Toxic Beauty: Top 5 Ingredients to Avoid and Alternatives to Shop For

Image by Seksak Kerdkanno from Pixabay.


The global cosmetics industry is expected to grow to a staggering $805.61 billion in market value by 2023, with Canadians spending upwards of $5.3 billion on every-day beauty products including but not limited to lipstick, make-up, creams, moisturizers and soap.

But did you know that 8 in 10 of those products contain one or more harmful chemicals?

Many cosmetic companies and brands are still not being transparent and regulating the inclusion of what are deemed “toxic” compounds in their products. Many of these substances have led to detrimental side-effects, including cancer, hormonal imbalance, allergic reactions, brain damage, and more. There are currently over 125 ingredients that are suspected of carcinogenic properties.

Despite governmental efforts (the U.S.’s FDA, the European Union, and Health Canada to name a few) to curb the use of these substances and ensure public safety, there are many limitations that make such regulations somewhat unreliable.

For example, Health Canada’s Hotlist of over 500 banned and restricted ingredients:

  • Doesn’t review ingredients for safety before they’re put on shelf,
  • Doesn’t always consider the long-term health effects of using lower-dosage chemicals and,
  • Doesn’t always acknowledge that some substances may potentially be more harmful combined than they are individually.

This means it’s up to you to make sure you walk away a happy (and healthy!) customer.

Unfortunately, there are a plethora of different chemicals, acronyms, and labels that are hard to keep track of. On top of that, what is “natural” may not necessarily be safe, and “synthetic substances” aren’t always evil, making shopping a difficult process, even for those who know what they’re doing.

But it doesn’t have to be.

We’ve put together a comprehensive list of key ingredients to watch out for the next time you go shopping, and alternatives you can look for instead so you can live a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle.

Top 5 Toxic Ingredients and Healthier Alternatives

1. Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA), and Triethanolamine (TEA)

Ethanolamines are a chemical group made up of various amino acids and alcohols, primarily used as emulsifying agents in a wide range of personal care products, including shampoos, detergents, sunscreen, fragrances and make-up. The problem is when they’re combined with certain preservatives that break down into nitrogen, forming nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are known to cause cancer, and ethanolamines themselves have also been linked to liver tumors.

Alternatives: Natural emulsifiers like plant-sourced lecithins, beeswax; biodegradable surfactants that are coconut or palm oil-based, or comprised of glucose from corn or potatoes.

2. Parabens

Parabens in cosmetics are commonly used as preservatives to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. Common parabens to look out for are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben. Parabens are safe in small amounts, but most products contain multiple types of parabens simultaneously, which can lead to hormone imbalance and impaired fertility.

Alternatives: Tea tree oil, Vitamin E, antioxidants and other similarly natural preservatives.

3. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and by extension, sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are surfactants and cleaning agents found in grooming and bath products that help you absorb other chemicals. Unfortunately, they strip natural oils from the skin and have been known to induce skin irritation and allergic reactions.

Alternatives: Many of the alternatives to ethanolamines can be used as alternatives to SLS. Decyl and coco glucoside are safe options as well.

4. Phthalates

Phthalates in cosmetics are used as plasticizers to help substances like nail polish, lipstick or hair spray stick and hold to their intended surfaces. They’re also used as a solvent and fixative in certain fragrances. The most common phthalate is diethyl phthalate (DEP).

Alternatives: The best options are those without phthalates. If the product label lists “fragrance,” make sure it’s safe by checking if it’s sourced “from natural sources.”

5. Nanotechnology

Nanoparticles aren’t new to the cosmetics industry. They’re found in most personal care products and most commonly in sunscreens, anti-aging creams and moisturizers. Nanoparticles are used to more efficiently carry and enhance the absorption of various substances. Some are also known to have UV-resistant properties. However, studies have also shown that nanoparticles pose a risk, both to the human body and to the environment. Some of these risks include penetrating and damaging skin, cellular degeneration and oxidative stress.

