The Base Collective

Why we say No a lot (aka what to look for on a label!)

Why we say No a lot (aka what to look for on a label!)


We say No a lot……here’s why.

We’ve had some seriously amazing feedback on our packaging and label design for our Hand Wash and Hand Milk. And even better, we’ve also had so many lovely comments on the products themselves and how they feel on the skin and smell so good you want to eat them (not recommended by the way!).

But what we want to talk about today is something that you don’t really see that goes in or, more appropriately, doesn’t go in to our products. You see, we spent nearly 12 months developing our hand wash and milk line and not because it took that long to get a logo sorted or packaging printed (although that is a whole other story for another day!) but because we wanted to be really sure about our ingredients. And to us – that was really the most important part of the whole development phase and probably what we are most proud of.

By now most people have heard the terms sulphates, parabens, formaldehyde derivatives, artificial fragrance all thrown around. You probably even know that they can be bad for you but you don’t know why and you’re not really sure what to look out for.

So here’s a very simple rundown of what we avoid and why, which will hopefully help you make the best decision about what you want to be putting on your skin without having to stress about it!



Sulphates are cleaning ingredients that are added to products to make them clean and foam. They’re also known as surfactants(1).

They are really common in shampoos, soaps, shaving gels, and bubble baths to make them foam up. They’re also used in products like dishwashing detergents, laundry detergents, carpet cleaners and engine degreasers (ewww right?!) 

There are different types of sulphates. Some of the common ones are:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate

Why we said no?

Put simply they have been shown to be irritating to skin. So anyone who has any type of eczema, psoriasis or just sensitive skin in general is susceptible, especially young children.

We decided that healthy, non irritated skin was better than lots of bubbles so left these out.




This is where things start to get real. Parabens are really common and are popular because of their preservative qualities (i.e. they make stuff last longer) and they are a low cost ingredient for the manufacturer.

Why we said no?

There’s not much to like about these. They have been linked to breast cancer in a study which examined the amount of Parabens in cancerous breast tissue(1).There is also some concern in scientific circles that they can interfere with reproduction, our nervous systems and immune systems, all things we’d like to keep well in tact thank you very much.

And to top it all off, the European Commission on Endocrine Disruption lists parabens as Category 1 priority substances (with category 1 not being the category you want to be in) because of evidence they interfere with hormone function. Bad.

This all sounds kind of scary we know. And we don’t mean to make it all sound daunting, but it’s pretty easy to avoid without taking drastic measures. Simply check your labels – if it has anything listed that ends in ‘paraben’ put it back.



PEG Compounds

Polyethylene glycols (don’t worry I can’t pronounce it either), or PEGs, are petroleum-based compounds that are used to thicken, soften, and gelatinize cosmetics, so you find them in a lot of cream-based products(1). The main issue with PEGs is that they are often contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Kind of sound more like they should be in your petrol rather than on your skin right?

Why we said no?

Ethylene oxide is potentially harmful to the nervous system and human development. There is some suggestion that 1,4-dioxane is a possible human carcinogen. Again, bad.

There are plenty of ways to thicken creams without drilling for oil. We’ve used Xanthan Gum which, many a keen eyed baker out there would know, you can actually eat.

Again, there’s no need to stress, simply avoid anything with PEG in the name.



Cocamide DEA & Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Here’s an interesting one. Both of these (and points if you can pronounce them!) are chemically modified form of coconut oil that are used for their foaming (why are we obsessed with bubbles?) and thickening properties(1). Coconut oil should be good for you right? And it is – when it is in its natural form and not Frankensteined.

Why we said no?

For one, Cocamide DEA has been suggested to be carcinogenic(2). That’s pretty much enough to stop you right there. Cocomidopropyl Betaine is known to be irritating to skin and again anyone with sensitive skin or skin conditions is going to be susceptible.




With the increased consumer awareness around the use of parabens, many manufacturers switched to using this – Phenoxyethanol. Basically it is a substitute preservative, which would be fine, except that it has now been linked to many of the same harmful effects parabens are known for. 

Why we said no?

