• :
    Proceed To Checkout
    You don't have any items in your cart.

    What We Left Out

    What We Left Out | Image Size:80

    Terrakai Skin’s “no-no” ingredient list

    Here’s a list of the chemicals you’ll never find on our ingredient labels (yes, we’re 100% committed to a health and safety standard that goes well beyond what is legally required in the United States):

    Benzalkonium chloride

    Benzalkonium chloride is an ingredient typically found in cleansers and moisturizers for its foaming and antibacterial properties. Unfortunately, there’s strong scientific evidence to show that benzalkonium chloride is associated with severe skin, eye, and respiratory irritation and allergies (it’s classified as a human immune and respiratory toxicant and/or allergen) (1).

    Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

    BHA and BHT are synthetic antioxidants commonly used as preservatives in moisturizers. Unfortunately, research indicates that they're likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors and may cause liver damage (based on animal studies) (2). Worse still, there’s also evidence suggesting that both compounds could harm the environment – with BHA’s toxicity to aquatic organisms and BHT's risk for bioaccumulation in marine species (3).

    Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)

    EDTA is a chelating (i.e., binding) agent commonly used in skincare formulations to prevent deterioration, protect fragrance compounds, and prevent rancidity. Adding this chemical in formulations can also result in enhanced foaming and cleaning abilities. As a result, in the context of skin care products, you can typically spot EDTA in both cleansers and moisturizers. Only, the major problem here is that EDTA may be toxic to organs (4).

    Ethanolamine (MEA/DEA/TEA)

    Ethanolamines – including monoethanolamine (MEA), diethanolamine (DEA), and triethanolamine (TEA) – are a family of chemicals that work as surfactants and emulsifying ingredients in skincare products. That means you’d most typically find them in cleansers. Unfortunately, ethanolamines may increase the risk for cancer, especially with repeated and prolonged use (5,6).

    More worrying still, an animal study suggests a pregnant woman’s exposure to DEA could adversely impact their baby’s memory function and brain development (7). And there’s more. Ethanolamines are also potentially hazardous to aquatic organisms (8).


    In skincare products, formaldehyde (yes, the same ingredient used during the embalming process!) is used as a preservative to prolong shelf life and prevent bacterial contamination. Sounds good, right? Only, it isn’t – for starters, both The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the National Toxicology Program classify formaldehyde as a human carcinogen (9). Numerous studies link it to an increased risk of nasopharyngeal and sinonasal cancers, plus leukemia (10).

    Its impact on the environment isn’t any kinder. In the atmosphere, formaldehyde usually breaks down rapidly to create formic acid and carbon monoxide, both gasses that may indirectly contribute to climate change (11). Formaldehyde is also highly toxic to animals and all forms of aquatic life (12).


    Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent. It bleaches the skin by decreasing the number of melanocytes (i.e., pigment-producing cells). But while hydroquinone is indeed effective at lightening dark spots on the skin, various health experts have sounded the alarm on the ingredient over the years – with some going as far as to call it the “biological equivalent of paint thinner” (13). By essentially "removing" the top layer of skin, hydroquinone could increase one's risk for skin cancer and cause fatal liver and kidney damage.

    Beauty products containing hydroquinone also tend to feature mercury – a known toxin linked to bacterial and fungal infections, liver damage, anxiety, depression, and psychosis (14). Hydroquinone isn’t only harmful to humans, too. It’s also an environmental contaminant that shows increased toxicity for aquatic organisms (15,16).

    Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl-, and others)

    At first glance, you may think of parabens as great news. They’re a type of preservative capable of prolonging your skincare product’s shelf life by preventing the growth of mold and bacteria within. But look closer, and you’ll find that it’s downright nasty for health. For starters: scientists have pretty much proven that parabens can pass through the skin barrier – and into human bodies (17).

    What's the issue with this, you ask? The main concern is that parabens mimic estrogen (commonly known as the “female” hormone) (18). Too much estrogen can trigger the growth of tumors and an increase in breast cell division – in turn, explaining why paraben use has been linked to breast cancer, reproductive complications, and developmental issues in children.

