Search for products & expert beauty tips at our affiliate site #OBB

Safe Cosmetics Australia

The Toxic-Free Campaign

Key Issues

Why should Australian's be concerned? Did you know that chemicals are not required to be tested for your health and safety prior to use in cosmetics and everyday household products?
Toxic-Free & Non-Toxic products are formulated without unnecessary chemicals. Choosing products that contain very few ingredients are the healthier choice.
How can you get involved? Sign and share the campaign Petition, download the Toxic-Free Guides, explore SCA's affiliate site to learn more about chemicals and your health.
Subscribe to our monthly e-news or get the latest updates by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

See below for the Toxic-Free criteria, Nail Polish Criteria & Personal Hygiene criteria

Chemicals & Your Body

Your skin is the largest organ of the body, it is responsible for detoxification and absorption. Scientific studies carried out by the American Journal Of Public Health, found that the skin absorbs up to 64% of what is applied topically. Other studies found the face to be even more permeable than broad body surfaces with a 100% absorption rate concerning the underarms and genitalia areas. Whilst another peer-reviewed study showed a 100% absorption for fragrance ingredients that contain thousands of toxic chemicals commonly found in beauty products. What you put on your body will absorb into your skin and enter the body, these toxic chemicals can disrupt your endocrine system, cause hormonal imbalance and worse.

Our Vision

Safe Cosmetics Australia campaigns for a toxic-free future. It’s about finding a compromise between manufacturers, consumer demand, chemicals and the way cosmetics are made in Australia. By simplifying a complicated issue, refining the infinite list of toxic chemicals used in everyday household products, Safe Cosmetics Australia campaigns to raise chemical awareness. Chemicals that are internationally recognised as being toxic to human health for the Key Issues of the campaign. Some of these chemicals are banned &/or restricted overseas, but permitted for use in Australian cosmetics and toiletries, including every day household cleaning products, baby products, hair care, toothpaste and much more. This raises serious health concerns for all Australian’s and your help is needed to change the way we use chemicals Australia.

The Toxic-Free Campaign aims to raise chemical awareness. Realising that we can achieve a pre-market regulatory system in the near future that benefits all Australians. By opening up and being more receptive to consumers, by being more inviting and making it easier for people to understand the campaign, SCA campaigns to make it easier for people to understand chemicals, to be informed about harmful and positive manufacturing processes and to further understand basic labeling laws that do not necessarily protect your health or the environment. The potential impacts that toxic chemicals have on human health, animals and the environment is a global issue. To help us all work towards a more sustainable future, SCA has launched our affiliate site Organic Beauty Brands, where members can publish articles, share their story and connect with others that seek truth and honesty when it comes to manufacturing principles and creating a better world. 


Safe Cosmetics Australia SCA, is a not-for-profit organisation based in Sydney, Australia. Established 2010, SCA's mission to raise chemical awareness and advocate for pre-market regulations. SCA is the official self-regulatory representative body of The Toxic Free Campaign, and the certifying authority of Australian Certified Toxic-Free ® cosmetics that are Made Safe ® for you, our planet and the animals we share it with. SCA is celebrating it's seventh year of campaigning, over 75+ brands and over 1,5000+ products Certified. Australian Certified Toxic-Free ® (logo), Allergy Certified ® and Made Safe ® are IP Australia, Registered Trademarks. In refining the criteria for our toxic-free certification seal, we have formed a list of chemicals that are internationally recogised as the top offending toxic chemicals. This list of toxic chemicals forms the "Key Issues" as published below, and also the "Key Allergens" that concern human health. Being able to honor our audience, listen and respond to them, we share our thoughts with consumers, manufacturers and the Australian government by campaigning for a healthier future. Your help is needed, you can make a difference! Consumers are the most powerful people on the planet, the choices you make shape the future of our global community.
"Safe Cosmetics Australia, The Toxic-Free Campaign, is calling for make-up giants
to reformulate their products & make ingredient labeling clearer."

Top Offenders

Current legislation allows the following chemicals to be used in everyday household items like tooth paste, face wash, shampoo & conditioner, skin care creams, hair care products, baby care products, sunscreen and many more items - even when science has proven direct links to adverse health issues. Safe Cosmetics Australia has compiled the following list of unnecessary ingredients that are of the highest concern to your health & safety.

Meeting SCA's Toxic-Free & Non-Toxic Criteria
If you want to avoid unnecessary chemicals, keep an eye out for the ingredients listed below. Where a given product contains less than 1% combined total usage of the following ingredients outlined below, the product will be accepted as toxic-free. Where a given product contains more than 1% and less than 15% combined total usage of the following ingredients outlined below, the product will be accepted as non-toxic. Where a given product contains more than 15% combined total usage of the following ingredients outlined below, the product will not be certified toxic-free or non-toxic by Safe Cosmetics Australia's standards.

