The Credo Clean Standard, Dirty Ingredients List - Things To Avoid For Clean Beauty | Credo

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Always Clean. All products are formulated without the ingredients found on our Dirty List. Rest assured.

Product Integrity. All products have documentation for ingredient authenticity and proof of claims. No surprises.

Cruelty-Free.All products are cruelty-free. They are not tested on animals. Period.

Clean beauty begins with the ingredients *not* found in our products.  The Dirty List is the foundation of our larger Credo Clean Standard. Because these ingredients are linked to health or environmental issues, all of our brand partners agree to skip them when they formulate their products.

Aluminum Powder

Elemental aluminum is the third most abundant element on earth. We are exposed to it through a variety of sources including drinking water, pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer products. Aluminum can also form as salts or oxides. The toxicity of different forms of aluminum depends in large part on its relative solubility in water and the pH range. Aluminum compounds appear to be poorly absorbed by the human body, but elemental aluminum is a known toxicant at high doses. Credo prohibits aluminum powder from all products.

(Clarifying note: Aluminum oxide (aka alumina), aluminum hydroxide and related compounds are permitted as functional ingredients in products. Unlike elemental aluminum or aluminum salts, aluminum oxide or its hydrated form, aluminum hydroxide, are essentially insoluble in water (at or near neutral pH), therefore, exposure to aluminum through the use of cosmetics is expected to be negligible because of poor bio-accessibility through the skin. The EU, Canada, Japan and the US have not restricted the use of these ingredients in cosmetics, but have also not determined them "safe." Few ingredients are determined safe since there is a lack of data on most of them, and not all routes of exposures are the same.)

Animal By-Products

Animal Oils (with the exception of Lanolin), Animal Musks, and Animal Fats are prohibited. (Please see " Other Ingredients You May Be Wondering About" for more information.)

BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)

A preservative linked to cancer, skin irritation, and hormone disruption.

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)

A Toluene-based preservative linked to skin irritation.

Chemical Sunscreens

Credo doesn’t sell chemical SPFs. Why? Some have been linked to hormone disruption. Others, like Avobenzone, appear safer but remain understudied. Chemical Sunscreens include Benzophenone; Diphenylmethanone; Diphenyl Ketone; 119-61-9; Benzoylbenzene; Phenyl Ketone; Oxybenzone; 2-Hydroxy-4 Methoxybenzophenone; 131-57-7; Benzophenone-3; (2-Hydroxy-4-Methoxyphenyl), and Octinoxate.

We stock Mineral Sunscreens that contain Zinc and Titanium Dioxide, which physically block out the sun’s rays. (Please see our “ Other Ingredients You May Be Wondering About" section for more info on nanoparticles.)

Cyclical Silicones

Cyclical silicones include cyclotetrasiloxane (D4), cyclopentasiloxane (D5), cyclohexasiloxane (D6), and cyclomethicone. Data indicates that some of these chemicals may have reproductive, developmental toxicity and/or endocrine disruption concerns. They are also persistent in the environment, and may build up in the food chain. (Note: this is a new addition to the Dirty List that will be effective by January 2019.)

EDTA

Calcium Disodium EDTA, Tetrasodium EDTA, Trisodium EDTA, etc, are chelating agents, meaning that they bind to metal ions, which inactivates them. These ingredients are not linked to consumer health issues, but they might be a problem for aquatic life since they don't break down in the environment and have been found in waterways.

Ethanolamines

These ingredients (including DEA/TEA/MEA/ETA) may be contaminated with chemicals like Nitrosamines, which are linked to cancer.

Ethoxylated Ingredients

These ingredients are synthetically produced using Ethylene Oxide, a known carcinogen. 1,4-Dioxane, another carcinogen, often contaminates the Ethoxylated ingredients, but 1,4-Dioxane itself doesn’t appear on ingredient labels. To avoid Ethoxylated compounds look for these common ingredients listed on labels (although more exist too):

  • Ceteareth-20: This is the Polyethylene Glycol Ether of Cetearyl Alcohol and may contain potentially toxic impurities such as 1,4-Dioxane
  • Emulsifying wax: This is usually a blend of Cetearyl Alcohol and Polysorbate 60 or Ceteareth-20
  • PEGS, including PEG (Polyethylene Glycol) compounds, like PEG-100 Stearate, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, PEG-40, and its related chemicals. (There are over 1000 PEG ingredients listed in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients Database)
  • Polysorbate-20, Polysorbate-40
  • Steareth-20
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, and most ingredients ending in “-eth”

Formaldehyde

Although typically not listed as an ingredient, Formaldehyde “releasers” or “donors” often are listed on ingredient labels. These ingredients likely have Formaldehyde tagging along, and are prohibited by Credo:

  • Dmdm Hydantoin
  • Diazolidinyl Urea
  • Imidazolidinyl Urea
  • Tosylamide/Formaldehyde Resin
  • Quaternium-15
  • Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate
  • 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol
  • Polyoxymethylene Urea
  • 5-Bromo-5-Nitro-1,3 Dioxane
  • Glyoxal
  • Methenamine
  • Benzylhemiformal

Hydroquinone

Typically used for skin lightening reasons, it inhibits melanin synthesis, causes skin irritation, and may cause discoloration of the skin. Hydroquinone is a metabolite of the carcinogen benzene.