Alternatives: The best practice here is to research the nanoparticles used in your cosmetics, and make sure they’re safe. Or, you can be nano-free by looking for products containing non-micronized particles, in addition to the other organic cosmetic options available to you.

Woman applying lipstick

(Image by luxstorm from Pixabay)

Now, this can get overwhelming. But remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day! It’s okay to not have a house full of clean products as long as you’re taking small steps to achieve a 100% non-toxic life. Hopefully this post has helped you take those first steps.

And if you’re unsure on where to start, join the Box Club! This subscription box brings together trustworthy brands like Tom’s and Osea all in one place – your doorstep, making it an easy way to discover and sample new products and start building an Eco-lifestyle.


With Love and Compassion,

Team Karunaki


Why Your Coffee Habit Isn’t Eco-Friendly (And Ways to Make Sure It Is)

Photo by Free-Photos from Pixabay

You get out of bed. You go through your morning motions. But most importantly, whether it’s at home or on the go, you’ve just got to have a cup of morning joe to start off your day. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately for you, regularly consuming coffee has a huge impact on the environment. And you’re not alone. Two-thirds of the population in Canada drinks at least one cup of coffee each day. But while the coffee industry (and our morning energy levels) are flourishing, the environment isn’t. So let’s look at why drinking coffee is bad for the environment, and how we can be more eco-friendly coffee lovers.

Disposable Coffee Cups 

Disposable coffee cup on the street

Image by Jasmin Sessler from Pixabay

This one is a no-brainer. Around 600 billion coffee cups are used each year across the globe, and a majority of them are either tossed as litter or get thrown in the wrong bin. In fact, most single-use coffee cups that do get placed in the right bins still don’t end up being recycled because of their plastic lining. The lining keeps the cup waterproof, but is difficult to separate from the paper, making recycling the cup near impossible. Put two and two together and you’ve got landfills filled to the brim with waste, and as we’ve discussed in a previous post, that waste isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The Drink Itself

And while most people have their eyes on the cup they’re holding, it’s also important to be conscious of the drink inside it.

Making coffee

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

Producing a single cup of coffee uses a whopping 37 gallons of water and releases about 150g of carbon dioxide. To give some perspective, the same amount of resources could be spent on two-and-a-half hot baths and a one-kilometer drive.

What You Can Do

In the face of all this doom and gloom, the easiest solution would be to simply give up coffee altogether. But we understand that that’s easier said than done, so here are some things you can do to be a more eco-friendly drinker.

  • 1. Look into Alternatives

  • Before you consider dropping your morning cup of joy like yesterday’s trash, you might want to see what other options you have. Many people are making the change to black tea because it achieves the same effect while being comparatively easier on the environment. A study in 2010 on Darjeeling tea carbon emissions found that both organic and conventional tea has only half the amount of global warming potential (GWP) as the same amount of coffee.

    Comparison between a cup of tea and a cup of coffee in terms of global warming potential (Graph courtesy of Doublet and Jungbluth, 2010).

  • 2. Ditch the Single-Use Cup

  • If you absolutely must have coffee in your life, that’s also perfectly fine. Just avoid taking it with a disposable cup at all costs. Get a travel mug or reusable bottle/cup/tumbler instead and take it with you!

    However, keep in mind that not all reusable containers are created equal. Always look for the right product to fit your needs. For example, get one that is big enough for your usual coffee order (typically, standard cup sizes come between 8-20 oz. It’s best to aim for at least 16oz, the equivalent of most large cups). The material of your container is also important, as all of them (from glass to silicone) have their own pros and cons. We recommend stainless steel, as it lasts much longer than most other materials and is 100% recyclable.

  • 3. Buy From People Who Care

  • Coffee is coffee, right? 

    Not quite. There are many coffee brewers who are doing their part for the sake of an eco-friendly product, but there are also some who aren’t caring as much as they should.

    Research the coffee brands that you purchase from. Check to see if there’s a certification label or two. The most common ones include Rainforest Alliance Certified, Fair Trade USA Certified and Bird-Friendly. And if you’re struggling to find certified coffee, it’s always best to go for shade-grown, organic and/or fair trade coffee.

