the Disappointing thing about good cosmetics…

Having been contributing to the 1Source blog, the platform has introduced me to the deeper side of the beauty industry, especially as a skincare junkie, I became more aware about the ingredients that I put onto my skin.

Using 1Source upload / scan, the revelation of ingredients leaves a long lasting impression about a product I use. And it certainly becomes disappointing when a product I really like has suspicious toxic chemicals.

Common toxic chemicals I find in good products are Phenoxyethanol and suspicious Colorants.

Example: Phenoxyethanol – How I personally use the app

To clarify, Phenoxyethanol is not a ‘bad’ chemical in skincare products. It’s a ‘great’ preservative and the best, for now – it replaced Formaldehyde, which to me looks like a sign that cosmetic brands are regularly finding / forming better and advanced chemicals for us.

Here is an excerpt of what Paula’s Choice (skincare and makeup focused site) had to say about Phenoxyethanol

‘Phenoxyethanol is a widely used synthetic preservative that has global approval for use in all cosmetic products in concentrations up to 1%’

‘The rest of the alarming studies are about using phenoxyethanol in full-strength or atypically high concentrations, not the amounts of 1% or less used in cosmetic products. Think of it as the difference between taking one sip of wine versus chugging several bottles at once!’

Hence approving and debunking the demonization of Phenoxyethanol.

However, the information 1Source Ingredients that provide about Phenoxyethanol should also not be ignored. As a science focused ingredient analyzer, 1Source’s ingredient information tab provides a summary of the ingredients and corresponding it to the potential risk index (PRI)

1Source’s PRI of Phenoxyethanol

Overall Phenoxyethanol has a rating of 5

‘Some blogs may claim that there is a link to ovarian cancer but the correlation has yet to be accepted by the scientific community as definitive…An alternative to formaldehyde-releasing preservatives’

And in the recent findings section. It has warnings and summary of scientific discoveries of the chemical, for example suggesting to not use it for new born babies and informing the ecotoxicity of the chemical.

Overall, the EU SCCS has classified phenoxyethanol as safe for use as a preservative with a maximum concentration of 1.0%. However, care should still be taken when using products with phenoxyethanol, given its potential as a skin irritant.’

Conscious Buying

So that’s how I use the 1Source app/site, it provides information that I find skincare focused sites seem to lack. I don’t only want to know if it would be good or bad for my skin. I want to know why it would be good or bad. I also like to know about the background of the ingredient more as a chemical substance rather than a name in an ingredient label on the back of a packaging. That, to me, is conscious buying.

I am in no way calling out other sites or am comparing 1Source to Paula’s Choice. Paula’s Choice is indeed reliable and informative, and of course, I will use it when it comes to choosing makeup and skincare products, as I use 1Source as well.

The Conspiracy of non-regulated chemicals

A few days ago, I came across a tiktok (unfortunately, I can’t find it anymore) where a user shows a list of chemicals that are banned in the EU for food / cosmetic uses that are fine in the USA.

From what I remember, he points out that the overall health of the European population tends to be better than that of the US is because the FDA is not as strict as the EU consumer regulations. He added that the reason is because unlike Europe which has freer healthcare and is seen like a social welfare, health care in the US is an economy or to be more accurate, a business of its own. The conspiracy is that if the unhealthy and toxic chemicals are banned, there would be less patients which threatens the economy of the country. 

Though, convincing. It doesn’t explain why some EU banned chemicals are in Hong Kong stores when public healthcare in Hong Kong is more similar to the EU rather than the USA.

According to Oliver Milman on the Guardian,  In cosmetics alone, the EU has banned or restricted more than 1,300 chemicals while the US has outlawed or curbed just 11.

Milman: ‘The clout of powerful industry interests, combined with a regulatory system that demands a high level of proof of harm before any action is taken, has led to the American public being routinely exposed to chemicals that have been rubbed out of the lives of people in countries such as the UK, Germany and France.

From this article, Asbestos was used as an example of the poor regulatory system of the US. ‘Asbestos exposure has long been known to cause deaths and illnesses but the substance is still not banned in the US. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempted to do so in 1989 only to be overturned by the federal court following a backlash from manufacturers.

