardous ingredients that we use and recommend for use on this blog.

EWG rate

In this mission, we highly rely on the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an American activists group that compiled an extensive list of ingredients and additives used in water, food and consumer products based on the research findings and created a rating system by which they determine how badly a chemical can impact human health. While there is an opinion that EWG scrutinizes some of the ingredients, we use EWG as a reference point and make sure to do additional research based on the available public information regarding particular ingredients to keep the information here as bias-free as possible.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably seen some of the ingredients highlighted in bold. These are usually ingredients that score higher than the rate of 3 according to the EWG scale, which means they may be hazardous to a certain extent.

Clean At Sephora

Sun Kissed Blush is also a big fan of Clean at Sephora movement and we truly trust Sephora with their new guidelines and requirements. Only the products that match specific criteria can bear the Clean at Sephora seal.

Since the launch of this movement, Sephora has tightened its regulations. Below you can find the current list of prohibited ingredients:

  • Sulfates—SLS + SLES
  • Parabens
  • Formaldehydes
  • Formaldehyde-releasing agents
  • Phthalates
  • Mineral Oil
  • Retinyl Palmitate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Coal Tar
  • Hydroquinone
  • Triclosan
  • Triclocarban
  • Undisclosed synthetic fragrances (Products can be formulated with disclosed synthetic fragrances that meet the following two criteria: (1) the synthetic fragrances do not include any of the ingredients listed in numbers 1 through 12 above and (2) the synthetic fragrances are at a concentration below 1% of the total formula)
  • The following type of acrylates: (ethyl acrylate, ethyl methacrylate, methyl methacrylate, butyl methacrylate, hydroxypropyl methacrylate, tetrahydrofurfuryl methacrylate, trimethylolpropane trimethacrylate , aluminum salts)
  • Animal Oils/Musks/Fats
  • Benzophenone + Related Compounds
  • Butoxyethanol
  • Carbon Black
  • Lead/Lead Acetate
  • Methyl Cellosolve + Methoxyethanol
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone & Methylisothiazolinone
  • Mercury + Mercury Compounds (Thimerisol)
  • Insoluble Plastic Microbeads (This prohibited ingredient applies to products that are meant to be rinsed off )
  • Resorcinol
  • Talc (Talc that is free of any asbestos can be used in the formulation provided that Brand conducts testing to ensure that talc is free of any asbestos.)
  • Toluene
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  • Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) that is 0.1% or more of total formula
  • Ethanolamines DEA/TEA/MEA/ETA
  • Nanoparticles As defined by the European Commission
  • Petrolatum and Parrafin that is not USP grade
  • Phenoxyethanol that is 1% or more of the total formulation
  • Polyacrylamide & Acrylamide
  • The following types of Styrene (Bromostyrene, Deastyrene/acrylates/dvbcopolymer, sodium styrene/divinylbenzene copolymer, styrene oxide, styrene)
  • 1,4 Dioxane in final formulas must comply with the thresholds as follows: (10 or < ppm for products that are meant to be rinsed off, wiped off or removed, 3ppm or < for products that are meant to remain on the skin).

EWG 3 and higher-rated ingredients

Since we come across the same ingredients over and over again, we thought it would be great to put them all in one place in alphabetical order.

Aminomethyl Propanediol (EWG 1-3) is a compound used as a pH adjuster and in the recent CIR study, it is considered safe to be used at a concentration of 2-7% in cosmetics and personal care products.

Benzyl Alcohol (EWG 4-6)– is a naturally occurring compound found in fruits (peaches, apricots, and cranberries) and some teas. It is also synthetically derived. This ingredient is commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics and as a fragrance (Jasmine). It’s an approved preservative under the COSMOS Organic Certification criteria. Benzyl Alcohol has both antimicrobial and anti-fungal benefits.

Even though EWG indicates increased risk level in inhalable form or on lips and around the mouth due to increased risk of ingestion and absorption, this ingredient is generally considered safe in a concentration less than 5% as used in cosmetics (10% for hair dyes) and less than 1% in fragrances. In the US, the FDA considers Benzyl Alcohol GRAS as a flavoring food agent and anesthetic ingredient used in over-the-counter anesthetic products. In the EU, there are stricter requirements for the concentration of this ingredient.

Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane (EWG 1-2), also known as Avobenzone, is a chemical sunscreen ingredient.

BHT (EWG 4) or Butylated Hydroxytoluene is an antioxidant, fragrance ingredient, and masking agent. According to the FDA, it is designated as safe for general or specific, limited use in food with limited to concentrations of 0.02%. EWG considered BHT as a low endocrine disruptor, moderate non-reproductive organ system toxin (moderate), and moderate irritant (skin, eyes, or lungs). While most of the evidence that shows carcinogenicity usually found with high doses exposure, CIR conducted its own research, by which it BHT shows liver and kidney effects, without reproductive or developmental toxicity when used orally at high doses, therefore, not genotoxic, nor carcinogenic. In the study, it was confirmed BHT has limited dermal penetration, and with the low concentrations of use (0.01 to 0.1%) of this compound in cosmetics and personal care products it is considered a safe ingredient. BHT is also allowed to be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe.

Chlorphenesin (EWG 4)– is a water- and glycerin-soluble preservative and cosmetic biocide (a skin-cleansing ingredient that prevents odor by destroying or inhibiting bacterial growth). Considered a weak preservative, Chlorphenesin is used in combination with other preservatives. It extends a product’s shelf life. The CIR Expert Panel found that while Chlorphenesin absorbs through the skin, metabolism, and excretion rates are higher than those of absorption, therefore a concentration of this ingredient in plasma is low and poses no known concerns. EU Cosmetic regulations limit concentrations up to 0.32% in rinse-off products and 0.3% in leave-on products

Cosmetic grade Talc (EWG 5) shouldn’t pose any health risk since it’s asbestos-free, even though EWG is considering talc as an ingredient of moderate hazard based on a research paper dated 1993. Nevertheless, the FDA considers it “as safe for general or specific, limited use in food”.

Cyclopentasiloxane (EWG 3) is a silicone-based conditioning agent. EWG raises a concern about its toxicity and potential cancerogenic effect (with moderate doses), Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert panel considers it as safe for use as it has limited absorption into the skin.

Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil  (EWG 1-3) is a volatile oil obtained from Citrus aurantifolia. It is used as a fragrance ingredient, cleansing, hair conditioning, masking, skin conditioning, and tonic. As every citrus essential oil, Lime oil is non-toxic, non-mutagenic, and non-carcinogenic, pregnancy-safe and “does not alter the maternal reproductive outcome and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Distilled lime oil wasn’t found irritating nor sensitizing to volunteers when tested at 15 and 100% concentration, and the same goes for the expressed lime oil. At the same time, in one study, Aurantifolia lime EO causes potential toxic and myelotoxic effects when tested in mice due to high citral levels, however, it was tested through oral contact.
According to one research, the skin sensitization issue is possible only is the oil is old or oxidized. The distilled oils are not phototoxic, while the expressed oils carry a low to moderate risk of phototoxicity. If expressed EO lime oil is applied to the skin in doses higher the maximum dermal use level, avoid sunlight exposure for at least 12h.
Finally, FDA recognized Lime oil as GRAS, CIR Panel concluded in their 2014 report that a number of citrus-derived oils, including lime oil, is safe for use in both rinse-off and leave-on cosmetic products when formulated to be non-sensitizing and non-irritating, provided that leave-on products do not contain more than 0.0015% (15 ppm) 5-methoxypsoralen (5-MOP).

Cananga Odorata Flower Oil (EWG 1-3), also known as Ylang Ylang Essential Oil, is an oil obtained from the flowers of the ylang-ylang tree Cananga odorata. It is used as a fragrance ingredient and masking. Ylang Ylang oil is known for its benefits, however, there is evidence of skin irritation when used daily at high concentrations. FDA, in their turn, considers Ylan Ylang Essential Oil as “designated as safe for general or specific, limited use in food“.

Dimethicone (EWG 3) and Phenoxyethanol (EWG 4) are widely used condition agents and preservatives in cosmetics respectfully, without any risk of being cancerogenic or causing developmental or reproductive toxicity.

Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (EWG 5) – commonly used chemical sunscreen ingredients, also known as Octanoxate. It can cause hormone disruption and there is evidence of penetration into body and mother’s milk. More details on sunscreens here.

Ethylhexyl Salicylate (EWG 1-3), also known as Octisalate, this is another chemical sunscreen ingredients. More details on sunscreens here.

Peg-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate (EWG 1-3) is a skin-conditioning agent – emollient, surfactant – emulsifying agent, emollient, and emulsifying. According to EWG, it has a non-reproductive organ system toxicity (low) and contamination concerns (high) with 1,4-Dioxane (EWG 5-8) and Ethylene oxide (EWG 8-10). The rating according to EWG varies from 1 to 3 depending on the usage. The non-reproductive system toxicity info, in particular, it’s being an irritant is based on an old research paper dated 1994. According to the latest research info dated 2015, it is not-sensitizing, non-cancerogenic, and non-bioaccumulative with a very low absorption rate. Moreover, currently, the FDA considers the ingredient as GRAS and according to CIR, PEG-20 is also considered safe for use in cosmetics. As for the potential contamination concern, it can be easily controlled through purification methods and measured by the manufacturer. If the product has a “Clean at Sephora” seal, you can be sure that the amount of 1,4 Dioxane in final formulas is very small. Check Clean at Sephora for more details on concentration.

Peg-10 Isostearate (EWG 1-3) – is a surfactant – cleansing agent and surfactant – emulsifying agent. It has limited evidence of sense organ toxicity, classified as not expected to be potentially toxic or harmful, however, has a high contamination concerns with 1,4-Dioxane (EWG 5-8) and Ethylene oxide (EWG 8-10). In addition to this, it is non-persistent and non-bioaccumulative, and according to FDA it is designated as “safe for general or specific, limited use in food“.

PEG-12 Dimethicone (EWG 1-3) is a widely-used silicone-based polymer used as a skin- and hair-conditioning agent. Both FDA and CIR (2014) consider PEG-12 Dimethicone as a safe ingredient “in the present practices of use and concentration described in this safety assessment in cosmetics“. However, EWG highlights a high contamination concern with 1,4-Dioxane (EWG 5-8) and Ethylene oxide (EWG 8-10). According to the mentioned study from CIR, the manufacturing process indeed includes ethylene oxide or propylene oxide, and the material used for the study indeed contained other impurities less than 0.1%, which were not considered as a concern by the panel in this study.

Polysorbate 60 (EWG 1-3) is a fragrance ingredient, surfactant – emulsifying agent, surfactant – solubilizing agent, and emulsifying, with according to EWG, has low non-reproductive organ system toxicity and high contamination concern with 1,4-Dioxane (EWG 5-8) and Ethylene oxide (EWG 8-10). Polysorbate 60 is one of the few polysorbates that is approved by the FDA to be used directly and indirectly in food as a food additive. The recent CIR paper, in its turn, concluded that polysorbates are safe in cosmetics when formulated to be non-irritating. As for the contamination concern, same as with SLES, the FDA monitors the levels of traceable amounts of hazardous compounds, such as 1,4-Dioxane.

Potassium Sorbate (EWG 3) is a naturally occurring compound, that is not only used in food as a preservative but also used in cosmetics as a fragrance ingredient and preservative. EWG considers it as a “non-reproductive organ system toxicity” ingredient with low priority, while both FDA and CIR cons(practices of use and concentration of this safety assessment when formulated to be nonirritating) consider it as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).

PTFE or Teflon, (EWG 4-5 depends on concentration) is a polymer of tetrafluoroethylene, used as a bulking agent, slip modifier, binding, and skin conditioning ingredient in cosmetics. In general, PTFE or Teflon is not considered cancerogenic or linked to reproductive or development, however, it is formulated by using Perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOA (EWG 8). This means, that Teflon might be contaminated with this Perfluorooctanoic acid, which in turn, is a possible carcinogen and can cause significant developmental effects. However, the manufacturing process has changed, and since 2015 PFOA is no longer used in the production of Teflon. Moreover, according to CIR latest report (2018), PFTE is considered safe to be used in cosmetics “in the present practices of use and concentration described in the safety assessment“.

Sodium Benzoate (EWG 1-3) is a salt of naturally occurring acid found in cranberries, apricots, mushrooms, and honey. It is widely used as a preservative in processed foods and beverages to extend shelf life and in cosmetics for anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. Sodium Benzoate can cause allergic reactions when consumed in large quantities, however, in cosmetics the permitted concentration levels range between 0.5% and 1%.  In the US, the FDA considers Sodium Benzoate as GRAS. 

Sodium Laureth-12 Sulfate (EWG 1-3) is a surfactant and a cleansing agent used in cosmetics and personal use products also known as SLES. EWG flags this ingredient for some evidence non-reproductive moderate organ system toxicity and its possible contamination concern with by-product 1,4-Dioxane (EWG 5-8) and Ethylene oxide (EWG 8-10). SLES is created through a process called ethoxylation – when Ethylene oxide, known as a human carcinogen, is added to sodium laurel sulfate to make it less harsh on the skin and 1,4-Dioxane (another possible carcinogen) is a by-product of this chemical reaction. According to the recent publication, FDA monitors manufacturers of cosmetics and personal use products for the traceable amount 1,4-Dioxane there is a definite drop in the amounts found compared to earlier surveys and currently “do not present a hazard to consumers trace levels of ≤10 ppm”. Moreover, there are special manufacturing techniques to strip the traces of this compound. It is important to note, that FDA doesn’t require the traces of 1,4-Dioxane to be shown in the list of ingredients, however, knowing the current trends in manufacturing is quite assuring.
Finally, according to the latest CIR research, Sodium Laureth Sulfate is safe to be used in cosmetics and personal use products in the present practices of use and concentration when formulated to be non-irritating. However, if you have very sensitive skin, I’d recommend staying away from this ingredient, especially if it’s placed high in the ingredient list.

Sorbic Acid (EWG 3) is a commonly used ingredient in eye shadows formulations used as a fragrance ingredient and preservative. It is naturally occurring and synthetically produced chemical. While sorbic acid has evidence of causing a non-reproductive organ system toxicity, the impact is quite low ( mild allergy with light skin itching), both CIR and FDA considers it as “designated as safe for a general or specific use,” with limited use in food.

Titanium Dioxide (Cl 77891) (EWG 1-3 depending on concentration) is another commonly used ingredient, that is used as a colorant or opacifying agent. Besides, it is also used as a Sunscreen Agent or Ultraviolet Light Absorber and can be toxic and harmful only if inhaled, but has limited absorption rate when applied topically on the skin.

Tocopheryl Acetate (EWG 2-3 ) is another skin-conditioning agent, a compound of acetic acid and tocopherol (vitamin E), with HYDROQUINONE (EWG 9) contamination concern. While there are some concerns about the toxicity of this chemical compound (with limited evidence for being cancerogenic), the concerns are usually present with high doses, which unlikely to be present in cosmetic products. Moreover, FDA considers it as GRAS and it remains a widely used ingredient.

Urea (EWG 1-3) is a naturally occurring compound formed by the breakdown of protein in the liver, is considered a normal byproduct of protein metabolism, and is commonly found in mammalian urine. It is also found in the outermost sublayer of your skin, known as the stratum corneum, which protects your body and retains moisture.

For use in cosmetics, this ingredient is synthetically manufactured in a laboratory. Urea is a humectant and keratolytic agent, which means it has both moisturizing and exfoliating properties. This ingredient is also used in eczema-treating lotions and creams.
Urea can increase the absorption of other ingredients and, in some cases, may cause mild skin irritation (burning, itching, redness).
In the US, the FDA considers Urea as GRAS, and synthetically derived urea is a common additive to food, including baked goods and wine, to aid the fermentation process.
In Canada, this ingredient is allowed for use in cosmetics and personal care products at concentrations equal to or less than 10%.

Color Additives

Color additives are classified into straight colors, lakes, and mixtures. Straight colors are those that haven’t been mixed or chemically reacted with any other substance, while lakes are water-insoluble pigments that have been converted to insoluble salts by simple conversion. These pigments are typically metal salts such as aluminum, calcium, or barium, and are often synthesized in a lab from coal tar or petroleum. On the other hand, mixtures are created by mixing color additives or non-color diluents without a chemical reaction. 

Certified color additives are synthetic pigments that are commonly used in various products to produce uniform and intense colors, as well as used in production of hues. They are referred to as certified because they are required to undergo certification during every new batch production. 

Certifiable color additives are commonly used because they provide more intense coloring abilities than natural products. They are also stable, produce better color uniformity, and blend easily to create a wide range of hues. Certifiable color additives are available in the form of “dyes” or “lakes,” with dyes dissolving in water and lakes being water-insoluble. Lakes are often used to color products that lack sufficient moisture to dissolve dyes, such as drug tablets.

Lakes are often used in coating drug tablets because of their stability. The majority of certified color additives are synthetically produced in the lab from coal tar and petroleum, although some can be derived from plant or animal ingredients. When used in cosmetic products in the EU, they must be listed on the label by their CI (Color Index) number. In the United States, all color additives used in food, drugs, and cosmetics must be approved by the FDA and listed in the Code of Federal Regulations. To ensure strict compliance, the FDA requires that each batch of color produced for use in regulated products must be certified by the agency after extensive safety review.

Iron Oxides (EWG 3) are considered safe for use in coloring products, such as cosmetics and personal care items used on the eyes and lips, according to the FDA. The FDA exempts iron oxides from certification and includes them in its list of generally recognized as safe indirect food additives. The Cosmetics Regulation of the European Union also permits the use of iron oxides as a colouring agent in cosmetic products, provided they meet purity standards. Iron oxides are identified as CI 77489, CI 77491, CI 77492, and CI 77499 in Annex IV, Part I of the EU Cosmetics Regulation.

FD&C Blue No. 1 Aluminum Lake (CI 42090) (EWG 3-8) is an FDA-approved synthetic color commonly used to color tablets and capsules. In the US, it is also allowed in foods, drugs, and cosmetics. Blue 1 Lake, a water-insoluble form of Blue 1, is used in lipstick. Both Blue 1 and Blue 1 Lake are also used as food coloring and can be found in sweets and ice cream. Blue 1 and Blue 1 Lake are allowed for use in all cosmetics and personal care products in the European Union without limitations. On the other hand, when used in products that can be inhaled, such as sprays and powders, EWG expresses respiratory concerns, therefore, it may score higher on the scale. According to this agency, there are contamination concerns with ANILINE and CADMIUM (pyrophoric), however, there is no info on these impurities in the FDA’s CFR.

Red 6, Red 6 Lake, Red 7, and Red 7 Lake (CI 15850) (EWG 1-6) are approved by FDA for use as colorants in cosmetics and personal care products, including those applied on the lips, and for coloring externally applied drugs. However, they are prohibited in products intended for use around the eyes. In the EU, this colorant can be used in all cosmetics and personal care products. Additionally, the lakes, salts, and pigments are allowed for use in Europe. According to the EWG, the score for this ingredient is higher in inhalable products such as sprays and powders due to respiratory concerns. The same applies to products intended for use around the eyes due to the risk of increased absorption. Similar to other coloring ingredients, EWG indicated that these colorants may contain such impurities as ANILINE and CADMIUM (pyrophoric), however, the FDA doesn’t indicate these elements in CFR.

Red 28 and Red 28 Lake (Ci 45410) (EWG-5) is an FDA-approved synthetic pigment also known as xanthene color. In the US, these ingredients may be safely used for coloring drugs and cosmetics, but are not permitted for use in products intended for use in the area of the eye. The use of Red 28 and Red 28 Lake is permitted in all cosmetics and personal care products in the EU when they contain not more than 1% 2-(6-hydroxy-3-oxo-3H-xanthen-9-yl) benzoic acid and 2% 2-(bromo-6-hydroxy-3-oxo-3H-xanthen-9-yl) benzoic acid.  Red 28 is a mixture, while Red 28 Lake is a pigment comprised of an insoluble metallic salt of a certified color additive deposited on an inert substrate. Since lakes are a water-insoluble form of the dye, Red 28 Lake is more stable and, therefore, more often used to form the coating of drug tablets.

Fd&C Yellow 5 (Ci 19140) Aluminum Lake (EWC 4-6) is an FDA-approved ingredient for personal care and cosmetic products, including products intended for use on the lips and eye area. Yellow 5 is also known as tartrazine. This synthetic dye derived from petroleum is approved for use in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics in the US and is also permitted for use in all cosmetics in the EU, as long as it complies with the specifications set out in the regulations. The insoluble barium, strontium, and zirconium lakes, salts, and pigments of Yellow 5 are also allowed in the EU and must pass the insolubility test. However, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has expressed concerns about the presence of CADMIUM (pyrophoric) and BIPHENYL-2-YLAMINE in Yellow 5, which are not indicated in the FDA’s CFR. 

Yellow 6 Lake (CI 15985) (EWG 3-8) As per the FDA, the Yellow 6 and Yellow 6 Lake are considered a safe ingredient used in cosmetics and personal care products for coloring purposes, including lip products. However, it is not allowed for use in products intended for use around the eyes, which per EWG, has a higher risk of absorption (products for eye area score higher on the scale). FDA also permits the usage of yellow 6 as a color in food and drugs.The Cosmetics Directive of the European Union also allows the use of yellow 6 as a coloring agent in all cosmetics and personal care products.  EWG shows contamination concern with cadmium, however, the FDA doesn’t indicate this contaminant on the list of potential impurities for Yellow 6. 

Other active ingredients


Retinol is generally considered as a working anti-aging ingredient, helping minimize wrinkles, stimulates blood flow and collagen production, as well as increases cell turnover rate. It also can help with milia. 

Because it is very active ingredients, it should be introduced little by little once a week during your nighttime routine. If you are pregnant or nursing, or sensitive to retinol, it is recommended to avoid using products with this ingredient.

We will keep updating the list of ingredients as we encounter new ones, so stay tuned!

As always, remember that this is for info purposes only and we cannot provide any medical advice. Make sure to check our Disclosure page for more details.

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