Restricted Ingredients

At Mad Penguin, we hold our products to the strictest standards when it comes to clean and effective formulas. We're not looking to jump on the "natural skincare" bandwagon by just having natural formulas— that's not enough. Our goal is to disrupt what the skin care industry thinks clean should be. That's why each and every one of our products is painstakingly formulated to go beyond the basic restrictions. Instead of making you guess what "clean" means, we want you to know exactly where we stand. These ingredients will never appear in Mad Penguin products.

No Sulfates

Sulfates are a broad term for several different chemicals, primarily sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, which are used in products like cleansers and toothpastes to create a lathering effect. While there are lots of claims on the internet that sulfates cause cancer, there's no actual evidence to back that up. However, there is plenty of evidence that sulfates can be really irritating to a lot of people's skin, so we avoid using them for this reason—and because there's no way to ensure that sulfates are derived from a vegan source..

No Silicones

Silicones are absolutely great at trapping substances against your skin, which is why they've become incredibly popular in beauty products that claim to be hydrating—they have the ability to keep moisturizing ingredients on your skin for a long time. However, they don't just trap the good stuff—they keep everything, including oil, dirt, and bacteria. This can lead to breakouts, and can ultimately make your skin drier and impede cell renewal..

No Drying Alcohols

Many skin care companies use drying alcohols in their products, and we understand why—they feel really silky and weightless. But there are ways to achieve these effects that don't leave your skin as parched as the Sahara. Drying alcohols literally break down the skin's barrier, which means that your skin can easily absorb both good ingredients, like Vitamin C, but also any toxins it comes into contact with.

No Added Fragrance

It's certainly more challenging to make lovely-smelling skin care products that don't contain fragrances, but we think it's worth the extra effort. Fragrances can cause allergic reactions for people with sensitive skin, and we'd rather err on the side of caution.

No Phthalates

Phthalates can make plastics more flexible, and are legal to include in skincare products in the United States. However, they are restricted in the EU because there's a lot of evidence that they may be really problematic, including having the ability to disrupt any system in your body that's controlled by hormones. They may cause tumors, affect reproductive health, and be harmful for pregnancies—and there's also evidence that they're bad for the environment. .

No Parabens

Phthalates can make plastics more flexible, and are legal to include in skincare products in the United States. However, they are restricted in the EU because there's a lot of evidence that they may be really problematic, including having the ability to disrupt any system in your body that's controlled by hormones. They may cause tumors, affect reproductive health, and be harmful for pregnancies—and there's also evidence that they're bad for the environment..

No synthetic Dyes

Sometimes referred to as "coal tar dyes," most synthetic dyes stem from non-renewable sources that aren't great for the environment. They're also known irritants for some people's skin, and may have effects on issues like ADHD, although there's limited evidence to support this. Still, we'd rather stay safe than sorry.

No Propylene Glycol

Used to keep products temperature-stable and help our skin absorb active ingredients more easily, this common skin care ingredient can also cause serious skin irritation. And while increasing certain ingredients' ability to penetrate the skin is great, it leaves the skin more exposed to environmental toxins, too.

No Formaldehyde

While formaldehyde is an absolutely excellent preservative, it's not so great for our skin. There's some strong evidence that it may cause cancer, and while this ingredient may not be terribly dangerous with limited exposure, it may build up in your system over time


These ethanolamine compounds are used to emulsify ingredients and balance pH, but they've also been linked to everything from liver cancer to hormone disruption. They're still legal in the U.S., but DEA is illegal in the European Union, and we'd just as soon avoid them.

No MEG Compounds
PEG compounds can perform a bunch of functions in skin care products, including softening, thickening, and moisturizing. However, there's a chance they may be carcinogenic, and if they're used on broken skin (think acne or a shaving cut), they can cause irritation.

This compound is frequently used as a stabilizer to keep products looking, feeling, and smelling the same after a long time on the shelf. However, it can also disrupt your skin cells, making it easier for anything to get in—both good ingredients and environmental toxins..

Did we mention all our products are cruelty-free and vegan?

No 1,4 Dioxane

Used as a solvent in some cleansers, 1,4-Dioxane has also been shown to be irritating. It's also been shown to harm the liver and kidneys in high concentrations, and may potentially be cancer-causing.

No Aminomethyl Proponal

Sometimes used to adjust the pH in skin care products, this ingredient can be irritating to skin, and when mixed with other chemicals that may be found in skincare products, can form carcinogenic compounds.

No Animal Fat and Musk

Mad Penguin is a vegan brand, and we are careful to avoid any animal-derived ingredients, including animal fat and musk. While ingredients like lanolin, which is a form of animal fat, are safe to use, they're not in line with our views on environmental and animal safety..

No Benzalkonium

Used to keep bacteria from growing in certain skin care products and to create foam in others, chloride is also a common irritant, and can be especially bad for people with asthma and eczema.

No Benzophenone

This ingredient is commonly used to keep products safe from sun exposure. However, there's some evidence that it may build up in our systems over time, and can affect reproductive health, hormones, and may possibly be linked to cancer.

No BPA Bisphenol

Commonly used in beauty product packaging, this compound can leach from the bottles into the products themselves. We've seen some compelling evidence that BPA may affect children's developmental growth, and may also increase blood pressure in adults..

No Polysorbates

Frequently derived from lauric acid (which in turn often comes from coconuts) polysorbates are often used to help skin care ingredients blend together. While the amount of polysorbates used in most skin care products are probably safe, there are concerns about reproductive and organ toxicity, as well as endocrine disruption and potential skin irritation, so we'd just as soon avoid them.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole

Commonly used as a preservative, we've seen some studies that suggest BHA may negatively impact hormone and reproductive systems—and it can definitely be an irritant to many people's skin..

No coal tar

Sometimes used in products that are intended to treat psoriasis, coal tar may also be carcinogenic in high doses, which makes sense, given that it's derived from burning coal. In small doses, it can also easily irritate skin, and since it's frequently tested on animals, there's no ensuring it's cruelty-free.

No Formaldehyde-reelasing agents

Even if a product's label claims that it's formaldehyde-free, some of its ingredients may release small amounts of formaldehyde over time. The list of these chemicals is long, but here are a few to watch for: diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, bromopol, and glyoxal. Formaldehyde can easily cause allergic reactions, may possibly build up in the system, and be cancer-causing..

No Hydroquinone

Commonly used in skin brightening products to help lift dark spots—and in extremely problematic "skin lighteners" that are marketed almost exclusively towards people of color—hydroquinone has been banned in the EU, but is still available in the United States. It's been linked to issues like skin cancer, and may harm the upper respiratory tract if inhaled.

No Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate

Used as a foaming agent in cleansers, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is problematic because it's a penetration enhancer—it alters the skin's structure to help other chemicals penetrate deeper. This may sound like a good thing for helping us absorb good ingredients, but it can help potential toxins absorb more readily, as well.

No Thimerosal

Thimerosal can be used as a preservative, as well as a brightening agent for the skin. However, it's derived from mercury, which makes it potentially very dangerous. Mercury is well-known for its ability to damage the kidneys, as well as the digestive, immune, and nervous systems..

No Triclocarban / Troclosan

An antibacterial that can be found in cleansers, triclocarban may be irritating to skin, and has also been linked to disrupting our hormonal systems and organ toxicity. It's also simply a much stronger antibacterial than is really necessary for home use—it was originally intended for hospital workers.