Unpacking “Safe Synthetics” in Cosmetics

In the U.S. beauty industry, the term “safe synthetics” is quickly becoming as commonplace as terms like “green,” “clean” and “natural.” This new term is probably not intended to replace the others, rather add to the lexicon, but instead it has added to consumer confusion. 

Here at Au Naturale Cosmetics, we see this as an opportunity to educate and differentiate — not hate. There is a place for “safe synthetics” in beauty, and we agree that not all synthetics are bad, just as not all-natural ingredients are safe. We’ve made a choice to steer clear from commonly found synthetics in our base formulas, and use only natural derived, ethically sourced ingredients. Our goal is to explain why, and why we believe it’s better for you. So, let’s dive right in. 

What Are Safe Cosmetics?

We’ll begin with the definition of “safe.” The word safe is defined as “protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.” When applied to the mission of Au Naturale Cosmetics, it means that our commitment to people, planet and process is not only “safe” but also sustainable and ethical. 

While there are many “safe synthetics” that are innocuous on the skin, they are not harmless to the environment. This is a main distinction of Au Naturale Cosmetics. For us, it’s only considered “safe” if it’s doesn’t cause harm all the way down the food chain. 

As we unpack our perspective on what “safe” means in the U.S. beauty industry, please bear in mind that our desire is to promote health, champion sustainability and nourish environmental practices so that we can give consumers color cosmetics that not only align with their values, but also live up to some of their highest ones. 

The Different Ingredients in Cosmetics

To ensure that your cosmetics last for as long as possible, they have to contain preservatives. There are so many different categories and types of preservatives that are used, and they all have to be classified as safe preservatives for cosmetics if they are to pass FDA regulations and sold legally.

However, this doesn’t mean that all of them are good for you, and they may be harmful to the environment. If you buy products from Au Naturale Cosmetics, you can rest assured knowing that we have done extensive research and only include ingredients to create all-natural, safe makeup.

The amount of lab engineered ingredients in beauty is vast. In our ongoing series on Unpacking Safe Synthetics, we will focus on the most common categories. Today, we put the spotlight on three (petrochemicals, silicones and parabens) and the degree to which we believe they are safe for people, planet and process.


Petrochemicals are made from oil and natural gas and are common in the world of cosmetics. They have recently been introduced by many brands that are moving toward a “safe synthetic” mission. Even though it can be argued that these ingredients are safe for use on the skin, we rule out the use of these ingredients because they are derived from crude oil and natural gas in a fossil fuel, making them unsustainable and unsafe for the environment. 

Petrochemicals account for 2.5% of U.S. oil consumption, and common petrochemicals include:

  • Ethanol 
  • Anything with PEG (polyethylene glycol) 
  • Phenoxyethanol 
  • Anything ending in “eth” indicates that it required ethylene oxide (a petrochemical) to produce (e.g., myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth) 
  • Butanol and any word with “butyl” (butyl alcohol, butylparaben, butylene glycol)
  • Any word with “propyl” (isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, propyl alcohol, cocamidopropyl betaine) 
  • Methanol and any word with “methyl” (methyl alcohol, methylparaben, methylcellulose), 
  • Anything with DEA (diethanolamine) or MEA (ethanolamine) 
  • Parfum or fragrance (95% of chemicals used in fragrance are from petroleum, paraffin wax, mineral oil, hexanediol and toluene) 


Common synthetic silicones may add a veil of silky moisture to the top layer of your skin, but they are not safe for the environment, and thus we view this ingredient category as unsafe to be used in our cosmetics. While the molecular composition of common synthetic silicones such as dimethicone and dimethicone crosspolymer are large enough to never penetrate your skin, they also never biodegrade. 

This means that these ingredients do not decompose over time and will exist in the environment for thousands of years, infiltrating our waterways and ecosystems, which, in turn, could cause damage to plants, animals and humans. We also believe there are large data gaps in research on these common silicones. We stay abreast of any studies that focus on these ingredients so that we can continue to learn more and pass our findings on to you. 


Since the 1950s, parabens have been used in cosmetics to extend shelf life and have been directly linked to breast cancer and endocrine disruption. Parabens are so widely used that they are found in human bodies and even in the bodies of dolphins in the ocean. 

For these reasons, at Au Naturale Cosmetics, we steer clear of commercial parabens and use only USDA Organic Lavender, Tocopherol (Vitamin E) and USDA Organic Xylityl Cocoate as ingredients to ensure a two-year shelf life of our products and to prevent any potential threat of bacterial growth. We fear that too little research has been conducted on purported “safe parabens” and are wary of misleading information in this category.

Keeping Consumers Informed 

At Au Naturale Cosmetics, we feel like there is a lot of consumer confusion around synthetic petrochemicals, silicones and parabens. Our goal is to be transparent and only offer you the best when it comes to cosmetics, so we have decided to give you some insight into the ingredients used in some makeup.

The definition of “safe” is still being decided, but at Au Naturale Cosmetics, we have developed our own definition to meet our highest standards: We do not use ingredients that do not align with our commitment to health and sustainability. We believe advancements can be made in the natural world to elevate the performance of naturally derived ingredients, and we aim to be the conscious color brand that brings these innovations to you.

So far, we think we’ve done a great job in fulfilling our promise, but you are the final judge. Check out our products and let us know what you think! 


This is the most comprehensive explanation I have found anywhere that explains the truth, very clearly, about what is in our health and beauty products… And almost all shampoos and conditioners that claim to repair hair with silicone, which is not possible! Thank you for “getting it” like so few companies do. And better yet, thank you for these truly masterful products. Customer for life.

Angel February 15, 2021

I was wondering is there talc in any of your products and are there any organic ingredients

Ali April 01, 2020

I really enjoyed reading these interesting facts about how unsafe the ingredients in makeup are. When I go to sephora or Ulta I always noticed that dimethicone (silicone) is in almost 99 percent of all full coverage foundations. I love the Au naturale foundation stick it gives amazing full coverage without all the nasty chemicals that are bad for our skin, health and the environment ❤️🌳

Cilla February 26, 2020

Hi Ashley,

Thank you for the informative and wonderful blog post on safe synthetics. I am in my 4th year of transition to ‘clean’ as well as cruelty free cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, etc.

I will share this with my friends.

Olga January 28, 2020

I just received my first order and really like the eye liner and shadow. I am so pleased to have discovered your line and really appreciate your explanation of what safe means to you.

Heidi January 28, 2020

Just received my first order!
Will try them today.
I appreciate your efforts to educate and provide products that are good for both the user and the environment.
Jan from Real Raw Beauty recommended Au Naturale.

Barbara January 28, 2020

I LOVE Au Naturale!! Thank you for caring for the planet and people

Morgan January 28, 2020

Thank you so much for that information.

aggiedee January 28, 2020

Such an interesting topic. I had no idea parabens could have an effect on sea life. Looking forward to learning more in this series.

Blythe Alpern January 28, 2020

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