In 1source, all types of Asbestos are labeled as a hazard. This substance has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

As much as it is fun to entertain the conspiracy. The fact is that the FDA in the USA is limited by law. According to them: FDA does not have the legal authority to approve cosmetics before they go on the market, although we do approve color additives used in them (except coal tar hair dyes)… FDA can take action against a cosmetic on the market if we have reliable information showing that it is adulterated or misbranded.

As I read this, I realized that it isn’t just makeup or skincare products that is not strictly checked. This applies to tattoo inks as they are categorized as cosmetics to the FDA too. The pattern becomes more apparent. ‘A report by Bioelements and Health Unit Italian Ministry for Health Roma categorized the heavy metals into different colorants and their health effects were reported to vary from mild irritations to harming of the brain.’

(click here to read more about the dangers of tattoo inks)

Products I use that I found to have ‘toxic’ or banned chemicals

Disclaimer: this section of the article is to show the products that I used that surprised me with it’s ingredient compounds. The performance and my “love” for the product has no relevance to this section.

Neutrogena Deep Clean Blackhead Eliminating Daily Scrub

This includes the colorant CI 73360 a.k.a Red 30 which is an Environmental Hazard.

Yves Saint Laurent TOP SECRETS Instant Moisture Glow

This includes the colorant CI 14700 a.k.a Red 4. This substance has been prohibited by the European Commission for use in cosmetic products.

FENTY BEAUTY Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer – Shimmering Rose Nude)

This includes the colorant CI 15850 a.k.a Red 6. This substance has been prohibited by the European Commission for use in cosmetic products.

Superdrug Vitamin E Skincare Gentle Micellar Solution

It says Bronopol – May release Formaldehyde under aqueous conditions, such as contacting with water or in humid conditions, which is quite an eye opener.

It also has Benzophenone-4. This compound is categorized in WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) 2018 – Group 2B

Honorable mentions of products that I like which are 1Source acceptable

Visible Ingredients SPRAY MASK

Overall Rating: 1

La Roche Posay Toleriane Ultra Night Soothing Repair Moisturizer

Overall rating: 3

Tony Moly Egg Pore Blackhead Steam Balm

Overall rating: 4

Vichy Mineral 89

Overall rating: 4


Comparing my consumer behavior now to before, it’s empowering to see how more aware I became with the products I use. Buying consumer goods is in my power even if I am to choose to buy a product with a chemical to look out for, I would at least know now.


 “Formaldehyde – 1Source –” Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

“phenoxyethanol | Paula’s Choice.” Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

“Phenoxyethanol – 1Source.” Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

“US cosmetics are full of chemicals banned by Europe – why? | US ….” 22 May. 2019, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

“Asbestos – 1Source –” Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

“Cosmetics Q&A: Why are cosmetics not FDA-approved? | FDA.” 24 Aug. 2020, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

 “Tattoo Taboo: Think before you Ink – 1Source.” Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

World Soil Day: How cosmetics and fast fashion destroy the soil

World Soil Day is an international event hosted by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO), they aim to “Keep soil alive, Protect soil biodiversity” by addressing the cause and alleviate soil biodiversity loss.

Before we get into how cosmetic products harm the environment. We should first understand why our soil is dying.

Soil Degradation

According to the NSW, soil degradation ‘is the decline in soil condition caused by its improper use or poor management, usually for agricultural, industrial or urban purposes’. Soil degradation is certainly a natural regressive evolution process which can be caused by wind or water erosion. However, according to Pimentel et. al.’s study on soil erosion, the damages has increased by 17 times in the USA just because of modern cultivation alone. They added that it would take an investment of 6.4 billion USD to reduce this rate of increase.

The European Environmental Agency has referenced The Tutzing Project of 1998 mentioning that in humid climates, it takes up to 500 years on average for the formation of only 2.5 cm of soil. Therefore at this rate, this important finite source cannot beat the damages in time.

How cosmetics and fast fashion contributes to the damage?