    These hormone disruptors aren’t just bad news for humans; they impact the environment too. According to laboratory tests, even low levels of butylparaben can kill coral reefs (19). Parabens have also been shown to accumulate within the bodies of various marine mammals, including dolphins and sea otters (20).

    Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP, and others)

    Phthalates (FYI: pronounced “thalates”) refer to a class of “plasticizing” chemicals used to improve texture, increase “spreadability”, and enhance absorption of skincare products. Sounds great, right? Not so fast.

    As it turns out, phthalates are yet another endocrine disruptor – capable of leading to a slew of hormonal health problems. For instance: phthalates usage has been linked to reproductive and genital defects, lower sperm count, disrupted hormones, and infertility in numerous studies (21). Scarily still, it appears that exposure to phthalates can increase the risk of miscarriage and gestational diabetes in pregnant women (22, 23).  

    Oh, and to top it off, phthalates are also harmful to the environment (24,25). 

    Polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds)

    Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) are petroleum-based compounds widely used in skincare products as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture carriers. That means you'd typically find them in your moisturizers. But what’s so bad about PEGs? Well, they’re terrible for both the planet and human health.

    So, let’s talk about why PEGs are so bad for the Earth. See: there are 2 methods to derive the raw materials required to produce PEGs (26). The first is petroleum refining, and the second comes from natural gas or coal. As you can tell, none of these are renewable sources of energy – which means they will run out or will not be replenished for thousands or even millions of years.

    As for the compounds’ impact on human health? It all comes down to the fact that PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide (a known human carcinogen) and 1,4-dioxane (a possible human carcinogen) during their manufacturing process (27).

    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

    Sulfates – both SLS and SLES – are anionic surfactants typically used in cleansers to produce a lather or foam. Unfortunately, they’re both harmful to the skin. That’s because they’re too good at their jobs (i.e., removing the oil from the skin).

    They’re so good, in fact, that numerous studies show them capable of stripping the skin’s barrier (stratum corneum) of its natural oils. And when this happens, “gaps” are left between the cells in the skin’s barrier – allowing moisture to escape and harmful environmental pollutants to enter (28,29, 30).

    Worse still, sulfates can also be derived from petroleum – which is also associated with climate change, pollution, and greenhouse gasses. 

    Synthetic fragrances

    Synthetic fragrances refer to scents that are made in the lab. And the problem with them is that they're often masqueraded as quite simply "fragrance" or "parfum" on ingredient labels – when they could, in fact, be "hiding" up to hundreds of chemicals that could potentially be hormone disruptors and allergens.

    So, is it any surprise to learn that fragrances are considered the leading cause of allergic reactions on the skin (affecting up to 4% of the general population) (31)?

    Oh, and here’s another thing you should know. Synthetic fragrances have a heavy footprint. They’re petrochemical-based, made in an energy-guzzling process, and produce waste emissions that could further exacerbate climate change (32, 33).


    Triclosan is a chemical with antibacterial properties; in the context of skincare, you can typically find it in acne-fighting cleansers. And the issue with it? Research has suggested that triclosan alters hormone regulation in animals, may contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs, and might be harmful to the immune system (34).

    In addition to being bad for health, triclosan also poses a threat to the environment. Presently detected in streams and waterways across the United States, triclosan persists in the environment – and is toxic to aquatic organisms, including algae and fish (35). Adverse effects include reduced growth, reproduction rates, and survival.