Methyl Cellosolve or 2-Methoxyethanol

This ingredient has been banned in the EU; it’s a solvent that’s used as an additive in perfumes. It can cause skin irritation and may cause effects on the central nervous system, blood, bone marrow, kidneys and liver.

Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone

These preservatives are banned from use in leave-on cosmetic products in the EU and restricted to very small amounts in rinse-off products. They can cause skin allergies and irritation and may be toxic to the nervous system.

Parabens

Certain parabens have been linked to hormone disruption. We prohibit all parabens, including Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Methylparaben, and Propylparaben.

Petrolatum and Paraffin

Petrolatum is a semisolid mixture derived from processed petroleum. Mineral Oil, Paraffin Wax, Liquid Paraffin, and several other ingredients are also petroleum distillation byproducts. The concerns with these ingredients are unsustainable sourcing and possible PAHs contamination. PAHs (which stands for Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons) are linked to cancer.
Note: Credo encourages brands to use natural ingredients instead of petroleum-derived ingredients, but we do not prohibit all petroleum-derived or synthetic ingredients from products. Instead, we ask brands to avoid the “dirtiest” of them (which are on this list), and to obtain certificates of analysis to address potential contamination issues.

Phthalates

Certain phthalates (like Dibutyl Phthalate, aka DBP, or DEHP, and DEP) appear on product labels, but most typically remain unlisted, hiding under the term “fragrance.” Since some phthalates have been linked to hormone disruption, we ask that our brand partners to avoid using them as ingredients altogether.

Resorcinol

Usually used in hair dyes, it’s linked to a host of issues including allergies, irritation, and hormone disruption.

Toluene

A solvent that is toxic to the immune system, may cause birth defects, and usually found in nail polishes.

Triclosan and Triclocarban

These are antibacterials and preservatives used in personal care and home-cleaning products. They’re persistent in the environment and may be associated with hormone disruption.

Other Ingredients You May Be Wondering About

Please see Credo’s Dirty List for all of the “dirty” ingredients, which due to safety and/or environmental concerns, we ask our brand partners to avoid using. In addition, here are other ingredients you may be wondering about.

Beeswax (and other Bee Products)

Credo allows Beeswax, Honey, Pollen and Propolis (all from bees) which are safe, effective ingredients. We ask our brand partners to obtain assurance from their ingredient suppliers that the bees are treated humanely. Bee populations are in big trouble, and that doesn’t bode well for plants, agriculture, or humans. We encourage brands to do the following to help increase the chances for bee health, and to reduce our industry’s negative impact.

  • Avoid using Royal Jelly
  • Seek honey, wax and any other bee product from beekeepers that care about the humane treatment of bees
  • Avoid using/purchasing neonicotinoids (in your garden, home and as a business)

Carmine

This red pigment (also called Cochineal, Cochineal Extract, Crimson Lake, or Carmine Lake, Natural Red 4 C.I. 75470) is allowed but must be clearly indicated on ingredient labels. It comes from scale insects, such as the cochineal scale, and is often found in color cosmetics. Learn more about Carmine here.

Chemical combinations

Some ingredients pose little-to-no hazard on their own, but may create a new concern when combined. While chemical reactions are hard to assess for their potential impact (and even more difficult for Credo to monitor), we ask our brand partners to use caution and think about consumer health and the environment down the line.

  • Avoid combination of potassium sorbate + ascorbic acid + ferric salts There is limited evidence showing that these three ingredients in combination can mutate cell DNA. So when possible, we ask that brands avoid the combination.
  • Sodium benzoate + ascorbic acid These ingredients together can form benzene, a carcinogen. The ratio of sodium benzoate to ascorbic acid, pH levels, and the addition of other acids or bases will all impact the formation of benzene. In most cosmetics which combine sodium benzoate and Vitamin C, high concentrations of Vitamin C neutralize benzene formation. The pH in cosmetic products are usually in the range (pH of 3 to 7) where benzene will not form. (And at pH 7 and higher no benzene is formed.) So, though it is unlikely to be an issue, we ask that brands please work with their chemists to avoid potential benzene creation.