    Coffee line

    Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

    Remember, little changes go a long way! Even if you can only follow one of the above tips, it still makes a lasting impact, so take it slow, and do what you can. Eventually you’ll be living the Eco-life in no-time.

    And we hope that you found this post enlightening and the tips useful. As always, even if it doesn’t quite resonate with you, chances are there’s someone else in your life who’d appreciate it, so please, spread the Eco-love!

    With Love and Compassion,

    Team Karunaki


    How do glass, aluminium, paper and plastic actually get recycled?

    Ever wondered what happens to an item after you put it in the recycling  bin? Where does it go? How long does it take to be turned into something new? What happens to used plastic water bottles? What about cardboard or those takeout leftover containers?
    In this article, we will break down the recycling process of glass, aluminum,  paper and cardboard, and plastic.

    Glass is made of sand, limestone and other raw material. When it is recycled, it is turned into cullets, a granular material of crushed up jars and bottles of glass. The reason we recycle glass is because it is not biodegradable and takes millions of years to breakdown in landfills. One kilogram of cullet replaces 1.2 kg of raw materials, according to James V. Nordmeyer, vice president of global sustainability at Owens-Illinois, a major manufacturer of glass bottles and containers. Glass unlike other recyclables, can be recycled forever. After it gets picked up from your recycling bin, your glass goes to a sorting facility where it will be sorted by color. After the sorting, the different types of glass are then crushed into tiny pieces. Contaminants are then removed from them. These contaminants could be anything from tiny pieces of metal or plastic that may have made their way into the glass piles accidentally. The cullets are then melted  and are stripped of their color through oxidization. And finally, they are then moulded into various products and sold.

    Did you know aluminum can be recycled and reach the shelves as new in as little as six weeks? It is also one of the easiest materials to recycle because for most aluminum productsthe metal is not consumed during the products lifetimebut it is simply used making it easy to recycle without losing its intrinsic properties. Aluminum is a metal that is mined from the earth’s crust as Bauxite ore. Recycling it therefore  prevents approximately five percent of the total Bauxite ore mining in the world. Aluminum cans for instance are recycled by first being separated from other metals in a conveyor belt. The pieces of aluminum are then shredded and ready for melting in furnaces of 730 degrees. The furnaces are then flipped over, melted aluminum comes out of them into the ground into separate containers, creating aluminum blocks. These blocks are assigned different purposes such as creating new cans, creating aluminum packaging, and  even aerospace parts!. Other benefits of recycling aluminum are preventing fossil fuel emission and preventing more than 90 000 000 tons of toxic carbon dioxide into the air every year. In fact, the impact of recycling aluminum is so great that recycling a drink can made of aluminum saves the energy equivalent of a one mile car ride, equal to energy that can power your tv for a few hours. In fact, 75 percent of the new aluminum produced since the 1880s is still in use in one form or another. Making one aluminum can from scratch uses as much energy as making 20 from recycled aluminum. 

    Paper is also easy to recycle. Unless it is recycled, paper becomes part of garbage dumps and landfills, contributing to problems like greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Paper recycling can alleviate many of these problems by turning this scrap paper into new paper. So how is paper recycled? Well, first it gets collected from your recycling bin. It is then separated and graded into similarly graded paper. This is important because different grades of paper have different amounts of fiber in them. The graded paper is then turned into pulp using water, hydrogen peroxide and caustic soda soap. This pulp is cleaned of off any non-paper debris and is now ready for de-inking! Once it is whitened, it is fed into rollers and then dried. The dried pulp is then turned into paper. Unlike Aluminum, paper loses some of its quality after recycling and will eventually become non recyclable. Therefore, it is encouraged to use paper resources responsibly! By recycling your paper, you save trees and landfill space!