According to the BBC, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year, by 2030, it is expected that more than 134 million tonnes of textiles a year will be discarded. Aside from non-environmental friendly packaging and production. When cosmetics and fast fashion items get improperly dumped, it becomes toxic and damages the soil underneath. In addition, the production for these industries also has a high demand of raw materials to be extracted from the soil. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world.

Aside from the toxic product, synthetic cotton which can slowly cause organ damages in the long-term. The production of synthetic cotton is damaging to the soil. Using these synthetic fertilizers is not the big problem, the problem is the combination of this use and high demands. In these synthetic N-P-K (nitrogenphosphoruspotassium) fertilizers, it harms the water under the soil by producing more and grows algae at a faster rate in which the ecosystem cannot handle. In addition, production of synthetic cotton harms the surrounding land too, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that are sprayed on the crop travels through air to the surrounding area, when pesticides go through the ground, eroding the soil.

Polyester is non-biodegradable, meaning discarded polyester fabrics and clothes will not break down easily in landfills, which could become a hazard to land and soil animals. A research was done specifically studying the effects of polyester fibers on the important soil decomposers food web animals. The results show a negative effect on the animal’s energy reserves, ingestion and a decrease of 30% in reproduction rate. Although the conclusion was that the effect is slight, polyester still creates a long-term effect on these soil invertebrates by disrupting the decomposition process. In addition, when polyester clothing is washed, the fabric sheds and the micro plastics are washed down the drain, ending up in aquatic habitats.

According to the American Chemical Society, traces of Siloxanes are found in soil and aquatic life. Siloxanes are simply a class of liquid silicon that is found in skincare products, hair products and makeup. Environment Canada reported that the chemical compounds of siloxanes are toxic to the environment, found as to bioaccumulate in the environment.

Extraction of Mica is not only a real issue of illicit child labour use but it is also an environmental issue. Natural Mica that are used to make shiny pigments to create makeup products like eyeshadows and highlighters goes through a process of mining. Mining does not only pollute air, but it scars habitats and creates an irreversible soil structure damage. Companies like Lush have now converted to only using Synthetic Mica – Lush Creative Buyer Gabbi Loedolff says “Even though it is synthesised in a lab, it is constructed of natural minerals, so you don’t end up with the problem of microplastics which can end up in the oceans and water supplies.”

Triclosan which are found in hand sanitizers and household products are not only harmful to aquatic life but also damages the soil. This FDA banned chemical has been found to disrupt the nitrogen cycle in soil. This means that the affected soil has fertility damage, causing plants to go yellow and die. When Triclosan reaches to a waterway, it accumulates and reacts with other chemicals to make dioxins which are toxic.

Aquatic pollution is also Soil pollution

As much more research on cosmetics and textile toxic chemicals leads to a greater amount of aquatic pollution results. It is important to note that water and soil are dependent on each other as an ecosystem. Observably, chemicals that leak into waterways come from the soil and polluted toxic water goes back to soil, ending up in our crops, killing vulnerable animals and microorganisms. Hence, becoming another statistic that contributes to the rapid increase of soil degradation.

Make smarter choices to protect our environment!


“Why clothes are so hard to recycle I BBC Future” Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “World Soil Day | Food and Agriculture Organization of the ….” Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Soil degradation – Environment.Nsw.Gov.Au – NSW Government.” 25 Jul. 2019, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Why Soil Matters – YouTube.” 3 Nov. 2017, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Environmental and Economic Costs of Soil Erosion and ….” 11 Apr. 2004, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “3.6. Soil degradation – European Environment Agency.” Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost … – UN News.” 25 Mar. 2019, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Why Is Cotton Harmful to the Soil? | Hunker.” Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Is Too Much Fertilizer a Problem? · Frontiers for Young Minds.” 20 May. 2020, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Exploring the impacts of plastics in soil – The effects of ….” 15 Jan. 2020, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “Siloxane D4 (Cyclotetrasiloxane, octamethyl-) –” 10 Feb. 2012, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Siloxane D5 (Cyclopentasiloxane, decamethyl-) –” 10 Feb. 2012, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

 “FAQ on Lush and mica – Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics UK.” Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

“Triclosan: its occurrence, fate and effects in the … – PubMed.” Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

3 Reasons You Should Use Sunscreen in Winter

We are particular about applying sunscreen during summer, however most of us stop using sunscreen as the seasons change and winter rolls by. Contrary to popular belief, even as we swap tank tops and shorts for long coats and mitten, it is still crucial that we use sunscreen during the winter.

