We all know what food ingredients we should stay away from—trans fats! Salt! Sugar!—but when it comes to beauty and personal care products, it’s not always so clear. That’s where we come in.

At Follian, we’ve done serious testing and keep a running list of restricted substances that we never, ever allow on our shelves. Not sure where to begin? These five ingredients are a great place to start when cutting out harmful toxins in your routine.

1. Sulfates

Also known as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), these chemical surfactants can be found in many personal grooming products: facial cleansers, shampoos, hand soaps and even toothpaste. They’re responsible for producing suds, bubbles, and foam.


If you don’t skip the suds, you might later regret it: Sulfates can trigger allergies, cause skin and eye irritation, and there has been known contamination with 1,4 –dioxane, a suspected carcinogen that’s also associated with organ toxicity and birth defects.

2. Synthetic Fragrance

An engineered scent or flavoring agent that usually contains dozens of (but could be any combination of 3000+) chemical ingredients. Fragrance and flavor formulas are “trade secrets” and can therefore remain undisclosed, which means we have no way of knowing what’s inside. Scary, isn’t it?


Sure, they smell nice, but artificial scents can wreak havoc on your system. Synthetic fragrances are known to cause skin and respiratory irritation, triggering allergies, migraines and asthma attacks. They also contain potential carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, and have been linked to neurotoxicity and birth defects.

3. Parabens

Antimicrobial agents added to personal care products to delay composition and inhibit spoilage by preventing growth of bacteria, yeast, and/or mold. They can be found in all types of hair products, from shampoo to deep conditioner and more.


Your shower should be your sanctuary—no carcinogens allowed. Parabens have been linked to cancer due to their potential developmental, reproductive and immune toxicity. They can also pose a threat to the endocrine system (aka, your hormones).

4. Mercury

Similar to parabens, these heavy metals are added to products to delay decomposition and inhibit spoilage by preventing growth of bacteria, yeast, and/or mold in a product. Mercury and its compounds can be found in eye makeup products, like mascara and eyeliner.


We don’t mean to make you nervous, but… the use of too many products with heavy metals can cause nervous system damage from overexposure. And like parabens, they’ve also been linked to organ and developmental toxicity.

5. Hydroquinone

A chemical found in skin-bleaching products like cleansers and moisturizers, hydroquinone decreases the production of melanin pigments in the skin. It can be found in conventional skincare treatments for hyperpigmentation.


Bleach is harsh, so any product that physically alters the appearance of your skin is bound to be harsh, too. But above all else, this chemical is a known carcinogen that increases the risk of skin cancer, by removing the skin’s natural defense against the sun—its ability to tan.