Meeting SCA's Australian Allergy Certified Criteria
The Australian Allergy Certified seal recognises products that have been clinically tested or that meet the document based review published under Key Allergens. Products that have been clinically tested for dermal irritation and sensitisation, will be awarded Safe Cosmetics Australia's new allergy certification seal, to be released later this year. Contact us now if you would like to know more about our certification program.

Click on an image to read more about chemicals in cosmetics >>


  • Toxic chemicals derived from Acrylic Acid. Acrylates are a family of polymers, a type of vinyl polymer. Acrylamide is also known as acrylic amide. It is considered a carcinogen and skin irritant. Acrylamide is formed during high temperature cooking such as frying, roasting and baking. Acrylamide is used in making plastics, paper and dyes.
  • Synthetic Plastics: the main concern for toxicity is contamination. Known to cause adverse skin, eye, throat reactions, acrylates and methacrylates are common monomers in polymer plastics.
  • Synthetic polymers, plastics, are an environmental disaster. Plastics are persistent pollutants damaging the ocean and marine life. Plastics take thousands of years to break down.
  • In Cosmetics: plastics are used as a binder, film former and as a viscosity increasing agent.
  • Functions Include: adhesives, artificial nail builder and binder, film former, hair fixative, suspending agent and anti-static agent.
  • Acrylates, contaminated chemicals in cosmetics.
  • Is your mascara irritating your eyes?


  • A known neurotoxin. Polyacrylamide is derived from acrylamide that is used in the formulation of many cosmetic products including foundation, eye shadow, blush, eyeliner, skin cleansers, moisturisers, lotions, creams, self-tanning products, hair care and nail care products.
  • Acrylamide is also known as acrylic amide.
  • Polyacrylamide is considered non-toxic, however, it has the potential to excrete acrylamide, a toxic chemical. It is used in paper making, screen printing, as a soil conditioner and a as dermal filler in cosmetic surgery. In cosmetics it is used as a thickener and suspending agent.
  • Used as a stabilizer and binder in lotions and other products. Though it is not a concern in itself, it is made up of repeating molecules of acrylamide, which is a strongly suspected carcinogen and has been linked to mammary tumors.
  • What is polyacrylamide and acrylamide? Is it safe and how are we exposed to it?


  • Benzene is derived form coal tar, it is a known human carcinogen - cancer causing. It is commonly used in synthetic fragrances.
  • Benzene is an industrial chemical used as an adhesive, solvent, thinner, and fragrance component, it is commonly found in aftershave lotions; it is a solvent used in plastics, it is found in gasoline, jet fuel and dry cleaning products, it smells pungent and vaporises quickly. 
  • Benzene is a known human carcinogen and endocrine disrupter according to the the World Health Organization, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and other regulatory organisations around the world.
  • NICNAS warns; “If a safer chemical or process can be substituted for one which involves benzene, then this should be done; Avoid skin contact by wearing benzene-resistant gloves and other personal protective equipment.” Occupational exposure to benzene is linked to leukemia.
  • How to avoid benzene in cosmetics and what the experts say about this chemical

Benzoyl Peroxide

  • A chemical bleaching agent that is used to remove colour and whiten products. In cosmetics it is often used to treat blemishes, lighten hair colour including hair dye, lash tint, brow tint and shampoo.
  • This strong oxidant is toxic and irritating to the skin. In cosmetics, it is believed that this compound works by destroying the bacteria associated with acne. It works by continuous daily treatment, but when you stop using it the acne comes back.
  • Treating acne naturally, what are the best natural ingredients? Avoiding benzyl peroxide.


  • Synthetically manufactured preservatives known as BHA & BHT. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and the related compound butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are phenolic compounds that are often added to cosmetics as preservatives and foods to preserve fats.
  • BHA and BHT are banned in the EU European Union.
  • Safe Cosmetics Australia takes the precautionary approach to synthetically produced BHA & BHT. These chemicals are excluded and or restricted by SCA's criteria.
  • Synthetic preservatives V's naturally sourced preservatives in cosmetics.

Bismuth Oxychloride

  • Synthetic Nanoparticle Colouring Agent. It has a distinct shimmery, pearlescent appearance that adheres well to skin. It is used as a skin-protective agent, as thickeners and absorbent agents. The particle size is the main issue with this chemical, the health risks are unknown.
  • Bismuth oxychloride in cosmetics is synthetic, it is a grayish-white powder  manufactured by combining bismuth, a by-product of lead & copper metal refining, with chloride (chlorine compound) and water.
  • What is Bismuth Oxychloride & why it shouldn't be in your cosmetics?