Colorants

There are natural, naturally-derived and synthetic colorants. We allow all of them in color cosmetics (makeup)--products that are meant to impart color. We do not carry colored/dyed skin or body care. Natural and naturally-derived colorants are from plants, minerals (like iron oxides), or insects (carmine). Mineral colors are often viewed as healthier or more sustainable than synthetic colors, which are derived from petroleum. This isn’t necessarily the case. Mined minerals can be contaminated with heavy metals (like lead, a known neurotoxin). Some minerals may be mined in unsustainable ways that harm the ecosystem and/or exploit people (including child labor, a problem in India’s mica mines). Some natural pigments can fade faster and disperse more quickly than their synthetic counterparts (though formulating with natural pigments has come a long way). That said- petroleum is not a sustainable feedstock either.

Credo carries gorgeously clean brands that choose their ingredients that support their goals—some are super-dedicated to natural and will only used mineral-based colorants. Others brands make a conscious choice to use synthetic colorants, which are likely used at lower percentages than their mineral counterparts. We ask that brands work with their suppliers to control for heavy metal contamination and seek materials from suppliers that guarantee they do not use child labor. Whatever you choose, we support you and want to keep color cosmetics fun.

Fragrance

“Fragrance” is a material or a combination of materials added to a cosmetic to produce a scent or to mask an odor. Our use of the term “fragrance” refers to the scent ingredients added to skin care and cosmetics, as well as to the fragrance category of products- parfum/perfume, cologne, body spray, room spray, and candle. Credo prefers natural fragrances over synthetic fragrances, but we do allow synthetic fragrances (but no phthalates, as explained above). We will be working with brand partners to share more information on fragrance ingredients and types of fragrance so that consumers can make more informed choices.

“Glycols”

Credo allows Polypropylene, Propylene, Butylene and Dipropylene Glycol. These are synthetic chemicals used to attract moisture to the skin, and help keep products stable. These ingredients do not appear to pose a safety risk for most people. However, Propylene Glycol may irritate sensitive skin. Polyethylene Glycol, or PEG, is an Ethoxylated ingredient and is on our Dirty Ingredient List.

Heavy Metals

Lead, Nickel, Cadmium, and other heavy metals are common at trace levels in both natural mineral pigments and synthetic colorants. While these very low levels (in the low parts per million range) pose little risk to human health, many heavy metals build up in our bodies over time, and cosmetics are not our only exposure source. For that reason, Credo takes this contamination very seriously. We believe that heavy metals should be at the lowest possible levels, so we ask that our brand partners not only meet the minimums established by FDA for cosmetics, but that they go further. For example, we ask that they work with ingredient suppliers and ask for consistent batch testing on colorants (as opposed to testing a colorant once and assuming that the results would remain the same from batch to batch).

Japanese Honeysuckle

This natural preservative compound looks like a paraben, and in chemistry, structure determines function. So while we don’t have any data indicating that it is a potential endocrine disruptor (which is the concern with parabens), we encourage brands to avoid it out of precaution.

Lanolin and Keratin

Lanolin is a safe and effective oil that comes from sheep’s oil glands. Keratin is also derived from sheep’s wool, among other animal sources, though keratin used in cosmetics appears to be from wool. Sheep do not need to be killed or harmed to obtain lanolin or keratin, but sheep farmers often use insecticides on the animals to prevent ticks, lice, etc, and some of those chemicals are known to be toxic. Sheep-raising is a global industry, and at this time there are no established certifications or monitoring organizations that ensure humane treatment. We hope that by encouraging our brand partners to ask their suppliers questions and ideally obtain validation of humane treatment, we can create clear demand for humanely raised and better ingredients.

Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles (which range in size from 1 to 100 um, or nanometers) are extremely small particles which have been synthetically engineered to be very tiny, or which are micronized versions of larger, naturally occuring particles. The smaller particle size changes the function of the ingredient, which is why they are useful. However, the smaller size might impact health or the environment as well. A number of beauty companies sell products advertised as containing “non-nano” titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, used in sunscreens and in color cosmetics. These claims are often misleading. According to EWG, “while particle sizes vary among manufacturers, nearly all would be considered nanomaterials under a broad definition of the term, including the definition proposed in 2011 by the federal Food and Drug Administration.”

Credo asks companies to avoid new molecules which have been developed specifically to have different characteristics, like buckyballs, fullerenes, nanotubes, liposomes, or quantum dots. We also ask that companies avoid any nanoparticles—even minerals like zinc and titanium dioxide—inproducts which may be inhaled (sprays and powders). We will keep our eyes on the literature around the safety and sustainability of nanoparticles.

