Skincare products can become unstable and potentially dangerous without something to stop bacterial and contaminant growth. We investigated the possibilities of using grapefruit seed extract but it was difficult: sometimes impure and sometimes simply not what it said on the bottle.

We do use anti-bacterials. We choose the most up-to-date preservatives that are approved by the Soil Association and/or similar bodies.

Skin care nasties

Here at Great Elm we avoid using any artificial chemicals including any of the following commonly found in skin and hair products.

parabens: Ethyl-, Methyl-, Propyl-, or Butyl-.  (which can mimic oestrogens linked to breast cancers);

phthalates: often labelled as 'fragrances';  endocrine disrupters mimic hormones and may alter genital development.

Ureas, formally known as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, or DMDM hydantoin and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, are preservatives that can release formaldehyde and are a primary cause of contact dermatitis

Sodium polyacrylate and carbomer: synthetic polymers from petroleum.

Petrolatum; Petroleum Jelly; Mineral Oil can harbour contaminants linked to cancers, clog pores and disallow normal breathing of skin.

lauryl sulphates:  used to produce good lather; can cause dermatitis)

Diethanolamine (DEA) or Triethanolamine (TEA)- used to produce smooth consistency or good lather; known carcinogen linked to stomach, bladder, and intestinal cancers.

Genetically Modified Organisms - commonly seen on labels as GMO; unknown risks that are just beginning to be understood by scientists.

Polyethylene Glycol - often referred to as PEG; tumours have developed in tested rats.

Synthetic colours, labeled as FD&C or D&C followed by colour and number: made from coal tar, contain heavy metal salts that may deposit toxins onto the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation; almost all carcinogenic.

Chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate, have been shown to disrupt endocrine activity.

Antibacterial compounds, such as triclosan and chlorphenesin, do not break down in the environment and may contribute to bacterial resistance.

We have read a great deal about such ingredients and here offer you a chance to have a look at some of our sources (the more readable ones)

“The majority of modern cosmetics and toiletries are complex mixtures of industrially produced, synthetic chemicals. There is evidence they are exposing us to hormone disruption and other risky chemicals. There are also concerns about what these chemicals are doing to the wider environment.”

Extracted from the Women’s Environmental Network information on cosmetics.

We suggest you read the label on any cosmetic you buy and look up the ingredients too. Try the US independent Environmental Working Group at

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