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The Ultimate Guide to Cruelty-Free Moisturizers (Free From Hazardous Chemicals) 

Every day, American women use on average 12 personal care products. Those products such as skincare, makeup, or hair care contain about 168 different chemicals according to this Environmental Working Group study. Most of those products are absorbed by our skin and end up in our blood.

The majority of the chemicals used in the composition of beauty products pose no risk to human health. 

However, some have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive and neurological harm, and developmental delays. You probably heard their name before: parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, etc.

Regrettably, the Food and Drug Administration has little authority to monitor the use of chemicals in cosmetics or personal care products. “Of more than 10,000 chemicals used to formulate cosmetics, just 11 have ever been banned or restricted by the federal Food and Drug Administration.” states this report for EWG.

Many big beauty brands, therefore, use those hazardous chemicals in the composition of their products. Moreover, conventional lotions and moisturizers often contain ingredients that are tested on animals, using inhumane methods.

Fortunately, nowadays plenty of beauty brands are committed to designing clean, non-toxic, cruelty-free formulations for their cosmetics products. In this article, we walk you through the chemicals to avoid in lotions or moisturizers and the eco-friendly certifications you can trust to help you pick safe non-toxic cruelty-free lotions or moisturizers.

To learn more about vegan and cruelty-free make-up brands, check our article about it.

Preview of the article

  1. Milk Makeup
  2. Ilia Beauty
  3. The Ordinary – DECIEM
  4. Pacifica Beauty
  5. 100% Pure
  6. Elf Cosmetics
  7. Tata Harper

Hazardous Ingredients Found in Lotions & Moisturizers That You Should Ban Now!

The following chemicals can be found in most body and face lotions and moisturizers. Studies have shown they can be harmful to human health. Be sure to avoid them!

  • Name: BHA or Butylated Hydroxyanisole

Fonction: Antioxidant

Found in: Body & face lotions and moisturizers, hair care

Risks: Classified potentially carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, reproductive toxicity, an endocrine disruptor.

  • Name: Parabens (butylparaben, propylparaben, sodium butylparaben, etc)

Fonction: Preservatives 

Found in: Body & face lotions and moisturizers, sunscreen, foundations, deodorants, shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste

Risks: Endocrine disruptor 

  • Name: Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate

Fonction: UV filter

Found in: Face cream, sunscreen, foundation, lip products, aftershave, perfumes, nail polish, shampoo

Risks: Endocrine disruptor 

  • Name: Octocrylene

Fonction: UV filter 

Found in: Face cream with SPF, sunscreens, foundations, 

Risks: Endocrine disruptor. When degrading over time, octocrylene creates benzophenone, a toxic component for human health according to a study from the Chemical Research in Toxicology.

  • Name: Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclotetrasiloxane, or Cyclomethicone

Fonction: Emollients (make the skin softer)

Found in: Body & face lotions and moisturizers, sunscreens, foundations, spray deodorant

Risks: Endocrine disruptor and reproductive toxicity

  • Name: Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCIT)

Fonction: Preservatives 

Found in: Body & face lotions and moisturizers, baby wipes, kids makeup, shampoo

Risks: Allergen, called “Allergen of the Year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society 

What Else Should You Avoid in Lotions & Moisturizers Compositions?


Allergens are a common ingredient in many lotions and moisturizers. While they are not dangerous per se, they can cause issues for people with sensitive skin, eczema, or psoriasis conditions. Allergens can cause redness, itching, and swelling and sometimes severe allergies and burns. However, most people do no react to allergens. 

If you have sensitive skin or skin conditions, it is advised to avoid the following allergens commonly found in lotions & moisturizers.