Palm Oil and Palm-Derived Ingredients

Palm Oil and ingredients that are derived from palm oil are found in many consumer products. Palm oil is a natural, effective, highly useful and safe ingredient, and a potentially sustainable crop. Currently most palm oil is grown and harvested in an unsustainable and destructive manner, wreaking havoc on the local ecosystem, communities, and the climate. Credo feels that the solution is not to prohibit palm oil, but to create a clear demand for sustainably produced palm oil. We will be working with brands to increase the demand for sustainable palm.

Petroleum-Derived and/or Synthetic Ingredients

Credo encourages brands to use natural or naturally-derived ingredients instead of petroleum-derived ingredients whenever possible, but we do not prohibit all petroleum-derived or synthetic ingredients. Why? Synthetic ingredients can be safe and sustainable, and natural ingredients can be harmful and unsustainable. Clean Beauty isn’t about “synthetic vs natural,” but instead about carefully evaluating ingredient sources for their potential impacts. To that end, we ask that brands to avoid the “dirtiest” of synthetic ingredients (which are on the Dirty List), and to obtain certificates of analysis, and/or manufacturing/growing practices, to address potential contamination issues.

Phenoxyethanol

Despite being a "controversial" ingredient, phenoxyethanol has a similar safety profile to other commonly used preservatives. Preservatives are necessary to kill/prevent the growth of microbes in any product which contains water, so they are not a "nice to have" type of ingredient, they are a "must have." (Please see our blog on this topic for more info.)  The EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety published a final opinion on phenoxyethanol in 2016.  The take home of the 102 page document: The SCCS considers 2-phenoxyethanol safe for use as a preservative with a maximum concentration of 1.0%, which is the maximum level that cosmetics formulators are using.

Toxicologists using the GreenScreen(TM) for Safer Chemicals, a globally recognized tool that identifies hazardous chemicals and safer alternatives, assigned Phenoxyethanol the Benchmark Score™ of 2 (“Use but Search for Safer Substitutes”).  This score (which ranges from 1 to 4) is based on a comprehensive review of the scientific literature, which takes into account hazard information on a variety of endpoints, and even the data gaps on the chemical (meaning that, for example, we do not know its potential to disrupt the hormone system, and we can't assume that no data means it is safe). Here is a link to the GreenScreen assessment on this ingredient.

Several other preservatives used in skin care and beauty also score a Benchmark 2, but they are more likely to irritate the skin and cause sensitization, and they also are often more toxic to aquatic life.  There are a handful of preservatives systems that appear to be safer/cleaner options than phenoxyethanol, but they don't always work as well for certain products. The overall chemistry of a product, its pH, the packaging, the expected shelf life, whether it is leave on or rinse off- all of these are taken into account when choosing preservative systems.  So there isn't really one "silver bullet," and even if there was one perfect preservative, we wouldn't want every single product to use it because then microbes might become resistant and people might become desensitized.

SO- we clearly need more clean options here.  Credo is urging the chemical suppliers to innovate!  Check out this fantastic report by Environmental Defense Fund for more information on this issue.

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds

These are a class of chemicals that are commonly used in consumer products. They show up most often as antimicrobial “active ingredients” in disinfectant cleaners, but as also widely used in the beauty industry, usually as conditioning and antistatic agents in hair care products. “Quats” as they’re known, usually have “…onium chloride” in their names, e.g. Benzalkonium Chloride. We are prohibiting quats as preservatives but allowing them as needed for anti-static/smoothing agents.

There are 724 quats listed in the Personal Care Products Council ingredients database. Some of those are rarely if ever actually used. Commonly used quats in hair care include Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride and Hydroxypropyltrimonium Honey. There is a large body of science indicating that quats used as antimicrobials have been linked to bacterial resistance and to skin and organ irritation, among other emerging concerns. And they’re likely not even necessary--there is no proof that these chemicals protect against germs any better than regular soap and warm water hand washing.

Credo agrees with public and environmental health organizations calling for restrictions on quats in cleaning products, and we do not allow them for use as preservatives--there are far better options available. But we have not out-right banned them in products because some of them, like Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, for example, are seemingly low-hazard (with limited data) but very functional as skin conditioning or anti-static ingredients. While companies have been trying to work around these ingredients (by adding more natural emollient ingredients, for example), consumers have been clear about their preference for the performance attributes that these ingredients bring to the product.

Retinyl Palmitate

As a retinoid, this ingredient may increase sun sensitivity when applied to skin and worn into direct sunlight. However Retinyl Palmitate is likely of little concern in night creams.

Silicones (Linear)

Linear silicones, like Dimethicone and others, can improve skin texture, fill in wrinkles, and help condition the hair. It’s unlikely that these large, stable molecules are a health concern for cosmetics users, but there are a few things you may want to know so that you can make an informed decision:

  • Silicones do not biodegrade well (or at all); they have a negative impact on the environment.
  • Depending on the size of the ingredient and your skin’s sensitivity, silicones may clog pores. So those with acne-prone skin may want to avoid products that list silicones as an ingredient.

