How the Alert System Works
CosmEthics analyses cosmetics using the following alert icons, and is free for personal use.
High Concern Alert
Your product contains ingredients of high concern or ingredients prohibited by EU (Default Alert)
Allergen Alert
Your product may cause allergic reactions (Default Alert)
Suitable or Safe Product
Your product is safe and suitable (based on your personal screening settings)
Personal Alert
Your product contains ingredients listed in your Personal Alerts
High Concern Alert

CosmEthics has multiple default alerts, which are either ingredients of high concern, or ingredients prohibited by the EU. The ingredients are linked to research articles and an abstract can be viewed by tapping the alerted ingredient. You will see a red traffic light appear next to the ingredient name, if the product contains an ingredient of high concern.

Find the complete list of CosmEthics’ default alerts here

Allergen Alert

CosmEthics has some of the default alerts defined as Allergen alerts, which are usually ingredients found to cause allergic reaction on some people.

Suitable or Safe Product

Your product is safe and suitable (based on your personal screening settings)

Personal Alert

CosmEthics offers multiple ready-made lists. They can be added as a full list in the My Alerts section by clicking on the circle next to the list name.

Find the complete list of CosmEthics’ Ready-Made Lists here

Premium Alert Lists
CosmEthics App has five premium user lists, which are Palm Oil, Petrochemicals, Irritating Alcohols, Silicones, and Endocrine Disruptors. The following scientific articles have been reviewed in compilation of each list:
Premium Feature
Palm Oil
Abstract and References
Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil derived from the palm fruit, grown on the oil palm tree Elaeis guineensis. The oil palm tree is grown across more than 13.5 million ha of tropical, high-rainfall, low-lying areas, a zone naturally occupied by moist tropical forest, the most biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystem on Earth. Originally, oil palms are from Western Africa, but today palm plantations are growing worldwide including Africa, Asia, and both North and South America. The majority of all palm oil is produced from Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil plantations are most of the time not sustainable, linking the industry to major issues : deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses in the countries where it is produced. Indeed, the land and forests must be cleared for the development of the oil palm plantations. Between 1990 and 2005 the area of oil palm in Malaysia increased by 1.8 million ha to 4.2 million ha, while 1.1 million ha of forest were lost. This fast deforestation is pushing many species to extinction. Studies show that only 15% of species recorded in primary forest was also found in oil palm plantations. The efforts of some producers to reduce their environmental impacts must be highlighted. However, unless governments become better at controlling and protecting forests and ensuring that plantations are established only in appropriate areas, the impacts of oil palm expansion on biodiversity will be considerable.

  • Fitzherbert, E., Struebig, M., Morel, A., Danielsen, F., Bruhl, C., Donald, P. and Phalan, B. (2008). How will oil palm expansion affect biodiversity?. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 23(10), pp.538–545.
  • Susanti, A. and Maryudi, A. (2016). Development narratives, notions of forest crisis, and boom of oil palm plantations in Indonesia. Forest Policy and Economics, 73, pp.130–139.
  • Wakker, E.; Watch, S.; Rozario, J. de (2004). Greasy palms: the social and ecological impacts of large-scale oil palm plantation development in Southeast Asia. 2004 pp.46 pp. ref.160
  • Tan, K., Lee, K., Mohamed, A. and Bhatia, S. (2009). Palm oil: Addressing issues and towards sustainable development. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 13(2), pp.420–427.
Premium Feature
Abstract and References
Mineral oil is obtained from dewaxing paraffinic residual oil (European Commission, 2016). The mineral oil used in cosmetics is reported as carcinogenic (IARC, 1987) and could account for an increased nasal cancer risk when in contact with nasal and sinus mucosa (Randell, 1990). A case of exogenous lipoid pneumonia caused by facial application of petrolatum (vaseline) has been described by Cohen et al in 2003. A patient had been repeatedly applying petrolatum to the nares, thus directly inhaling the product although it is not known to be volatile. The use of large amount of oil based emollients on the face may increase the risk of lipoid pneumonia (Cohen et al, 2003). Common petroleum-based cosmetics could be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane (Black et al, 2001). The 1,4-dioxane may cause liver tumors in rats and mice through cytotoxicity followed by regenerative hyperplasia (Dourson et al, 2014). This potentially carcinogenic substance (IARC, 2007) can easily penetrate the skin through cosmetics (Black et al, 2001). Furthermore, petrolatum contains two co-carcinogens, croton oil (2% in petrolatum weight/volume) and 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13 acetate (TPA) (0.01% in petrolatum) (Kligman, Kligman, 1998). Petrolatum can also be contaminated with sensitizing impurities (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) (Ulrich et al, 2004).