  • Bronopol (INN) is a formaldehyde releasing preservative. It is an organic compound that is used as an antimicrobial, preservative and antiseptic agent.
  • Commonly used in colour cosmetics, liquid hair and baby care products, hand sanitisers, paint and carpets, nail products and all kinds of household cleaning agents.
  • People are exposed to formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP's) every day. For many people, over exposure to this group of chemicals can lead to a formaldehyde allergy.
  • Continued exposure to FRP's can cause severe allergic reactions of the skin and eyes, as well as skin allergies and rashes.
  • Avoiding formaldehyde preservatives commonly used in liquid products including baby wash, soaps and shampoos.

Coal Tar Dyes

  • Synthetic colours. FD&C or D&C artificial colours are derived from coal tar or petroleum. Synthetic colors are suspected to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and are linked to ADHD in children.
  • Dyes are not pure chemicals and may contain upwards of 10% impurities.
  • The European Classification considers coal tar dyes to be a human carcinogen and they are banned by the European Union.
  • Artificial food colours are derivatives of petrochemicals and coal tar. Coloring agents blue 1, blue 2, yellow 5, and yellow 6 are banned in the EU.
  • Dyes are manufactured as powders, granules or liquids. They are used as a colouring agent in food, cosmetics and other household products.
  • Studies show that long-term exposure to artificial dyes can cause cancer or other effects.
  • Artificial dyes what are they made from?
  • Colour Cosmetics, what are iron oxides?


  • Ethanolamine is commonly called monoethanolamine or MEA in order to be distinguished from diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA).
  • It is used in the production of cosmetics, personal care products, household products, detergents, emulsifiers, polishes, pharmaceuticals, corrosion inhibitors, chemical intermediates. Ethanolamine are clear, colorless, thick liquids with ammonia-like odor
  • Restricted in cosmetics by way of use, concentration, manufacturing restrictions are applied. EWG rating; "Unsafe in products left on skin and not rinsed off (only for products that are intended to be left on the skin)."
  • Restricted in the US, there is strong evidence that these chemicals are known to be human immune & respiratory toxicants or allergens.
  • How to fix your skin problems naturally.

Fragrance, Parfum

  • Synthetic combination of thousands of chemicals, added to products as aromas or scents. Fragrances are used in every product, even the “unscented” products may contain fragrance along with a masking agent.
  • Made from over 5,000 chemicals each individual fragrance is a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. These artificial fragrances do not come from flowers, resins or any other natural source, they are 100% synthetic man-made chemical aromas.
  • Linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. “Many fragrances are toxic. Some of these fragrances may be phthalates, which can act as obesogens (cause obesity) and may otherwise disrupt normal endocrine function, including reproductive health. Phthalates may cause developmental defects and delays.” – Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert.
  • Artifical fragrance is a complex mixture of chemicals.
  • Are all chemicals in cosmetics bad for you?


  • Formalin. Naturally occurring and commonly used in the form of formalin, it inhibits the growth of microorganisms.
  • Banned in the US, restricted in Canada, formalin is commonly found in nail hardeners, keratin hair straighteners, shampoo and baby wash including soaps and liquid baby wash.
  • Multiple health concerns, mainly skin irritation. Commonly used in colour cosmetics and liquid hair and baby care products, hand sanitisers, paint and carpets, nail products and all kinds of household cleaning agents.
  • Approximately 20% of cosmetics and personal care products, contain a formaldehyde releasing preservatives. In 1996, the production of formaldehyde was estimated at 8.7 million tons per year. 
  • Toxicity Category I for eye irritation and ToxicityCategory II for skin irritation.
  • Avoiding formaldehyde preservatives commonly used in liquid products including baby wash, soaps and shampoos.


  • Genetically Modified Organism
  • Studies have linked GM foods with asthma, allergies, inflammation, and intestinal damage.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) describes GMOs as “organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally.”
  • According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), animal studies have indicated serious health risks associated with eating GM foods, including infertility, immune system problems & issues with insulin regulation, accelerated aging & changes in the liver, kidney, spleen & digestive system.
  • AAEM recommends that physicians educate their patients and the public to avoid GM foods where possible & to consider GMO's possible role in the disease processes of their patients.
  • Why you should choose organic products for healthy hair.