Talc

Talc is used in a range of consumer products, including color cosmetics and body (talcum) powders. There are two potential concerns regarding talc: 1) the risk of asbestos contamination and 2) the risk of small particles getting into the body through inhalation or perineal (genital) use of talc-based body powder. Credo does not carry talcum powder, and we ask companies using talc in cosmetics to obtain documentation that the talc they are purchasing has been tested for asbestos, and none was found, even at trace levels.

Clean beauty begins with the ingredients *not* found in our products.  The Dirty List is the foundation of our larger Credo Clean Standard. Because these ingredients are linked to health or environmental issues, all of our brand partners agree to skip them when they formulate their products.

Elemental aluminum is the third most abundant element on earth. We are exposed to it through a variety of sources including drinking water, pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer products. Aluminum can also form as salts or oxides. The toxicity of different forms of aluminum depends in large part on its relative solubility in water and the pH range. Aluminum compounds appear to be poorly absorbed by the human body, but elemental aluminum is a known toxicant at high doses. Credo prohibits aluminum powder from all products.

(Clarifying note: Aluminum oxide (aka alumina), aluminum hydroxide and related compounds are permitted as functional ingredients in products. Unlike elemental aluminum or aluminum salts, aluminum oxide or its hydrated form, aluminum hydroxide, are essentially insoluble in water (at or near neutral pH), therefore, exposure to aluminum through the use of cosmetics is expected to be negligible because of poor bio-accessibility through the skin. The EU, Canada, Japan and the US have not restricted the use of these ingredients in cosmetics, but have also not determined them "safe." Few ingredients are determined safe since there is a lack of data on most of them, and not all routes of exposures are the same.)

Animal Oils (with the exception of Lanolin), Animal Musks, and Animal Fats are prohibited. (Please see " Other Ingredients You May Be Wondering About" for more information.)

A preservative linked to cancer, skin irritation, and hormone disruption.

A Toluene-based preservative linked to skin irritation.

Credo doesn’t sell chemical SPFs. Why? Some have been linked to hormone disruption. Others, like Avobenzone, appear safer but remain understudied. Chemical Sunscreens include Benzophenone; Diphenylmethanone; Diphenyl Ketone; 119-61-9; Benzoylbenzene; Phenyl Ketone; Oxybenzone; 2-Hydroxy-4 Methoxybenzophenone; 131-57-7; Benzophenone-3; (2-Hydroxy-4-Methoxyphenyl), and Octinoxate.

We stock Mineral Sunscreens that contain Zinc and Titanium Dioxide, which physically block out the sun’s rays. (Please see our “ Other Ingredients You May Be Wondering About" section for more info on nanoparticles.)

Cyclical silicones include cyclotetrasiloxane (D4), cyclopentasiloxane (D5), cyclohexasiloxane (D6), and cyclomethicone. Data indicates that some of these chemicals may have reproductive, developmental toxicity and/or endocrine disruption concerns. They are also persistent in the environment, and may build up in the food chain. (Note: this is a new addition to the Dirty List that will be effective by January 2019.)

Calcium Disodium EDTA, Tetrasodium EDTA, Trisodium EDTA, etc, are chelating agents, meaning that they bind to metal ions, which inactivates them. These ingredients are not linked to consumer health issues, but they might be a problem for aquatic life since they don't break down in the environment and have been found in waterways.

These ingredients (including DEA/TEA/MEA/ETA) may be contaminated with chemicals like Nitrosamines, which are linked to cancer.

These ingredients are synthetically produced using Ethylene Oxide, a known carcinogen. 1,4-Dioxane, another carcinogen, often contaminates the Ethoxylated ingredients, but 1,4-Dioxane itself doesn’t appear on ingredient labels. To avoid Ethoxylated compounds look for these common ingredients listed on labels (although more exist too):

  • Ceteareth-20: This is the Polyethylene Glycol Ether of Cetearyl Alcohol and may contain potentially toxic impurities such as 1,4-Dioxane
  • Emulsifying wax: This is usually a blend of Cetearyl Alcohol and Polysorbate 60 or Ceteareth-20
  • PEGS, including PEG (Polyethylene Glycol) compounds, like PEG-100 Stearate, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, PEG-40, and its related chemicals. (There are over 1000 PEG ingredients listed in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetics Ingredients Database)
  • Polysorbate-20, Polysorbate-40
  • Steareth-20
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, and most ingredients ending in “-eth”

Although typically not listed as an ingredient, Formaldehyde “releasers” or “donors” often are listed on ingredient labels. These ingredients likely have Formaldehyde tagging along, and are prohibited by Credo:

  • Dmdm Hydantoin
  • Diazolidinyl Urea
  • Imidazolidinyl Urea
  • Tosylamide/Formaldehyde Resin
  • Quaternium-15
  • Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate
  • 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol
  • Polyoxymethylene Urea
  • 5-Bromo-5-Nitro-1,3 Dioxane
  • Glyoxal
  • Methenamine
  • Benzylhemiformal

Typically used for skin lightening reasons, it inhibits melanin synthesis, causes skin irritation, and may cause discoloration of the skin. Hydroquinone is a metabolite of the carcinogen benzene.