    Of all recyclables, plastic is the hardest to recycle because recycling it is more expensive than creating it. Not all plastic can be recycled.  Different types of plastics must be processed in different ways and some recycling facilities are only capable of recycling one type of plastic. Sometimes packaging contains more than one polymer type, which makes it more difficult to recycle, so recycling facilities don’t bother recycling it. The first step in recycling plastic is stripping it of any impurities like labels, and glue particles. Different kinds of plastics are labelled differently based on the polymers they contain. This is usually indicated by a number at the bottom of the plastic item. Plastics that can be recycled are indicated by one of the following numbers: 1,2,4,5.  Those indicated by 3,6 or 7 cannot be recycled. Some of these even contain toxics and chemicals harmful to human health, that can leech into our food or water supply. The process of recycling consists of collecting, sorting, shredding, cleaning, melting, and finally making pellets to be sold to manufacturers to make new plastic products. Of all recyclable materials, plastic is the most harmful to our health and planet, and the least recycled. Out of all the plastic supply ever created in the world, only nine percent of it has ever been recycled. Out of the 91 percent that still exists, 12 percent of it has been incinerated and 79 percent is still currently in landfills polluting our planet, and hurting our environment. Plastic has a life span of over 500 years which means that every plastic bottle you have ever used, your parents have used, your grandparents have used, and their parents have used is still on this planet! Don’t let these figures discourage you. The energy saved from recycling just a single plastic bottle can power a 100 watt light bulb for nearly an hour. So doing your part in recycling plastic is totally worth it!
    So there you have it! Knowing everything you know about recycling, what are your key takeaways? What will you do to reduce your ecological footprint on the planet? If you like this article, share it with your friends so they too, can learn all about recycling!

    With Love and Compassion,

    Team Karunaki

    1st Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash

    2nd  Photo by Chutter Snap on Unsplash

    3rd Photo by Elevate  on Unsplash

    4th  Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans  on Unsplash

    5th Photo by Brian Yurasits


      What is actually recyclable?


      Before you recycle your plastic bottles and pizza boxes from your Friday night party or Netflix and chill date night, hold on a second. Have you ever stopped to wonder how much of the material you put out for recycling actually get recycled? Newsflash: A very small percentage! Some of it is due to a phenomenon called wishcycling, where consumers dump non-recyclables in the recycling bin contaminating the whole batch. Some recycling trucks refuse to pick up recycling bins if they notice items that don’t belong there. The contents of that bin then end up turning into trash that gets dumped in landfills. Another way to contaminate the recycling materials is by leaving food waste products in recyclables. For example, a glass container with food grease, mold, or leftover food does not get recycled. Upwards of 25 per cent of the waste put in recycling bins is also rendered non-recyclable by contamination — either by food waste or other materials. We are now in what we call a recycling crisis, and are shifting towards waste reduction over recycling, as a solution to the problem.

      Ninety percent of plastic is not recycled in Canada, according to this weather network article. Countries are no longer buying recyclables or secretly burning them. As reported by CBC, as of January 1, 2018, China no longer imports much of the plastic and paper we have been shipping there for decades. Moreover, a recent dispute between Canada and the Philippines resulted in 69 shipping containers of garbage labelled as recyclable material in Canada, being brought back to Canada, this time labeled as toxic waste. This ordeal lasted six years, and Canada finally had to foot a 1.2 million dollar bill to return the mislabelled containers of plastic, contaminated by household garbage such as dirty diapers. A third of this waste was disposed of in the Philippines, and the rest was sent back to Canada to be incinerated after it was fumigated in the Philippines. As a result, our recyclables are ending up in landfills contributing to the recycling crisis. Because more and more countries are refusing to buy our recyclable materials, those recyclables have no where to go and end up in landfills. Moreover, a lot of the plastic we produce  is dumped in the ocean and is damaging wildlife because there is nowhere else to put it. A reported study by National Geographic, conducted by the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, says that of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic ever produced globally, 6.3 billion metric tons of it has become plastic waste, leaving only nine percent of it to be recycled. The rest of it is accumulating in landfills and eventually in our oceans, killing precious wildlife, polluting beautiful beaches, and threatening our food chain. The plastic that does end up getting recycled, is in fact up-cycled as melting and reusing plastic is complicated because no plastic is pure, and most likely has other compounds in it as contaminants. As a result, plastic sent out for recycling, gets turned into fibers to make clothing or other products. Plastic is not biodegradable, and takes hundreds if not thousands of years to break down. When it does break down, it does not break down at the molecular level, and micro-plastic particles than end up being mistaken for food by planktons, thus killing planktons, fish, and the birds that consume them. As a result, it is important to avoid plastic all together, as much as you can.