    1. EWG Skin Deep® | What is BENZALKONIUM CHLORIDE. (n.d.). EWG. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredients/700674-BENZALKONIUM_CHLORIDE/

    2. Butylated Compounds. (n.d.). Safe Cosmetics. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/butylated-compounds/

    3. Yang, X., Sun, Z., Wang, W., Zhou, Q., Shi, G., Wei, F., & Jiang, G. (2018). Developmental toxicity of synthetic phenolic antioxidants to the early life stage of zebrafish. The Science of the Total Environment, 643, 559–568. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.06.213

    4.  EWG Skin Deep® | What is EDTA. (n.d.). EWG. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredients/702229-EDTA-EDTA-EDTA/

    5.  EWG Skin Deep® | What is TRIETHANOLAMINE. (n.d.). EWG. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredients/706639-TRIETHANOLAMINE/

    6.  Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA, DEA, TEA And Others). (n.d.). Safe Cosmetics. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/ethanolamine-compounds/

    7.  Craciunescu, C. N., Wu, R., & Zeisel, S. H. (2006). Diethanolamine alters neurogenesis and induces apoptosis in fetal mouse hippocampus. The FASEB Journal : Official Publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 20(10), 1635–1640. https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.06-5978com

    8.  Libralato, G., Volpi Ghirardini, A., & Avezzù, F. (2010). Seawater ecotoxicity of monoethanolamine, diethanolamine and triethanolamine. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 176(1–3), 535–539. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2009.11.062

    9.  Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk—National Cancer Institute (nciglobal,ncienterprise). (2011, June 10). [CgvArticle]. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/formaldehyde/formaldehyde-fact-sheet

    10.  Vaughan, T. L., Stewart, P. A., Teschke, K., Lynch, C. F., Swanson, G. M., Lyon, J. L., & Berwick, M. (2000). Occupational exposure to formaldehyde and wood dust and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 57(6), 376–384. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.57.6.376

    11.  Yumura, T., Amenomori, T., Kagawa, Y., & Yoshizawa, K. (2002). Mechanism for the Formaldehyde to Formic Acid and the Formic Acid to Carbon Dioxide Conversions Mediated by an Iron-Oxo Species. The Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 106(4), 621–630. https://doi.org/10.1021/jp0122225

    12.  Toxicology, N. R. C. (US) C. on. (1980). SUMMARY OF ANIMAL AND HUMAN EXPOSURE TO FORMALDEHYDE. In Formaldehyde—An Assessment of Its Health Effects. National Academies Press (US). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK217654/

    13.  Consumers urged to avoid ‘paint stripper’ skin-lightening creams. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.cosmeticsbusiness.com/news/article_page/Consumers_urged_to_avoid_paint_stripper_skin-lightening_creams/158745

    14.  Agorku, E. S., Kwaansa-Ansah, E. E., Voegborlo, R. B., Amegbletor, P., & Opoku, F. (2016). Mercury and hydroquinone content of skin toning creams and cosmetic soaps, and the potential risks to the health of Ghanaian women. SpringerPlus, 5, 319. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40064-016-1967-1

    15.  Enguita, F. J., & Leitão, A. L. (2013). Hydroquinone: Environmental pollution, toxicity, and microbial answers. BioMed Research International, 2013, 542168. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/542168

    16.  Devillers, J., Boule, P., Vasseur, P., Prevot, P., Steiman, R., Seigle-Murandi, F., Benoit-Guyod, J. L., Nendza, M., Grioni, C., & Dive, D. (1990). Environmental and health risks of hydroquinone. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 19(3), 327–354. https://doi.org/10.1016/0147-6513(90)90035-4

    17.  Darbre, P. D., Aljarrah, A., Miller, W. R., Coldham, N. G., Sauer, M. J., & Pope, G. S. (2004). Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumours. Journal of Applied Toxicology: JAT, 24(1), 5–13. https://doi.org/10.1002/jat.958

    18.  What Are Parabens, and Why Don’t They Belong in Cosmetics? | Environmental Working Group. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.ewg.org/what-are-parabens

    19.  Danovaro, R., Bongiorni, L., Corinaldesi, C., Giovannelli, D., Damiani, E., Astolfi, P., Greci, L., & Pusceddu, A. (2008). Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections. Environmental Health Perspectives, 116(4), 441–447. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.10966