  • Cohen M.A., Galbut B., Kerdel F.A. Exogenous lipoid pneumonia caused by facial application of petrolatum. J Am Acad Dermatol, 49 (2003), pp. 1128–1130
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer. Overall evaluations of carcinogenicity: an updating of IARC monographs.1–42.Lyon: IARC,1987:252–54.
  • Randell R.A. Nasal cancer and mineral oil. Lancet, 335 (1990), p. 56
  • Kligman, A. and Kligman, L. (1998). A Hairless Mouse Model for Assessing the Chronic Toxicity of Topically Applied Chemicals. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 36(9–10), pp.867–878.
  • Dourson, M., Reichard, J., Nance, P., Burleigh-Flayer, H., Parker, A., Vincent, M. and McConnell, E. (2014). Mode of action analysis for liver tumors from oral 1,4-dioxane exposures and evidence-based dose response assessment. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 68(3), pp.387–401.
  • Black R.E., Hurley F.J., and Harvey D.C.. Occurrence of 1,4-dioxane in cosmetic raw materials and finished cosmetic products (2001). J. AOAC Internat. 84: 666–670.
  • Ulrich G., Schmutz JL, Trechot P, Commun N, Barbaud A. Sensitization to petrolatum: an unusual cause of false-positive drug patch-tests. Allergy 59, 9 (2004): 1006–1009.
  • (2016). CosIng — Cosmetics — GROWTH — European Commission. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Jul. 2016].
Premium Feature
Irritating Alcohols
Abstract and References
The ingredient commonly referred to as alcohol in cosmetics is in fact “ethanol”, and a cosmetic product that is mentioned not to contain alcohol is in fact “ethanol-free”. Ethanol is mentioned on the ingredient list as “alcohol” or alcohol denat”. The denatured alcohol, even though it has been transformed in order to make it non-edible, is still irritating. Ethanol is commonly used in a variety of cosmetic and pharmaceutical preparations. It is known to enhance the permeability of the skin by altering the ability of the natural skin barrier (stratum corneum SC)(1). A study among medical professions (2) showed the damage caused by alcohol antisepsis : the removal of barrier lipids by detergent cleaning and alcohol antisepsis, together with the overhydration of the stratum corneum by sweat trapped within gloves in this special case, facilitates the invasion of irritants and allergens which stimulate inflammatory responses in the dermis. Among the lipids and water-soluble substances removed by the alcohol based product are natural antibacterials (2). In addition to this irritant effect, a study showed that ethanol might, even at low concentration, induce an apoptosis in skin cells by enhancing the effects of the proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) (3). An other alcohol used as a preservative in cosmetic products, the benzyl alcohol, is known to be an allergen that can cause allergic contact dermatitis (4, 5). Fatty alcohol like Cetyl alcohol, Isostearyl alcohol, Cetearyl alcohol, Behenyl alcohol and Myristyl alcohol are non toxic and non irritating as cosmetic ingredients (6). Phenoxyethanol is not on this list, even though some studies showed it is irritating, because it is not an alcohol, but a glycol ether (7).

  • Kwak S, Brief E, Langlais D, Kitson N, Lafleur M, Thewalt J. Ethanol perturbs lipid organization in models of stratum corneum membranes: An investigation combining differential scanning calorimetry; infrared and (2)H NMR spectroscopy. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012;1818(5):1410–9.
  • Kownatzki E. Hand hygiene and skin health.. J Hosp Infect.. 2003;55(4):239–45.
  • Neuman M, Haber J, Malkiewicz I, Cameron R, Katz G, Shear N. Ethanol signals for apoptosis in cultured skin cells.. Alcohol. 2002;26(3):179–90.
  • (2016). CosIng — Cosmetics — GROWTH — European Commission. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Jul. 2016].
Premium Feature
Abstract and References
Silicone-based chemicals are used in cosmetics to soften, moisten or waterproofing, commonly found with a name derived from “siloxane”. Siloxanes make hair products dry more quickly and deodorant creams slide on more easily. They can also be found in a large variety of facial products such as moisturizers. The main issue with silicones is that they are possibly bioaccumulative: they persist in the environment over time. An Environment Canada review in 2008 concluded that certain siloxanes (cyclotetrasiloxane D4 and cyclopentasiloxane D5) may pose a risk to the environment since they potentially accumulate in aquatic organisms. They meet therefore the definition of a “toxic substance”, a substance that has an actual or potential exposure to the environment in quantities sufficient to have an immediate or long term harmful effect on the environment (1,2). In Europe, D4 has been classified as an endocrine disruptor (3), and potentially reprotoxic (4). People with hair extension might want to avoid silicones as they lower the adherence of the extensions.
  • Petry, T., Bosch, A., Coste, X., Dupuis, V., Eigler, D. and Germain, P. (2012). An assessment of the skin sensitisation hazard of a group of polyfunctional silicones using a weight of evidence approach. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 64(2), pp.305–314.
  • Rubio, A., Ponvert, C., Goulet, O., Scheinmann, P. and de Blic, J. (2009). Allergic and nonallergic hypersensitivity reactions to silicone: a report of one case. Allergy, 64(10), pp.1555–1556.
Premium Feature
Endocrine Disruptors
Abstract and References
According to the World Health Organization, an endocrine disruptor is an “exogenous substance or mixture that alters one or several functions of the endocrine system and consequently causes adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)populations.” (1) In recent decades, epidemiologist studies have highlighted phenomena that may be related to substances with endocrine properties such as increase in malformations of the male urogenital apparatus at birth, increasing the incidence of testicular cancer or the decrease in sperm quality (2,3,4,5). However, the mechanisms of interaction with the endocrine system are complex and insufficiently described, which is problematic to affirm or deny their direct relationship with the increase and/or the appearance of certain diseases and disorders. They are indeed characterized by many features that make the research difficult (2, 8).