This ingredient has been banned in the EU; it’s a solvent that’s used as an additive in perfumes. It can cause skin irritation and may cause effects on the central nervous system, blood, bone marrow, kidneys and liver.

These preservatives are banned from use in leave-on cosmetic products in the EU and restricted to very small amounts in rinse-off products. They can cause skin allergies and irritation and may be toxic to the nervous system.

Certain parabens have been linked to hormone disruption. We prohibit all parabens, including Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Methylparaben, and Propylparaben.

Petrolatum is a semisolid mixture derived from processed petroleum. Mineral Oil, Paraffin Wax, Liquid Paraffin, and several other ingredients are also petroleum distillation byproducts. The concerns with these ingredients are unsustainable sourcing and possible PAHs contamination. PAHs (which stands for Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons) are linked to cancer.
Note: Credo encourages brands to use natural ingredients instead of petroleum-derived ingredients, but we do not prohibit all petroleum-derived or synthetic ingredients from products. Instead, we ask brands to avoid the “dirtiest” of them (which are on this list), and to obtain certificates of analysis to address potential contamination issues.

Certain phthalates (like Dibutyl Phthalate, aka DBP, or DEHP, and DEP) appear on product labels, but most typically remain unlisted, hiding under the term “fragrance.” Since some phthalates have been linked to hormone disruption, we ask that our brand partners to avoid using them as ingredients altogether.

Usually used in hair dyes, it’s linked to a host of issues including allergies, irritation, and hormone disruption.

A solvent that is toxic to the immune system, may cause birth defects, and usually found in nail polishes.

These are antibacterials and preservatives used in personal care and home-cleaning products. They’re persistent in the environment and may be associated with hormone disruption.

Other Ingredients You May Be Wondering About

Please see Credo’s Dirty List for all of the “dirty” ingredients, which due to safety and/or environmental concerns, we ask our brand partners to avoid using. In addition, here are other ingredients you may be wondering about.

Credo allows Beeswax, Honey, Pollen and Propolis (all from bees) which are safe, effective ingredients. We ask our brand partners to obtain assurance from their ingredient suppliers that the bees are treated humanely. Bee populations are in big trouble, and that doesn’t bode well for plants, agriculture, or humans. We encourage brands to do the following to help increase the chances for bee health, and to reduce our industry’s negative impact.

  • Avoid using Royal Jelly
  • Seek honey, wax and any other bee product from beekeepers that care about the humane treatment of bees
  • Avoid using/purchasing neonicotinoids (in your garden, home and as a business)

This red pigment (also called Cochineal, Cochineal Extract, Crimson Lake, or Carmine Lake, Natural Red 4 C.I. 75470) is allowed but must be clearly indicated on ingredient labels. It comes from scale insects, such as the cochineal scale, and is often found in color cosmetics. Learn more about Carmine here.

Some ingredients pose little-to-no hazard on their own, but may create a new concern when combined. While chemical reactions are hard to assess for their potential impact (and even more difficult for Credo to monitor), we ask our brand partners to use caution and think about consumer health and the environment down the line.

  • Avoid combination of potassium sorbate + ascorbic acid + ferric salts There is limited evidence showing that these three ingredients in combination can mutate cell DNA. So when possible, we ask that brands avoid the combination.
  • Sodium benzoate + ascorbic acid These ingredients together can form benzene, a carcinogen. The ratio of sodium benzoate to ascorbic acid, pH levels, and the addition of other acids or bases will all impact the formation of benzene. In most cosmetics which combine sodium benzoate and Vitamin C, high concentrations of Vitamin C neutralize benzene formation. The pH in cosmetic products are usually in the range (pH of 3 to 7) where benzene will not form. (And at pH 7 and higher no benzene is formed.) So, though it is unlikely to be an issue, we ask that brands please work with their chemists to avoid potential benzene creation.