    20.  Xue, J., Sasaki, N., Elangovan, M., Diamond, G., & Kannan, K. (2015). Elevated Accumulation of Parabens and their Metabolites in Marine Mammals from the United States Coastal Waters. Environmental Science & Technology, 49(20), 12071–12079. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.5b03601

    21.  Hauser, R., Meeker, J. D., Singh, N. P., Silva, M. J., Ryan, L., Duty, S., & Calafat, A. M. (2007). DNA damage in human sperm is related to urinary levels of phthalate monoester and oxidative metabolites. Human Reproduction, 22(3), 688–695. https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/del428

    22.  Messerlian, C., Wylie, B. J., Mínguez-Alarcón, L., Williams, P. L., Ford, J. B., Souter, I. C., Calafat, A. M., Hauser, R., & Team,  for the E. S. (2016). Urinary Concentrations of Phthalate Metabolites and Pregnancy Loss Among Women Conceiving with Medically Assisted Reproduction. Epidemiology, 27(6), 879–888. https://doi.org/10.1097/EDE.0000000000000525

    23.  James-Todd, T. M., Meeker, J. D., Huang, T., Hauser, R., Ferguson, K. K., Rich-Edwards, J. W., McElrath, T. F., & Seely, E. W. (2016). Pregnancy urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations and gestational diabetes risk factors. Environment International, 96, 118–126. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2016.09.009

    24.  Oehlmann, J., Schulte-Oehlmann, U., Kloas, W., Jagnytsch, O., Lutz, I., Kusk, K. O., Wollenberger, L., Santos, E. M., Paull, G. C., Van Look, K. J. W., & Tyler, C. R. (2009). A critical analysis of the biological impacts of plasticizers on wildlife. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 2047–2062. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2008.0242

    25.  Campanale, C., Massarelli, C., Savino, I., Locaputo, V., & Uricchio, V. F. (2020). A Detailed Review Study on Potential Effects of Microplastics and Additives of Concern on Human Health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(4), 1212. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17041212

    26.  #ChemicalCallout: Polyethylene Glycol Compounds (PEGs). (n.d.). MADE SAFE. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.madesafe.org/chemical-profiles/polyethylene-glycol-compounds-pegs/

    27.  The Dirty Dozen: PEG Compounds and their contaminants. (n.d.). David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/dirty-dozen-peg-compounds-contaminants/

    28.  Geier, J., Uter, W., Pirker, C., & Frosch, P. J. (2003). Patch testing with the irritant sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is useful in interpreting weak reactions to contact allergens as allergic or irritant. Contact Dermatitis, 48(2), 99–107. https://doi.org/10.1034/j.1600-0536.2003.480209.x

    29.  Lee, C., & Maibach, H. (2000). Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Water Soluble Irritant Dermatitis Model (pp. 257–267). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-1199-1_21

    30.  Branco, N., Lee, I., Zhai, H., & Maibach, H. I. (2005). Long-term repetitive sodium lauryl sulfate-induced irritation of the skin: An in vivo study. Contact Dermatitis, 53(5), 278–284. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0105-1873.2005.00703.x

    31.  Johansen, J. D. (2003). Fragrance contact allergy: A clinical review. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 4(11), 789–798. https://doi.org/10.2165/00128071-200304110-00006

    32.  Shwartz, M. (2004, October 29). Household fragrances may be harming aquatic wildlife, study finds. Stanford University. http://news.stanford.edu/news/2004/november3/Perfume-1103.html

    33.  Fragrances – Children’s Environmental Health Network. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://cehn.org/our-work/eco-healthy-child-care/ehcc-faqs/fragrances/

    34.  Should you worry about triclosan? (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/triclosan/faq-20057861

    35.  Yueh, M.-F., & Tukey, R. H. (2016). Triclosan: A Widespread Environmental Toxicant with Many Biological Effects. Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology, 56, 251–272. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010715-103417

    Are you in the right place

    Please select a store
    $ AUD £ GBP $ NZD $ USD