The UK’s integrative cancer care charityHelpline 0870 163 2990

All Blog Entries

Clean Beauty.

13 Nov 2023

y2l post

By Nicola Corcoran

Healing from chronic disease requires a multi-faceted approach and this must involve awareness of ingredients in the ‘beauty’ products we use daily; products which claim to make us look better, smell better, and even feel better, but which actually contain harmful chemicals that place a burden on the liver and its ability to detoxify.

How do these compounds enter the body? The skin is the second largest organ after the fascia, and acts as a barrier and a carrier. That is to say that whatever we put on the skin will be absorbed and ultimately taken to the liver to be processed before being eliminated.

We can support the liver by mindfully reducing the burden we place upon it. A good practice is to count the products you use daily: soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, deodorant, makeup, toothpaste, perfume etc. Then ask yourself how can you reduce usage, swap to cleaner, non-toxic brands, or make your own. There are suggestions below, but first, let’s look at the most problematic ingredients.

  • BPA Found in plastic packaging, the linings of cans and vacu-packs, BPA is a potent endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors not only potently mimic hormones in the body but can also cause dysregulation of detoxification routes. This is particularly problematic with oestrogen, re-routing it down potentially damaging pathways which can have long term implications.
  • Fluoride. Diet is a better way to protect the enamel of your teeth than ingesting fluoride, a potent neuro-toxin and endocrine disruptor which can also negatively impact the thyroid gland. Be sure to eat a diet rich in vitamins A, D3, K2 as well as phosphorous and magnesium.
  • Formaldehyde. This carcinogen is more prevalent than you might think, making an appearance in nail polish, hair straightening treatments and shampoo. It is particularly problematic in the lungs since it is a Volatile Organic Compound (VOC), a colourless gas which is inhaled.
  • Metals. Aluminium is prevalent in anti-perspirants, blocking the pores and sabotaging the body’s natural ability to eliminate toxins via sweat. This is particularly problematic when you consider the proximity of the armpits to the fatty tissue of the breast; fat cells are a convenient place for the body to store toxins and chemicals if they cannot be excreted.
  • Parabens are preservatives found in almost every product which contains water (to prevent the growth of bacteria and mould). These known endocrine disruptors strongly mimic oestrogen, binding to cell receptors and altering the delicate balance of detoxification metabolites. Parabens can also alter immune system function and negatively impact the nervous system. Sodium Benzoate is a preservative in the same class as parabens and is prevalent in the cosmetics industry making it hard to avoid. Look out for it in shampoos and conditioners.
  • Perfumes, Fragrance in almost all cosmetic and beauty products is of chemical/synthetic origin. ‘Scents’ enter the body both via the skin and the respiratory system and as such are considered potentially damaging to the liver and the lungs. Avoid scented candles and air fresheners for the same reason.
  • Petroleum jelly. This is a cheap by-product of the petrochemical industry. It is found in baby oil, lip balms, make-up and body washes. It impedes the skin from breathing and detoxifying efficiently.
  • Phthalates. These ‘plasticizers’ are common ingredients in nail polish and hairsprays. They are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to lung and liver damage.
  • Surfactants: sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS and SLES) are foaming agents often found in shampoo, soap, bubble bath and toothpaste. Largely derived from the petroleum industry they are easily absorbed through the skin and residual levels are found to remain in the heart, liver, lungs and brain.
  • Talc is a cheap bulking ingredient (sometimes ‘naturally’ contaminated with asbestos) which has detrimental effects on the lungs.


This is not an exhaustive list, and manufacturers are adept at altering names to avoid customer sanctions. It can be challenging to find genuinely clean products, and as such my advice is to reduce exposure to toxic ingredients where possible, whilst supporting detoxification routes in the body, specifically the colon, liver and kidneys. To begin with this can be as simple eating a diet rich in fibre, consuming bitter foods and brassica vegetables (arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cavolo nero, chard, and kale) whilst staying hydrated by drinking 1.5 litres of filtered water daily.

I have compiled a directory of tried and tested products which are as clean as possible. Companies who are mindful to avoid cheap, synthetic, toxic ingredients are generally more expensive, and so I have included some suggestions to ‘make your own’ where possible.



Odylique for shampoo and conditioner made without synthetic colours, fragrances or preservatives.

Balmonds Natural shampoo which can also be used as a body wash.


Dr Bronner’s All-one magic soap for body and hand wash and even cleaning your home.

Neal’s Yard

I recommend relaxing magnesium baths over perfumed, toxic bubble baths. Add 2-10 cups of magnesium chloride or sulphate to a warm bath, starting slowly and building up gradually. Buy 15 or 25 kilo bags on eBay. You can also add Celtic salt, warming essential oils like ginger and orange, and even dried or fresh petals for an at-home spa experience.


Get Fussy Bare All

The Natural Deodorant Co

Odylique Prebiotic Natural Unscented Deodorant

Or: make your own using bicarbonate of soda, coconut oil, shea butter, arrowroot and essential oils.


Jurlique Biodynamic. Organic.

360 Botanics Organic. Vegan. Cruelty free.

Neal’s Yard Botanicals. Cruelty free.

Pai Organic. Cruelty free.

Weleda Organic. Cruelty free.

Or: make your own bespoke moisturisers using combinations of shea butter, castor oil, coconut oil, vitamin E oil, almond oil and cacao butter.

Coconut oil and a hot flannel is the best way to remove make-up..

Witch hazel or rose water are good toners, or you can even use chamomile tea.

Bentonite clay masks are great for oily skin. Use avocado and honey masks for dry skin. Coffee grounds blended into coconut oil makes a wonderful face and body scrub.


Green People Fluoride free fennel and propolis.

Dentalcidin Biocidin. Expensive, but wonderful for removing biofilms in the mouth which can lead to tooth decay.

Laila Remineralising tooth powder.

Or: make your own toothpaste using baking soda, coconut oil, spearmint essential oil and charcoal powder if desired. 3% food grade hydrogen peroxide is the best mouth wash, or try coconut oil pulling.


I recommend getting in touch with Imelda at Content Beauty and Wellbeing for sound information on the best non-toxic make-up brands. Some tried and tested favourites:

Dr Hauschka Cruelty free. Largely organic.

Jane Iredale Cruelty free. Vegan. Great non-toxic mascara.

Juice Beauty Cruelty free. Not entirely vegan.

Inika Cruelty free, vegan, organic.

Baldwins sells wonderful ingredients to make your own products, and they also sell the exquisite book ‘The handmade Apothecary’ by Vicky Chow and Kim Walker, which contains beautiful recipes to make your own beauty and self-care products.

For more information and recipes for home-made calendula oil and coffee scrub, you can download my free ‘Skin’ booklet here.

I would love to hear of your favourite clean brands.

Nicola Corcoran is a naturopath with a busy practice on the South Coast of England. As a cancer thriver, she has a passion for holistic health, particularly hormones. You can find her at