  • Petrochemical solvent. Overall health hazard; cancer, developmental & reproductive toxicity, allergies & immunotoxicity.
  • Derived from petroleum mineral oils, Isoparaffin ingredients are used in eye make-up products including mascara, creams & lotions, nail manicure products, skin & hair care products.
  • The cheapest way to produce a product is using paraffin oil as the base ingredient. Also known as ‘mineral oil’, paraffin oil is made from petroleum and is known to be contaminated with carcinogens, cancer-causing chemicals.
  • Petrochemical derivatives are a very common ingredient that is found in many kinds of products. It has been linked to at least 23 diseases, including autoimmune disorders and an array of different cancers.
  • Natural plant based alcohols are beneficial to the skin unlike short chain alcohols that are drying.
  • Natural versus synthetic chemicals in cosmetics - are they safe?

Mineral Oil

  • Mineral oils are derived from crude oil, known human carcinogen. It blocks the skin, disrupting the skin's natural barrier & inhibiting it's ability to breathe.
  • Your skin is the largest vital organ that is required to work with your kidneys & liver to remove toxins from your body - anything that interferes with this vital system has a negative impact on your health.
  • Mineral oil is used in many products such as sorboline, baby products including bath and body oils, body wash, sunscreen and medicinal creams to treat eczema.
  • The European Food Safety Authority has researched the health & safety of mineral oil in cosmetics, the conclusion is that purified cosmetic mineral oil is not toxic. However, other studies find that products containing mineral oil were found to multiply the total number of cancerous tumors in rats by up to 69% increased rate.
  • Is mineral oil healthy or is it just plain cheap?
  • 10 Healing herbs for a healthier body with recent medical findings.


  • Science of manipulating matter.
  • Nanoparticles are used in cosmetics such as face creams, make-up & sunscreen.
  • Nanotechnology experts warn that products are insufficiently tested, that untested particles can be up to 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, and that nanoparticles are being used in products without sufficient safety testing.
  • The tiny size of the processed particles means that nanoparticles are so small that your skin absorbs them, in-turn the particles pass through your skin and into your blood then from organ to organ.
  • Nanoparticles commonly used in cosmetic products have been linked to liver damage and adverse reactions to our immune system. 
  • Nanoparticles should not be used in spray on products like sunscreen, especially to avoid getting the product in your eyes are inhaled.
  • What is the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis?
  • Is your lipstick toxic?


Petrolatum, Petroleum

  • Petrolatum or Petroleum, is a barrier chemical that is used to lock in moisture & as a cheap synthetic base – petroleum jelly, paraffin oil/wax, mineral oil – they are all known carcinogens, cancer causing chemicals.
  • Common in a wide array of personal care products including eye shadow, moisturiser, lip gloss, lipstick, conditioner, hair color & bleaching agents, facial treatments, styling gel/lotions, blush and concealer products. Mineral oils can target organs including eyes, skin & the respiratory system though inhalation or skin & eye contact.
  • Is mineral oil healthy or is it just plain cheap?
  • Suvana Beauty leaves out common chemicals like petroleum derivatives.


  • Thickener, stabliser. Prohibited for use in cosmetics in the European Union; Endocrine disruptor; Gastrointestinal or liver toxicity hazards.
  • Hair care, oxidative lotion for hair dye. Used as a pain & fever reducer until banned in 1983 by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) due to its carcinogenicity.
  • No longer used as a drug, it is still occasionally used in personal care products as a thickener & stabiliser in products such as facial hair bleach, hair color & women’s depilatories.
  • Phenacetin is a human carcinogen, it can cause renal damage & anemia. Exposure to phenacetin has been linked to malignant mammary tumors.
  • Start making over your skincare routine with these 14 Natural cosmetic ingredients.

Phthalates DPB

  • Plasticiser, banned in the European Union.
  • Used mainly in nail polish, linked to early onset of puberty.
  • Linked to a risk of cancer in later-life.
  • The NICNAS assessment found that DBP alone and/or with the simultaneous use of multiple cosmetic products containing DBP by children and the general population can result in high risk of reproductive toxicity.
  • A third phthalate, Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP) is found in eyelash glue, and is widely used in other consumer products.
  • Health concerns: Endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, cancer MORE
  • There are so many benefits of Aloe Vera in skincare, makeup, baby care and more.
  • Is your lipstick toxic?

Sodium Hypochlorite

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

  • SLS & SLES - Surfactant, foaming agents
  • Found in more than 90 percent of personal care and household cleaning products such as shampoo, body wash, cleanser, mascara and acne treatment. SLS is a known skin, lung and eye irritant.
  • SLS has the potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines (carcinogens). In 1983 NICNAS found that "rabbits had adverse skin reactions ranging from slight to severe irritation and that irritation severity increased with increasing concentration."
  • If you suffer from dandruff, skin irritation, dermatitis, canker sores or other irritated tissues or skin, then it could be due to SLS.
  • 7 Toxic chemicals in toothpaste to avoid & which brand should you use?

