What Non-Toxic Skin Care Means and What Ingredients to Avoid?

When you really think about it, it’s strange to have to seek out non-toxic skincare specifically. Shouldn’t all skincare (or anything else you apply to or put in your body) be non-toxic by default? Isn’t it counterintuitive to use toxins in the pursuit of improving your health?

What seems obvious to most consumers is less evident to many manufacturers who seek to keep their costs as low as possible. They’re constantly pursuing to maximize profits and minimize expenses, which often leads to cutting corners. 

The ingredients they use are usually substitutions to natural alternatives that are more costly to source responsibly. The end result is a skincare product that’s more likely to harm your skin than it is to reduce the signs of aging, clear acne, fade dark spots, or balance your skin. 

Although they’ll still market their skincare products as capable of delivering those benefits, saving a few bucks usually comes at a high cost to your health. 

The Potential Dangers of Skincare Ingredients

Your skin is porous. It creates a two-way portal in and out of your body. It allows your hair to grow through and can be treated with topical ointments or medications designed to cure or treat specific ailments. After all, it’s a two-way street. 

When you put on your serum or your moisturizer, you’ll notice that it disappears after a few moments. Your skin absorbs it. 

While a little bit of thicker products like moisturizers will remain on the surface of your skin to create a protective barrier, the rest of the ingredients penetrate your skin. This means they’re inside of your body.

When you’re using skincare products that contain toxic or potentially harmful ingredients, you’re allowing them to enter your body. If it isn’t something you’d feel comfortable eating, you definitely shouldn’t cover yourself in it. It may not get in through your mouth, but it’s getting in through your skin. 

Ingredients to Avoid in Your Skincare Products

Skincare products typically contain long ingredient lists that feature the scientific name of each ingredient. Everything looks a little more intimidating when the label doesn’t specify what something is.

Lavendula augustifolia is lavender, salvia Rosmarinus is rosemary, and Helianthus annuus is sunflower. If you didn’t know that, you might have assumed they were chemicals before you looked at the label. However, they’re all great for your skin, and you should actively seek them out.

This is proof that understanding what to look for on an ingredients label is important. You only need to educate yourself about ingredients once. When you know what to look for and what to avoid, it simplifies every purchasing decision you’ll ever make.


Most people know formaldehyde as an embalming chemical or specimen preservation fluid. It seems strange to put it in skincare products, but that’s exactly what manufacturers are indirectly doing. They use formaldehyde to prolong the shelf life of their products.

You’ll never see formaldehyde directly listed in the ingredients because manufacturers don’t use straight-up formaldehyde. Instead, they use preservatives like quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, or Diazolidinyl urea that slowly release formaldehyde overtime to maintain the “freshness” of the product.


Phthalates are chemicals that add durability to plastic. They’re commonly used to fortify materials like those used to line above-ground pools or tents. 

In cosmetics, these plasticizers are used to change the texture of your skincare products. Well formulated skincare products should have a rich and moisturizing texture without the use of phthalate plasticizers. 


Aluminum is a metal, and it is great at being a metal. We use aluminum for a lot of things in our everyday life. Many of us, unbeknownst to ourselves, are also applying it to our faces. Aluminum compounds are used as thickeners in things like lotions and lipsticks. 

Instead of using naturally thick or rich ingredients, manufacturers water products down to reduce the amount of expensive active ingredients per jar and use the aluminum compounds to give the illusion that the products have a naturally luxurious texture. 

However, aluminum doesn’t do anything good for the body when ingested or applied topically -- it only has the potential to cause more harm than good.


Parabens are used in cosmetic products as preservatives, commonly under the following:

  • Methylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Ethylparaben

Most studies don’t directly lead to evidence that parabens have a negative effect on human health, but the FDA still isn’t sure. There is no long-term data on the impact of parabens on human health. 


Silicones (like dimethicone) are frequently used to create skincare products. They’re a bit of a controversial ingredient, mostly because there are situations in which silicones can serve a beneficial purpose to your skin. 

Silicones create a protective barrier on the skin that’s useful during the wound healing period. Your dermatologist, doctor, surgeon, or tattoo artist might even recommend silicone-based products to support your skin while it heals following a surgery or procedure.

It may not be evident why silicones should be avoided. On the surface, they seem great. They are great, but only if you have a wound on your face. They’re a superficial product that provides no benefits to the health of your skin when applied. 

They only protect your skin when it needs to heal itself intensely. They may cause breakouts on the face and clog pores, and this tradeoff is only worth it if silicones are necessary for protection.


Contaminants are not ingredients added to products - they’re things that aren’t on the label that jeopardize the safety of products. Lead often appears as a contaminant in cosmetic and food products manufactured by companies who outsource their process to areas of the world with lower safety standards.

This doesn’t mean that skincare manufactured outside of the United States is somehow dangerous. There are a wealth of safe and reputable skin care manufacturers throughout Europe and Asia. 

Before you buy something from a skincare brand, investigate that brand’s reputation, manufacturing process, and protocols to avoid exposing your body to potentially toxic chemicals. 

Choosing Non-Toxic Skincare

Caldera + Lab has a long list of things we never include in any of our skincare products. We exclusively use plant-derived ingredients that have either been sustainably harvested from the wild or organically grown.

We want the whole world to hold us accountable for the ingredients we use and the way we source them. That’s why we became a certified B corporation

Our status as a B corporation requires full transparency on what we use, where we get it, the sustainability of our packaging, and even details like the charitable contributions we make and our employees’ benefits. 

Being a B Corp means that there’s always an objective third party to assure we’re doing the best we can do for people and the planet.

We make skincare products that everyone can feel good about using. There are no toxic or unnecessary ingredients. Everything is vegan and cruelty-free. 

Our packaging is 95% recyclable, and we tirelessly work to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible. It also happens that our products have been clinically proven to do the things we say they do. 

There are never any false promises or misleading practices here, and our B Corp status will always keep it that way. 



Parabens in Cosmetics | FDA

The Use of Silicone Adhesives for Scar | National Library of MedicineReduction

Are You Considering a Complementary Health Approach? | NIH