Alpha-Isomethyl ionone, Amyl cinnamal, Amylcinnamyl alcohol, Anise alcohol, Benzyl alcohol, Benzyl benzoate, Benzyl cinnamate, Benzyl salicylate, Cinnamal, Cinnamyl alcohol, Citral, Citronellol, Coumarin, Eugenol, Evernia furfuracea extract, Evernia prunastri extract, Farnesol, Geraniol, Hexyl cinnamal, Hydroxycitronellal, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene carboxaldehyde, Isoeugenol, Limonene, Linalool, Majantol, Methyl 2-Octynoate

Other chemicals

The four following chemicals raised concerns over the years. However, today there are no official guidelines advising their ban in cosmetic uses. If you suffer from skin conditions you might want to avoid these substances when picking your lotion: salicylic acid, butylphenyl methylpropional, BHT, and Phenoxyethanol (not advised for kids under 3 years old). 

Does Organic or Natural Mean Non-Toxic or Clean?

When products are certified organic or natural, it doesn’t mean that their composition is completely safe and non-toxic for human health.

When formulating a beauty product composition, a brand can mix organic ingredients with some preservatives or antioxidants that are hazardous to human health. Unfortunately, today there is no regulation to address the issue. 

2 Certifications for Non-Toxic and Clean-Formulated Cosmetics Products

Made Safe

Toxins out, healthy ingredients in – that’s the core value of MADE SAFE. The MADE SAFE certification is about giving consumers peace of mind that the products they purchase are safe for human health and the environment. The certification process involves an independent assessment of a product’s ingredients to make sure they are not harmful to humans or animals.

The Made Safe List banned over 6500 hazardous substances and can be found here. Note that Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, and Octocrylene mentioned above are not on the list.

The Environmental Working Group

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization created in 1993 that strives to protect human health and the environment. 

Products that meet the EWG’s criteria are awarded a certification seal, which provides assurance to consumers that the product is safe to use. 

The certification process includes an extensive review of the product’s ingredients, manufacturing processes, and potential health risks. 

Certified products are also listed on the EWG’s website so that consumers can easily find them when they’re shopping.

What Does Cruelty-Free Mean for a Product?

When a product is labeled “cruelty-free,” it means that the product has not been tested on animals. This includes all stages of product development, from initial research to final testing. 

In order to be cruelty-free, a company must also not use any animal-derived ingredients in its products. 

The term “cruelty-free” is not regulated by the FDA, so companies can use it without meeting any specific criteria. 

However, there are third-party organizations that companies can choose to work with, such as Leaping Bunny and PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program. These organizations issue certifications with strict standards for what qualifies as cruelty-free, and they also provide independent verification.

Does Vegan Mean Cruelty-Free?

Vegan means that a product is made without animal-derived ingredients.

Cruelty-free means that a product was not tested on animals.

One can go without the other. It’s important to know the difference. A lotion can be vegan but tested on animals and a lotion can be not tested on animals but made from animal-derived ingredients.

Trusted Certifications for Cruelty-Free Products: Leaping Bunny and Global Beauty Without Bunnies from Peta

The Leaping Bunny certification is perhaps the most well-known certification for cruelty-free products. The symbol of a bunny in mid-leap is widely recognized as meaning that a product has not been tested on animals. 

Leaping Bunny certified brands must pledge not to test their products or ingredients on animals at any stage of development, and they must also agree to regular independent audits to ensure compliance. The Leaping Bunny certification is recognized by many consumers as the gold standard for animal welfare.

Peta also grants a cruelty-free certification. In order to be certified cruelty-free by PETA, a company signs a legally binding statement that states “that it and its ingredient suppliers don’t conduct, commission, pay for, or allow any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations, or finished products anywhere in the world and won’t do so in the future.” You can find the list of all the cruelty-free companies registered with PETA: here. 

Those certifications make it easy for consumers to ensure they are buying cruelty-free products.

7 Top Brands for Non-Toxic Clean Lotions and Moisturizers that Don’t Test on Animals

Milk Makeup

Best for: Vegan moisturizer

Clean & Eco-friendly: Leaping Bunny Certified, Cruelty-Free, 100% Vegan, Ban 2,500 controversial and potentially harmful ingredients, ethically and responsibly sourced ingredients

Product: Vegan Milk Moisturizer

Price $19

Available: Sephora, Cult Beauty, and Selfridges. Ship to the US.