There are natural, naturally-derived and synthetic colorants. We allow all of them in color cosmetics (makeup)--products that are meant to impart color. We do not carry colored/dyed skin or body care. Natural and naturally-derived colorants are from plants, minerals (like iron oxides), or insects (carmine). Mineral colors are often viewed as healthier or more sustainable than synthetic colors, which are derived from petroleum. This isn’t necessarily the case. Mined minerals can be contaminated with heavy metals (like lead, a known neurotoxin). Some minerals may be mined in unsustainable ways that harm the ecosystem and/or exploit people (including child labor, a problem in India’s mica mines). Some natural pigments can fade faster and disperse more quickly than their synthetic counterparts (though formulating with natural pigments has come a long way). That said- petroleum is not a sustainable feedstock either.

Credo carries gorgeously clean brands that choose their ingredients that support their goals—some are super-dedicated to natural and will only used mineral-based colorants. Others brands make a conscious choice to use synthetic colorants, which are likely used at lower percentages than their mineral counterparts. We ask that brands work with their suppliers to control for heavy metal contamination and seek materials from suppliers that guarantee they do not use child labor. Whatever you choose, we support you and want to keep color cosmetics fun.

“Fragrance” is a material or a combination of materials added to a cosmetic to produce a scent or to mask an odor. Our use of the term “fragrance” refers to the scent ingredients added to skin care and cosmetics, as well as to the fragrance category of products- parfum/perfume, cologne, body spray, room spray, and candle. Credo prefers natural fragrances over synthetic fragrances, but we do allow synthetic fragrances (but no phthalates, as explained above). We will be working with brand partners to share more information on fragrance ingredients and types of fragrance so that consumers can make more informed choices.

Credo allows Polypropylene, Propylene, Butylene and Dipropylene Glycol. These are synthetic chemicals used to attract moisture to the skin, and help keep products stable. These ingredients do not appear to pose a safety risk for most people. However, Propylene Glycol may irritate sensitive skin. Polyethylene Glycol, or PEG, is an Ethoxylated ingredient and is on our Dirty Ingredient List.

Lead, Nickel, Cadmium, and other heavy metals are common at trace levels in both natural mineral pigments and synthetic colorants. While these very low levels (in the low parts per million range) pose little risk to human health, many heavy metals build up in our bodies over time, and cosmetics are not our only exposure source. For that reason, Credo takes this contamination very seriously. We believe that heavy metals should be at the lowest possible levels, so we ask that our brand partners not only meet the minimums established by FDA for cosmetics, but that they go further. For example, we ask that they work with ingredient suppliers and ask for consistent batch testing on colorants (as opposed to testing a colorant once and assuming that the results would remain the same from batch to batch).

This natural preservative compound looks like a paraben, and in chemistry, structure determines function. So while we don’t have any data indicating that it is a potential endocrine disruptor (which is the concern with parabens), we encourage brands to avoid it out of precaution.

Lanolin is a safe and effective oil that comes from sheep’s oil glands. Keratin is also derived from sheep’s wool, among other animal sources, though keratin used in cosmetics appears to be from wool. Sheep do not need to be killed or harmed to obtain lanolin or keratin, but sheep farmers often use insecticides on the animals to prevent ticks, lice, etc, and some of those chemicals are known to be toxic. Sheep-raising is a global industry, and at this time there are no established certifications or monitoring organizations that ensure humane treatment. We hope that by encouraging our brand partners to ask their suppliers questions and ideally obtain validation of humane treatment, we can create clear demand for humanely raised and better ingredients.

Nanoparticles (which range in size from 1 to 100 um, or nanometers) are extremely small particles which have been synthetically engineered to be very tiny, or which are micronized versions of larger, naturally occuring particles. The smaller particle size changes the function of the ingredient, which is why they are useful. However, the smaller size might impact health or the environment as well. A number of beauty companies sell products advertised as containing “non-nano” titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, used in sunscreens and in color cosmetics. These claims are often misleading. According to EWG, “while particle sizes vary among manufacturers, nearly all would be considered nanomaterials under a broad definition of the term, including the definition proposed in 2011 by the federal Food and Drug Administration.”

Credo asks companies to avoid new molecules which have been developed specifically to have different characteristics, like buckyballs, fullerenes, nanotubes, liposomes, or quantum dots. We also ask that companies avoid any nanoparticles—even minerals like zinc and titanium dioxide—inproducts which may be inhaled (sprays and powders). We will keep our eyes on the literature around the safety and sustainability of nanoparticles.

Palm Oil and ingredients that are derived from palm oil are found in many consumer products. Palm oil is a natural, effective, highly useful and safe ingredient, and a potentially sustainable crop. Currently most palm oil is grown and harvested in an unsustainable and destructive manner, wreaking havoc on the local ecosystem, communities, and the climate. Credo feels that the solution is not to prohibit palm oil, but to create a clear demand for sustainably produced palm oil. We will be working with brands to increase the demand for sustainable palm.