      It’s easy to get overwhelmed and think that your recycling efforts are useless because not everything you put in your bins actually gets recycled.  Given that Canadians produce close to a ton of waste per capita every year, it’s worth reducing your waste footprint. But don’t despair. Every municipality has its own set of rules when it comes to recycling and it’s important to educate yourself on what is and isn’t recyclable, and how to properly dispose of your recyclable to make sure they don’t unnecessarily end up in the trash. In some municipalities, pizza boxes are not recyclable because they came into contact with what is considered food waste, and are therefore contaminated goods. In other municipalities, such as Ottawa, pizza boxes go in the green bin for composting!

      So as a planet loving person what can you do about the current recycling crisis? Find out what items are recyclable outside of recycling bin initiatives and resist the urge to toss those items in the trash because it’s easier. Educate yourself on what is recyclable and what isn’t. According to this HGTV article, things like grocery plastic bags, paper coffee cups and shredded paper are not recyclable. Things like electronics, if disposed of in garbage, pollute our landfills. Research businesses and places that recycle or repurpose electronic goods and donate your electronics to them. Choose the planet over convenience and opt for sustainable options as a consumer. Choose compostable biodegradable materials or opt for long term use items over single use items. Opt out of things like plastic straws and take out containers. Have a cook out instead of ordering in. Use rags instead of paper towels. Ditch disposable paper floor cleaners, for a mop. Trade plastic grocery bags for reusable ones.

      Support businesses that offer sustainable products and vote with your dollars to stop supporting companies that create so much waste. Little by little, we will make a difference.

      With Love and Compassion,

      Team Karunaki

      1st Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

      2nd  Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

      3rd Photo by Bas Emmen on Unsplash

      4th  Photo by Lin Jonsson on Unsplash


      The Box Club is Here. Join the Club.

      Karunaki announces the official launch of the eco box club!

      Karunaki is proud to announce the official launch of the eco box club. It has been welcomed with open arms at the Toronto Pride event and we are excited to launch it publicly. You can now receive everyday eco-friendly, healthy, cruelty free, organic day to day products at your doorstep every month, leaving you with more time to spend with your loved ones, and do things you love. It is estimated that eco-friendly alternatives to everyday products are X percent more costly than their non eco-friendly counterparts. At Karunaki, that is not the case!  We believe in making it easy and convenient for you to get products you love, in alignment with your values, without having to pay a premium to do it! Convenience does not have to cost more.

      You can now feel good about making a positive impact on the planet without hurting your wallet! Your everyday bath, bedroom, beauty and household items can be shipped right to your door step, saving your precious time to spend with your loved ones. At Karunaki, we do the work for you. You don’t have to carefully research and study every brand yourself. We know how time consuming it can be and we value your time. We do the work for you so you don’t have to. We evaluate every brand we work with and make sure they meet the sustainability criteria we have for them.

      Want to see which tier is right for you? Click below to have a look!


      We even have a tier for every budget type and taste! On top of not charging you a premium and keeping our prices equal or lower than their mass produced counterparts, we also cater to all budget and commitment types. If you’d like to go all in, and commit to a year, your subscription box price totals 19.99$/month including shipping! If you’d like to pay up front for 6 months, your cost will be 29.99$/month including shipping, and if you pay month to month, to test out the waters, your cost would be 39.99$/month including shipping.

      At Karunaki, we believe in making eco-friendly products accessible to all and are committed to sending you the best quality products for you and your family, at affordable prices, so you can spend your time and money on people and things you love!

      With Love and Compassion,

      Team Karunaki

      2nd Photo by Baylee Gramling on Unsplash

      3rd Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash