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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.