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Phthalates - DEHP

Phthalates in Cosmetics

Cosmetics are a major part of our daily routine and many people never think to question the ingredient list in spite of  the often unpronounceable names. You might think that if it’s in the shops you can assume it’s safe. But you’d be wrong. Phthalates, (pronounced THAL-ates), a family of chemicals used in cosmetics, may pose significant health risks.

What are Phthalates?

Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make certain plastics softer, more pliable and make fragrances stick to skin.  They are endocrine / hormone disruptors commonly used in nail products, and they hide in "fragrance / parfum".  They are linked to developmental and reproductive health risks.

The cosmetics industry says phthalates are safe, but some companies have removed them from their products in response to public concern.

You'll find them in body lotions, hair sprays, perfumes, and deodorants. They help fragrances to linger, take the stiffness out of hair spray, and prevent nail polish from chipping. You’ll find them in detergents, food packaging, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and plastic toys. Not surprisingly, scientists have found them accumulating in our bodies.

You won’t always find them on the ingredient labels because disclosure such as in perfumes, is not always legally required. It will also surprise you to learn that phthalates have even been found in products made by companies that specifically state that their products do not contain phthalates.

We are finding that regulating agencies such as those in the EU are already starting to ban some Phthalates, especially in cosmetics, but there are still plenty of them out there.

Effects of Phthalates?

The greatest concern is the way phthalates affect reproductive organs and hormones, especially in prepubescent males. Some have been linked to breast and other cancers, allergies, obesity, thyroid, and other hormonal disruption.

Because of laws in place to protect fragrance formulations, companies do not have to disclose the ingredients of the fragrances put into products such as perfumes, make-up, hair care products, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, or even candles.

Other cosmetic products which often include DEP are bath oils and salts, eye shadow, hair spray, aftershave lotions, nail polish and nail polish remover. It can also be found in toothbrushes, plastic packaging, mosquito repellant, and even as an ingredient in aspirin coatings.

What can you do to reduce your exposure to Phthalates?

1. Use Less Plastic in the Kitchen

Avoid storing foods in PVC plastic storage containers. Avoid heating foods in plastic containers in the microwave. Plastic containers can leach chemicals such as phthalates into food.

Trying to avoid plastic wrapped meat can be difficult, especially when shopping at farmer’s markets. Often it means purchasing from the butcher’s counter instead of picking up protein from the meat counter or talking to a local farmer about wrapping in paper or other materials.

Zip lock bags come in handy for weekly meal preps as a way to store left overs or chopped vegetables. There are phthalate-free plastic bags available or a better option are biodegradable bags.

2. Avoid Products Made with Vinyl, PVC, and Plastic

If you are considering installing floors, try to avoid vinyl flooring especially if you have young children. There are also PVC free shower curtains which won’t stink up your bathroom for months with volatile organic compounds.

Look for PVC free air mattresses, and/or cover mattresses with a mattress protector.

Avoid plastic backpacks, pencil cases, and binders and opt for cloth or cardboard.

When it comes to toys it can be difficult to limit plastics. However, there are eco-friendly and phthalate free options available. Or you can opt for non-plastic toys made of wood, cloth, or metal. Blocks, teddy bears, and bicycles are classic toys for a reason!

3. Avoid Fragrances

Since companies do not have to disclose their fragrance ingredients and phthalates are often used to stabilize them, opting for fragrance-free cleaning and beauty products is key.

If you miss the “clean scents” of your favorite products you can always add a few drops of essential oils like lemon, lavender, and rosemary, and you can always make your own perfume.

4. Use only Natural Skincare & Cosmetics

Use natural, organic or certified organic beauty and personal care products. Avoid any products containing synthetic chemicals or synthetic fragrances. Read labels very carefully.





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