Sunscreen chemicals

  • Benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate and ethoxycinnmate.
  • These chemicals function as a sunscreen agent, to absorb ultraviolet light: common names are benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate & ethoxycinnmate. 
  • The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) classifies benzophenone as a known toxicant because benzophenone can cause liver hypertrophy in rats at low doses.
  • The following chemicals should be avoided:
Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), PABA, Avobenzone, Butyl methoxy dibenzoylmethane, Homosalate, Ethoxy-cinnmat, Parabens, Nano-Particles or GMO's, Petrochemicals or other nasty chemicals


  • Used in nail products as a solvent, it can dissolve & thin paint, also found in hair bleaching agents – Known as a toxic petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal tar.
  • The same way you look at food labels, you should do the same for your beauty products.
  •  It can affect your respiratory system, cause nausea and irritate your skin. Also identified on labels as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene.
  • Toluene is linked to immune system toxicity & developmental changes in unborn babies - expecting mothers should avoid touline vapours.
  • Green washing at the beauty counter, law allows some cosmetics brands to boldly make claims like “natural” and “non-toxic”


  • Triclosan is an antibacterial agent and preservative. It is used in personal care and home cleaning products. Exposure to triclosan may cause adverse health effects on the endocrine system, which is comprised of the organs and glands that secrete hormones (Endocrine Toxicity). Hormones control normal physiological processes, maintaining the body's homeostasis.
  • Triclosan is restricted in cosmetics in Canada and Japan. Triclocarban is restricted for use in cosmetics by the European Union and classified as expected to be toxic or harmful by the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List.
  • Known endocrine disruptor and skin irritant - especially thyroid and reproductive hormones. Studies raise concerns that triclosan contributes to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant. Tricolson can be found in toothpastes, antibacterial soaps and deodorants.
  • Commonly used in baby care products including body wash, toothpaste and shampoo.
  • Selecting products for sensitive skin.

Toxic-Free Nail Polish Criteria

What is Toxic-Free Nail Polish?

There are 9 key chemicals that make up SCA's toxic-free nail polish certification criteria, and acetone for nail polish removers. Known as the "Toxic Trio" there are three main culprits that are commonly found in many nail polishes. These are also referred to as 3-Free Nail Polish:

  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
  • Toluene
  • Formaldehyde Resin TSFR

To help consumers choose healthier nail polishes SCA has adopted the "3-Free Nail Polish, 5-Free Nail Polish, and 9-Free Nail Polish" terms, and awarded them SCA's certification seals accordingly.

3-Free means that the nail polish is free from DBP, touline, and formaldehyde resin.

5-Free means that the nail polish is free from DBP, touline, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and camphor.

9-Free means that the nail polish is free from DBP, touline, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, triphenyl phosphate, parabens and acetone.
Chemicals that form the key issues concerning nail polish:

  1. DBP Dibutyl Phthalate
  2. Toluene
  3. Formaldehyde Resin (TSFR Toluene Sulfonamide Formaldehyde Resins)
  4. Formaldehyde
  5. Camphor
  6. Ethyl tosylamide
  7.  Xylene
  8. Triphenyl Phosphate
  9. Parabens and acetone for nail polish removers

Safe Cosmetics Australia, Nail Polish Certification Awards
3-Free Nail Polishes are awarded SCA's Australian Made Safe® seal.
5-Free Nail Polishes are awarded SCA's Australian Certified Toxic-Free® seal.
9-Free Nail Polishes are awarded SCA's Australian Allergy Certified® seal.

Personal Hygiene Criteria

In addition to the Toxic-Free criteria outlined above, the following chemicals are not permitted for personal care products including nappies, sanitary items, pads and all other personal products. <1% or less of the following ingredients is permitted to allow for the potential of contamination. Where a product contains 15% or less of the chemicals detailed below, the product will meet SCA's Made Safe seal.

Personal Hygiene products must exclude or restrict the chemicals detailed above and as follows:

  • No harmful synthetics, No plastic, No polythene.
  • No chlorine and No synthetic fragrances, dyes or colourants.
  • Made from a minimum of 50% unbleached cotton or sustainable fibre like bamboo & cellulose pulp.
  • Made from a minimum of 50% biodegradable, compostable materials.
  • Free from odour blockers, dioxins & phthalates