• Low-dose and non-monotonic effects (more doses are low, most effects are important), One of PE characteristics is that there is no threshold dose below which exposure has no effect (2,7).
• Chronicity (daily exposure, sometimes over several years) and multiple exposures (2)
• Critical periods of exposure (2: 8) Exposure during pregnancy can cause serious effects such as incomplete and immature organ development, influence sexual differentiation, limit the development of the endocrine system, etc.
A childhood exposure to endocrine disruptors may lead to effects on the development of the reproductive system. This effect persists in the adolescence, with the addition of an effect on mammary glands, ovaries and oocytes to the young women, spermatogenesis to the young man, and secondary sexual characteristics for both sexes.
For adults, the observed effects relate to the production of gametes (ovaries, oocytes and sperm).
• The latency. The exposure to a substance during a period may not show an effect until many years after, the effect might even be transgenerational via an alteration of gene expression mechanisms (6, 8).
• The cocktail effect: individuals are exposed to a multitude of substances that can act synergistically (2, 8).
Although there is no official list of suspected endocrine disruptors, we have compiled information from different institutions and academic research reports in a single list. This does not necessarily mean that there is final proof that the substance is an endocrine disruptor, but there is some evidence of endocrine-disrupting effects in live models. It is important to note that proven endocrine disruptors are already in our default alerts.

  • Riou A. Les perturbateurs endocriniens dans les produits cosmétiques Th. D. Pharm., Lyon 1, 2016.
  • Réseau environnement santé. Liste SIN : Substitution Immédiate Nécessaire. Dossier de presse. Bruxelles ; 2011.
  • Stratégie nationale sur les perturbateurs endocriniens : Les substances expertisées pour l’année 2015.
  • (2015) ChemSec (International Chemical Secretariat). The 32 to leave behind, ChemSec, 2015 [online] Available at : [Accessed 2 Nov. 2016]
  • (2016). TEDX (The Endocrine Disruption Exchange) — List of potential endocrine disruptors used in cosmetics and personal care products . [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Oct. 2016].
  • Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark (2016). The EU list of potential endocrine disruptors. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2016].
  • World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Program on Chemical Safety (IPCS), 2002
  • Multigner L, Kadhel P. Perturbateurs endocriniens, concepts et réalité. Archives des Maladies Professionnelles et de l’Environnement. 2008 ; 69 :710–717
  • Comité de la prévention et de la précaution. Les perturbateurs endocriniens : quels risques ? Paris : Ministère de l’écologie et du développement durable ; 2003
  • ORS. Les perturbateurs endocriniens. N°10 : Les dossiers santé — environnement de l’ORS. 2013
  • WWF. Perturbateurs endocriniens et biodiversité. Rapport de recherche. WWF ; 2011.
  • Sheehan DM, Willingham E, Gaylor D, Bergeron JM, Crews D. No threshold dose for estradiol-induced sex reversal of turtle embryos : how little is too much ? Environmental Health Perspectives. 1999 ; 170 (2) : 155–159.
  • Bourguignon JP, Parent AS. L’origine développementale de la santé et des maladies : Le cas des perturbateurs endocriniens. Journal du Pédiatre Belge. 2010 ; 12(2) : 46–49.