Always apply sunscreen!

Winter intensifies suns’ rays

Snow and ice can reflect up to 90% of the UV rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone wears sunscreens daily as Ultraviolet radiation (UV) rays from the sun often result in damage and mutations in our DNA. In fact, there is a strong positive relation between UV exposure from the sun and the increase of non melanoma skin cancers. Besides that UV rays are also the main cause of wrinkles according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even though we hardly notice the sun during winter, don’t forget that the reflective rays are still harmful!

Sunscreen has anti aging properties

Sunscreen stops you from aging!

Do you feel your skin get drier during winter? Are there fine lines appearing out of the blue? Fine lines appear due to the UV rays that penetrate and damage collagen and elastin in your skin. Sunscreen acts as a barrier that moisturizes and protects your skin against the dry, harsh, winter weather, as well as provide a protective film that reflects UV rays from penetrating your skin. Furthermore, the ozone layer which traps most UV rays is the thinnest during winter, according to Beaumont Organization. It is important to protect ourselves with sunscreen especially from 10am to 4pm as that is when sunrays are at its strongest. A 4 year study conducted in Australia compared skin aging in 900 men and women. The results found that those who used sunscreen had no detectable increase and even 24% less skin aging compared to those who did not. This study shows concrete evidence that sunscreen does have anti aging properties.

Winter conditions remove sunscreen faster

Sweating off sunscreen is a tell tale sign you need to reapply sunscreen. However, we don’t sweat during winter, making it hard to remember to reapply sunscreen. Some people even think that because we don’t sweat, the sunscreen is still there and applying it once in the morning is more than enough. Shockingly, the harsh winds wear sunscreens faster and makes them lose its effectiveness according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. We are recommended to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and immediately after sweating for sunscreen to protect your skin.

How do we choose sunscreens?

With the variety of the types of sunscreens on supermarket shelves, how do we choose the right sunscreens for us? What do the SPF numbers mean?

What does the SPF numbers mean?

What do SPF numbers mean?

SPF numbers, or sun protection factor, don’t show the strength of the sunscreen. Instead, it is the duration you can go before reapplying. There’s a little math involved. If you were to get a sunburn after 10 minutes without sunscreen, after applying SPF 30, you can stay 30x longer (300 minutes / 5 hours) before getting sunburnt.

There are 2 major types of sunscreens

two teal and yellow labeled containers
  • Physical sunscreens

Physical sunscreens are also known as mineral sunscreens that function like a mirror and reflects the suns rays. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide (ZnO) are what gives sunscreens the white sheen we see on our skin and if physical sunscreens don’t appear white, it means that the the ingredients in the sunscreen isn’t high enough to protect you from the sun.

  • Chemical sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens absorb suns’ rays and dissipate it away as heat. The pros of sunscreens is that it stays on the skin for a longer duration of time. However, chemical sunscreens are bad for the environment as it forms byproducts that are harmful to the environment and marine life, leading some organizations to ban the use of certain ingredients in sunscreens.

Ingredients you should avoid in you chemical sunscreens:

Check out our in depth discussion of physical and chemical sunscreens here!

All in all

Sunscreen should be used all year round, especially during winter. When choosing sunscreen for you, it is important to calculate SPF and constantly reapply sunscreen every two hours to protect your skin against the harsh winds and invisible UV rays. While physical sunscreens are au natural, they tend to wash off easily. While chemical sunscreens last longer, certain ingredients are harmful for the environment and marine life. Hence, if you want to use chemical sunscreens, make sure to avoid ingredients that may potentially harm the environment.