Praised for its inclusive approach to beauty and its high-quality products, Milk Makeup is one of our favorite cruelty-free and vegan makeup brands. The conscious brand offers a full line of cosmetics and skincare products with fun packaging. Their vegan innovative cosmetics are formulated with clean ingredients and you will never find harmful chemicals in their beauty products such as parabens, formaldehyde, talc, carmine, or BHA. No wonder they have thousands of raving reviews for their top-selling products.

Ilia Beauty

Best for: Lips Hydrating 

Clean & Eco-friendly: Leaping Bunny Certified, Cruelty-Free, natural ingredients

Product: Lip Wrap Overnight Treatment

Price $26

Available: Ship worldwide

Ilia Beauty’s products are made with natural ingredients and are free of harmful chemicals. They have banned from their products formulas gluten, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, and other toxic ingredients. Ilia Beauty is cruelty-free and certified by Leaping Bunny. The company’s flagship product is the Ilia Beauty Multi-Stick, a multi-purpose stick that can be used as a lip color, cheek color, or eyeshadow. 

The Ordinary – DECIEM

Best for: Sensitive Skin

Clean & Eco-friendly: Leaping Bunny certified, Cruelty-Free, Vegan, Alcohol-free, Gluten-free, Oil-free

Product: Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

Price $10.5

Available: Ship worldwide

This Canadian brand is known for its high-quality, science-based, and affordable skincare products. Initially focused on skincare, they now offer a limited but growing makeup line. The Ordinary is committed to accessibility and transparency in its products and practices. The eco-friendly company is part of various environmentally-conscious programs and is Leaping Bunny certified.

Pacifica Beauty 

Best for: Face Cream

Clean & Eco-friendly: Cruelty-free Peta certified & 100% Vegan

Product: Dreamy Youth Day & Night Face Cream

Price: $18

Available: Target, Ulta, Amazon, and more. Ship to the US and Canada.

Pacifica Beauty is a clean beauty brand that has been around since 1996. It is one of the leading clean beauty brands on the market, and its products are beloved by green beauty enthusiasts and makeup artists alike. 

The brand is known for its innovative formulas and affordable products. Pacifica offers a variety of skincare, haircare, fragrance, makeup, and body care items. Their products are vegan, cruelty-free, and made with natural ingredients. It is one of the best vegan makeup brands at the moment.

100% Pure

Best for: Body Cream

Clean & Eco-friendly: Cruelty-Free, Vegan, and natural ingredients

Product: Vanilla Bean Nourishing Body Cream

Price: $26

Available: Physical stores in the US. Ship worldwide.

100% Pure mission is to bring the healthiest products to the beauty industry. This cruelty-free brand offers a line of make-up, skincare, and personal care made from safe and clean ingredients. 100% Pure’s products are made in North America. 

They partner with various local and international organizations to support health globally.

Elf Cosmetics

Best for: Eye Cream

Clean & Eco-friendly: Cruelty-Free certified by Peta, Leaping Bunny certified, Vegan, paraben-free.

Product: Holy Hydratation! Eye Cream

Price: $10

Available: Ship worldwide.

Elf Cosmetics is a clean and cruelty-free makeup company. The company’s mission is to create easy-to-use products made with safe all-natural ingredients. Elf cosmetics banned parabens, and other toxic substances from the composition of their products to keep your skin healthy. The company does not test its products on animals.

In addition, Elf cosmetics support organizations that protect animals.

Tata Harper

Best for: Mature skin

Clean & Eco-friendly: Cruelty-Free certified by PETA, natural ingredients, free from hazardous and harsh chemicals

Product: Repairative Moisturizer

Price: $130

Available: Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue. Ship worldwide

For high-end skincare, Tata Harper is what you need. The brand is beloved by beauty enthusiasts for its luxurious products and cutting-edge formulations. Their line includes skincare products and beauty accessories. All of their products have clean formulations and are never tested on animals. 

Image Credit: All photos belong to Pexels, Unsplash and to respective brands.

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