Basically the FDA News release warning consumers to avoid products containing phenoxyethanol due to its potential to depress the central nervous system(3) put us off.




Oh this is a good one! Basically, any label with 'fragrance' on it allows the manufacturer to put whatever they want in it as they are not required to disclose what this fragrance made up of in order to protect their formulation (or patent).  Getting a little scary once again, but there have been some suggestion that some are linked to serious health problems such as cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, allergies and sensitivities(5).

 Why we said no?

It comes back to our aim to be as transparent as possible and know that our customers feel confident that they know exactly what goes into our product and more importantly onto their skin. 

It's easy really, just look out for any of the following on labels: fragrance, perfume, essential oil blend or aroma - anything that doesn't say exactly what it is.


Organic Ingredients

Ok so this one we definitely said Yes too! It is part of our ethos to try and make things Certified Organic (95% Organically derived) where possible and if not, than we use as many Certified Organic Ingredients as we possibly can. Even when it means the cost of our ingredients are higher and it takes a little longer to formulate. We only product things we are happy to let or kids use – pretty simple.

Why we said yes?

Why wouldn’t we? Certified Organic means free of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilisers and dyes and must not be processed using industrial solvents, irradiation or genetic engineering(4). It also means that we aren’t using the same ingredients used to produce petrol in our skin care and that we know we’re making it easy for our customer to choose something that is good for them and their families.



So what do you look for on the Ingredients Label then?

Ok so now we have freaked you out completely we thought we’d show you how easy it is to avoid some of these nasties. (Because it really is.)

We’ve put together a little table to show you show what some of the popular skin care brands have in their hand wash so you can see how easily some of the above slip into products you probably think are pretty good for you. (All of this information is readily available on their labels so you can have a look for yourself too.)

Basically if the label you are reading has any of these and you are concerned – don’t buy it!



I guess the question you are asking yourself now is -

Why do all these other companies choose to use these ingredients?

This is really a question for each brand to answer and we don’t assume to know the production decisions other brands make. What we do know is that many of these ingredients are cost effective and are good at doing what they are supposed to do - yep they foam, yep they also are fabulous preservatives and will extend the shelf life of a product, hence allowing for larger production runs and therefore an increased profit margin as they can store the stuff for literally years! There is also evidence to suggest that at low doses when tested in very specific environments they are ‘safe’(6). So maybe they do think they are safe to use?

In other countries they adopt a precautionary approach when it comes to regulating compounds, which means banning the use of certain compounds in products for sale in that country if there has even been a hint of trouble. However here in Australia (and I would LOVE to challenge this and see a change) our relevant Authorities, including the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Food standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the Australian Pesticides & Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) along with numerous state and local environmental and water authorities take a wait-and-see approach(7) - something that didn’t sit well with us in light of numerous studies and evidence. 

This does all start to sound a little daunting, we know. So when it came to starting The Base Collective we wanted to make sure there was no confusion and our customers didn’t have to worry. We took out anything we thought wasn’t in the ‘so good for you, you can basically eat it’ category and ignored it. And we’re practical – some of your favourite shampoos or moisturisers might have some of these ingredients and we’re not saying you should throw them. We just want you to have the information so you can make a decision and know that when you pick up something from The Base Collective you don’t have to think about what has gone in it because we’ve done that for you!


Cassie & Carly xx


The Base Collective content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice. See your healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment recommendations.


(1) Pilmore, B 2012, Cosmetic Formulations: An Advanced Guide, Institute of Personal Care Science, Australia.

(2) Healthline, . 2013. Cancer-Causing Chemical Found in 98 Shampoos and Soaps. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 June 2016].

(3) FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2008. FDA Warns Consumers Against Using Mommy's Bliss Nipple Cream Product can be harmful to nursing infants. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 June 2016].

(4) Australian Certified Organic. 2016. About Australia Certified Organic. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 June 2016].

(5) Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. 2016. Fragrance. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 June 2016].

(6) Cosmetic Ingredients Review. 2010. Cosmetic Ingredients Review. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 June 2016].

(7) Choice. 2014. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals Which common chemicals have been linked to cancer and reproductive abnormalities?. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 June 2016].



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