Nail Polish: Pretty Poison

We are against surrounding ourselves with toxic products, however, we are more tolerant when putting them on ourselves. Nail polish can be a creative outlet for women to experiment with different color pops. However, little do we know the nail polish we use are harmful to our bodies and some common ingredients are even classified as endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.

You need a chemistry degree to understand the string of chemical compounds on nail polish ingredient labels. Most of them are benign, but some can have drastic effects to our health. Hence, we need ingredient analyzers such as 1Source, EWG, Thinkdirty which summarizes ratings, functions and uses of chemical compounds into comprehensible points for the public. Check out our article on health apps that can help filter out the skincare noise.

PRI Legend
1Source product rating system

If you don’t have the time to search up every single ingredient or nail polish product, here is a quick guide on what to look out for when purchasing nail polish.

Watch out for words such as “organic”, “natural”

The lack of regulations allows companies to use labels such as “organic” and “natural”, with the intent of misleading consumers into purchasing their products. Just because a product is “natural”, doesn’t mean that it is better, as “natural” products may still contain toxic ingredients. Sometimes, toxic ingredients aren’t even written down, and even if they were, its effects may not be found in the

The toxic trio

Colorful nail polish

While most chemicals in nail polish are not harmful, there is 3 particular chemicals you need to look out for.

Dibutyl Phthalate: This chemical compound is used to help make plastics soft and flexible. According to ZME Science, this compound may cause short term effects like nausea and irritated eyes, skin, nose, mouth and throat. According to the US California Proposition 65, DBP is known to the States as a substance that has damaging effects on both male and female reproductive system. In general, this substance has been prohibited by the European Commission for use in cosmetic products.

Toluene: This substance is a paint thinner and is the primary ingredient for the recreational “glue sniffing”. Dizziness, numbness, dry skin, and irritated nose, eyes, and throat are some of the side effects of coming in contact with toluene. The Hong Kong Consumer Council has labelled toluene-2,5-diamine (PTD) as an “extreme sensitizer” and that even “a small amount of sensitizers could trigger allergic skin reactions in some people” despite complying with concentration standards set in Mainland China and the European Union. Although there are generally low amounts of toluene in nail polish, be careful as different people have different sensitivity to this substance.

Formaldehyde: This substance is a common ingredient that functions as a preservative in cosmetic products. In view of its widespread use, toxicity, and volatility, formaldehyde poses a significant danger to human health. In 2011, the US National Toxicology Program described formaldehyde as “known to be a human carcinogen”. The FDA bans the use of formaldehyde in all cosmetics except nail polish, however a limit is placed.

Endocrine disruptors

Triphenyl phosphate is a common chemical compound in nail polish. However, researchers from Duke University and Environmental Working Group found this to be a hormone disrupting chemical. It is concerning that endocrine disrupters are being marketed to women and teenage girls. Furthermore, the study found that this compound is absorbed by the body after each use.

Do we need to stop using nail polish altogether?

Nail polish adds a dash of color to your look!

No. The occasional polish does not pose a threat as the concentrations of toxic ingredients are generally low. However, take care of your cuticles to minimize contact between nail polish and skin as the chemicals may be absorbed into the skin and ensure ventilation in the room so you’re not constantly inhaling the fumes.

Choose “non toxic” nail polish instead

Use sites and apps such as 1Source, Skindeep, and Environmental Working Group to search up ingredients and products on their cosmetic database to find out the functions and ratings of chemical compounds and different cosmetic products. Use these apps and sites to look up “safer” nail polishes for you and choose to use those without toxic ingredients listed above.

Opt for “five free” nail polish. Five free polishes refer to nail polish that does not contain five toxic ingredients: dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, resin and camphor. According to Harvard Health, although camphor is a good topical remedy, it can be toxic when consumed from the mouth while other chemical compounds such as formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene may cause allergic dermatitis. Some brands market themselves as “seven free” or even “ten free”.

Nails add a pop of color to our look. By being more careful and selective about nail polish brands, we can have beautiful nails and stay safe at the same time!