Ingredients to Avoid

Some of the chemicals used in make-up are linked with long term devastating illnesses like cancer. There is a strong link between some of the ingredients and breast cancer. Also short term health effects, like eczema, dermatitis, skin reddening and soreness can be caused by some of the ingredients in our make-up.

How wary should we be of synthetic chemicals in our make-up?

Very. Some of the chemicals used in make-up are linked with long term devastating illnesses like cancer. There is a strong link between some of the ingredients and breast cancer. Also short term health effects, like eczema, dermatitis, skin reddening and soreness can be caused by some of the ingredients in our make-up.

Should we avoid products containing parabens and aluminium and if so, why?

We should avoid them like the plague BUT it is easier said than done – they are everywhere!


Parabens are a preservative, they lengthen the shelf-life of cosmetics and skin care products such as shampoo, moisturisers, lip sticks, creams and lotions. Parabens are one of the most widely used preservatives in the world. Studies have linked them to breast cancer, diabetes and childhood obesity, as well as fertility issues in men.

Research from the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine suggests that some parabens such as Methylparaben, may mutate and become toxic when exposed to sunlight, causing premature skin ageing and an increased risk of skin cancer.


Aluminium salts are used as the active antiperspirant agent in many deodorants. Clinical studies find that an unusually high level of breast cancer in the area of the breast closest to the underarm show that chemicals in deodorants, such as aluminium and parabens are implicated in the development of breast cancer.

What are key ‘red flag’ words to look for on a product label?

Any words that end in ‘paraben’ Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS), petroleum, mineral oil, paraffin (if you are concerned about using only natural products).

What does hypoallergenic mean?

Nothing. It’s a marketing word meant to suggest that the product it is describing will not cause an allergic reaction. Even natural products can cause an adverse reaction. Everyone is unique, as is their skin. It is not possible to guarantee that any product will not cause an allergic reaction.

Is mineral make-up composed of pigments such as zinc, iron oxide and mica, a better alternative to conventional products?

Yes, not only are less likely to result in an adverse reaction, they are not linked illness later in life and they are beautiful. Conventional synthetic ingredients can’t compare to the shimmer and shine of a mica powder.

What other advice to you have for consumers before selecting a product for their skin?

  • be sure of what you want the product to achieve and match the product to those needs
  • try to patch test the products (or if possible the ingredients) before buying the product. Many women tell us that they buy expensive skin care products and become disillusioned when they have a bad reaction to it. It’s not just our sensitive skinned clients that are sometimes disappointed.
  • get as much as you can from your product, think more than anti-aging, think anti-aging for oily skin and will help to keep me calm. Many of the ingredients in natural skin care products have therapeutic benefits, for example, lavender essential oil is traditionally used to relax, aid sleep and calm as well as to provide a ‘glow’. If it’s a serene glow that you are after, choose a product with lavender on the ingredients list.
  • make sure you read the ingredients label. Some brands that appear to natural are not, don’t be fooled.

Why don’t you include oils known as phyto-oestrogens in your Defiant Beauty Collections?

Phyto-oestrogens, or plant oestrogens, are naturally occurring chemicals that have a structure similar to the female hormone oestrogen. Oils such as borage, avocado, evening primrose and soy are plant oestrogens.

We do not include these oils in our Defiant Beauty Collections as these products have been formulated specifically as skin care for cancer patients and some cancers, particularly breast cancer, are oestrogen positive. About 7 out of 10 breast cancers are oestrogen positive. They contain receptors that allow proteins or hormones to attach to the cancer cells. The hormones cause the cancer cells to grow and divide, resulting in tumour growth.

Hormone treatment may be used for oestrogen positive cancers. These treatments include

  • Oestrogen blockers. The well-known drug, Tamoxifen, worked by blocking the oestrogen.
  • Aromatase inhibitors. These medicines include anastrozole, aramidex, letrozole and exemestane.
  • These are medicines which work by blocking the production of oestrogen in body tissues. They are used in women who have gone through the menopause.
  • Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues. These medicines work by greatly reducing the amount of oestrogen  made in the ovaries. They are usually given by injection and may be used for women who have not yet reached the menopause.
  • An alternative which may be considered for women before the menopause is to remove the ovaries (or to destroy them with radiotherapy). This stops oestrogen from being made.

When we worked with our the lead cancer nursing team at our local NHS hospital we were asked to exclude plant oestrogens from the formulations as their advice has always been to avoid plant oestrogens in skin care for cancer  patients.

You may want to consider this advice and check ingredients labels if buying gifts for cancer patients. We went further than excluding only phyto-oestrogens, we used glass containers rather than plastic to package our skin care for cancer patients as some plastics contain xeno-oestrogens that could leach into our Defiant Beauty Collections

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