Credo encourages brands to use natural or naturally-derived ingredients instead of petroleum-derived ingredients whenever possible, but we do not prohibit all petroleum-derived or synthetic ingredients. Why? Synthetic ingredients can be safe and sustainable, and natural ingredients can be harmful and unsustainable. Clean Beauty isn’t about “synthetic vs natural,” but instead about carefully evaluating ingredient sources for their potential impacts. To that end, we ask that brands to avoid the “dirtiest” of synthetic ingredients (which are on the Dirty List), and to obtain certificates of analysis, and/or manufacturing/growing practices, to address potential contamination issues.

Despite being a "controversial" ingredient, phenoxyethanol has a similar safety profile to other commonly used preservatives. Preservatives are necessary to kill/prevent the growth of microbes in any product which contains water, so they are not a "nice to have" type of ingredient, they are a "must have." (Please see our blog on this topic for more info.)  The EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety published a final opinion on phenoxyethanol in 2016.  The take home of the 102 page document: The SCCS considers 2-phenoxyethanol safe for use as a preservative with a maximum concentration of 1.0%, which is the maximum level that cosmetics formulators are using.

Toxicologists using the GreenScreen(TM) for Safer Chemicals, a globally recognized tool that identifies hazardous chemicals and safer alternatives, assigned Phenoxyethanol the Benchmark Score™ of 2 (“Use but Search for Safer Substitutes”).  This score (which ranges from 1 to 4) is based on a comprehensive review of the scientific literature, which takes into account hazard information on a variety of endpoints, and even the data gaps on the chemical (meaning that, for example, we do not know its potential to disrupt the hormone system, and we can't assume that no data means it is safe). Here is a link to the GreenScreen assessment on this ingredient.

Several other preservatives used in skin care and beauty also score a Benchmark 2, but they are more likely to irritate the skin and cause sensitization, and they also are often more toxic to aquatic life.  There are a handful of preservatives systems that appear to be safer/cleaner options than phenoxyethanol, but they don't always work as well for certain products. The overall chemistry of a product, its pH, the packaging, the expected shelf life, whether it is leave on or rinse off- all of these are taken into account when choosing preservative systems.  So there isn't really one "silver bullet," and even if there was one perfect preservative, we wouldn't want every single product to use it because then microbes might become resistant and people might become desensitized.

SO- we clearly need more clean options here.  Credo is urging the chemical suppliers to innovate!  Check out this fantastic report by Environmental Defense Fund for more information on this issue.

These are a class of chemicals that are commonly used in consumer products. They show up most often as antimicrobial “active ingredients” in disinfectant cleaners, but as also widely used in the beauty industry, usually as conditioning and antistatic agents in hair care products. “Quats” as they’re known, usually have “…onium chloride” in their names, e.g. Benzalkonium Chloride. We are prohibiting quats as preservatives but allowing them as needed for anti-static/smoothing agents.

There are 724 quats listed in the Personal Care Products Council ingredients database. Some of those are rarely if ever actually used. Commonly used quats in hair care include Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride and Hydroxypropyltrimonium Honey. There is a large body of science indicating that quats used as antimicrobials have been linked to bacterial resistance and to skin and organ irritation, among other emerging concerns. And they’re likely not even necessary--there is no proof that these chemicals protect against germs any better than regular soap and warm water hand washing.

Credo agrees with public and environmental health organizations calling for restrictions on quats in cleaning products, and we do not allow them for use as preservatives--there are far better options available. But we have not out-right banned them in products because some of them, like Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, for example, are seemingly low-hazard (with limited data) but very functional as skin conditioning or anti-static ingredients. While companies have been trying to work around these ingredients (by adding more natural emollient ingredients, for example), consumers have been clear about their preference for the performance attributes that these ingredients bring to the product.

As a retinoid, this ingredient may increase sun sensitivity when applied to skin and worn into direct sunlight. However Retinyl Palmitate is likely of little concern in night creams.

Linear silicones, like Dimethicone and others, can improve skin texture, fill in wrinkles, and help condition the hair. It’s unlikely that these large, stable molecules are a health concern for cosmetics users, but there are a few things you may want to know so that you can make an informed decision:

  • Silicones do not biodegrade well (or at all); they have a negative impact on the environment.
  • Depending on the size of the ingredient and your skin’s sensitivity, silicones may clog pores. So those with acne-prone skin may want to avoid products that list silicones as an ingredient.

Talc is used in a range of consumer products, including color cosmetics and body (talcum) powders. There are two potential concerns regarding talc: 1) the risk of asbestos contamination and 2) the risk of small particles getting into the body through inhalation or perineal (genital) use of talc-based body powder. Credo does not carry talcum powder, and we ask companies using talc in cosmetics to obtain documentation that the talc they are purchasing has been tested for asbestos, and none was found, even at trace levels.

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