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June 13, 2022
Policies & Claims

Credo Beauty's Dirty List, Explained

Yashi Shrestha

Credo Beauty is well-known in the world of clean beauty. Much of their ethos is informed by two questions: How will this affect human health? What’s the impact on the environment?

These questions also shape The Dirty List, the cornerstone of the Credo Clean Standard. Brands embarking on the clean beauty journey often look to this standard as a roadmap as they navigate through the various safety, sourcing, sustainability, and ethics hoops.

The Dirty List is a comprehensive outline of ingredients that are banned, known as a restricted substances list (RSL), because they don’t meet Credo’s standards for human and environmental health. Credo isn’t the only one with a list though—see the list of the most commonly banned ingredients across major clean beauty retailers.

To better understand Credo’s scope, the European Union has banned over 1,300 ingredients while the United States has banned 30. The Dirty List outlines over 2,700 ingredients that brands agree to formulate without, in addition to controlling for contamination.

Let’s take a closer look into what renders an ingredient “dirty” on The Dirty List.


by PDPics via pixabay

It’s a fast track to The Dirty List when a possible or increased risk of cancer is a listed side effect. The beauty industry continues to debate the safety of many cosmetic ingredients. Few are studied to understand the long-term effects, but we do know that exposure to certain ingredients can have serious impacts our health.

Known carcinogens topping the list include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), ethanolamines, ethoxylated ingredients, and formaldehyde. Something to note about formaldehyde: while it’s not typically listed on ingredient labels, formaldehyde “releasers” and “donors” are. This includes ingredients like DMDM hydantoin and diazolidinyl urea.

Hormone Disruption

by kosmos111 via Getty Images

We’re constantly absorbing chemicals through the air we breathe, food we eat, water we drink, and the products we apply to our skin. This isn’t a bad thing—chemicals aren’t inherently bad, and certainly aren’t to be feared. Some are beneficial or benign. But some are toxic, and can also mimic or even interfere with the hormones in our body.

So how insidious is hormone disruption?

The endocrine system makes regular, small adjustments in our hormones that can have profound effects on our development and biology. Now, imagine that hormonal dose doubling from your favorite product on your bathroom shelf—it’s a recipe for potentially greater, and damaging, developmental and biological health issues.

Credo explicitly names BHA, chemical sunscreens, parabens, phthalates, resorcinol, triclosan and triclocarban as hormone disruptors to avoid.

Allergies & Sensitization

by pixelshot via Canva

When our body detects a foreign substance, our immune system triggers chemical antibodies to combat it. Sometimes, this can cause a chemical overreaction that eventually develops into an allergy. Allergies can develop at any time. They are brought on by sensitization, which is when one is repeatedly exposed to a chemical.

Allergens that top the list include BHA, butylated hydroxytolune (BTA), hydroquinone, methyl cellosolve (or 2-), methoxyethanol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and resorcinal.

Toxic to Human Body

by iuriimaksymivphotos via Canva

While it’s important to note that the dose really makes the poison, we’re only beginning to understand the effects that persistent exposure can have on human health. Too often, ingredients are written off as “safe” because the data hasn’t determined it to be “unsafe.” But how can we really label an ingredient as safe or unsafe when we don’t study its long-term impacts on our health?

Credo lists few products as toxic to humans if it contains the likes of methyl cellosolve (or 2-), methoxyethanol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and toluene.

Toxic to Environment

by Mabel Amber via pixabay

Just as the body is like a sponge, the environment is too—consistently absorbing chemicals over time. More and more we’re finding ingredients such as parabens accumulating in our air, water and soil. While we know some of these chemicals have a negative impact, many of them haven’t been studied for their long-term impacts on the environment.

Chemical sunscreens, cyclic silicones, and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) are considered toxic to the environment on Credo’s RSL.

In a market saturated with greenwashing claims, The Dirty List can act as a starting point for customers to delve into the vast clean beauty landscape. Like Sephora's Clean + Planet Positive program, it sets a reliable industry standard that makes clean beauty approachable. Most importantly, it’s a conversation starter for customers to ask themselves, “What am I comfortable with exposing my body to?” and, “What impact do my personal care habits have on the world?"

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