The No-Low List: Unhealthy Chemicals in Personal Care Products

Reform Beauty Blog - The No-Low List

The fact is that there are just way too many unhealthy chemicals in personal care products. It's really quite amazing. At Reform Beauty, we've committed to a health and safety standard that goes well beyond what's "required" by the U.S regulations. The "No-Low List" is made up of more than 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals that we do not use as ingredients in our formulations. This includes chemicals banned or restricted in personal care products by the European Union, Health Canada, World Central Beauty, as well as chemicals screened by The Reform Beauty Lab and found to be of concern.

 Did You Know.

There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Many don’t have any safety data. This is particularly true of those used in the hair and skin care segment of the beauty industry.

What’s worse is that the Food and Drug Administration (the agency that regulates cosmetics in the United States) allows companies to use chemicals known to be extremely harmful in the products we put on our bodies and on our kids’ bodies every single day, day after day, and to make their own judgments about safety.


The United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938.

Over the past two decades, the European Union has banned more than 1,300 chemicals in the product formulas of personal care products and restricted the levels of over 250 more in such products. The United States has only partially banned 11 to date.

That's why we strive to choose the best available ingredient options. Over 80% of the ingredients in our products are organic, natural or plant-derived. Very few are synthetic (we do not claim to be an “all natural” company, though we are very rigorous on our safety and formulations).

We aim to source ingredients from sustainable, non-GMO suppliers and do not test products or ingredients on animals.

Common Chemicals We Avoid.

Here are the most common—and most toxic chemicals—to avoid. (For a full rundown, check out No-Low List)

  1. Parabens. Are a class of widely used preservatives in cosmetic products. Chemically, they are a series of parahydroxybenzoates or esters of parahydroxybenzoic acid (also known as 4-hydroxybenzoic acid). By law, preservatives are required in any product that contains water, so if a product promises to be preservative-free, they are most likely using a harsh alternative or toxic ingredient (bundled with other ingredients that are not required to be listed on the label).

  2. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). The surfactant Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is derived from ethoxylated lauryl alcohol and used as a surfactant. This ingredient can cause skin irritation and allergies as well as organ system toxicity. During the process of making it “less harsh” for the skin, a carcinogenic byproduct emerges: 1,4-dioxane, which is listed as SLES. It’s never listed on an ingredient label because it is a “contaminant,” but it’s often present where SLES appears.

  3. Formaldehyde. This is a carcinogenic impurity released by a number of cosmetic preservatives, including diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, and sodium hydroxylmethylglycinate. It’s linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and organ system toxicity.

  4. Phthalates. This is a synthetic plastic polymer used as a film forming agent (usually abbreviated to DBP, DEHP, and DEP). The purpose of this ingredient is to make products more pliable and fragrances “stick”.

  5. Fragrance (+1%). Also listed as "parfum" on the product labels, represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system. Moderate to high levels of this ingredient may cause skin, eye or lung irritation.”


Note: The No-Low List permits the usage of certain preservatives and "low" levels of fragrance (under 1%) to maintain ingredient stability and product consistency. The agency encourages the use of natural ingredients, seed extracts, essential oils and organic botanicals whenever feasible.

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