Phthalates are in just about everything! This might explain why I get SO many people asking me what the heck are phthalates, why are they in so many products and how worried should we be?
What Are Phthalates?
Pronounced as “f-THAL-ates”, phthalates are chemicals that are generally used to soften plastics like in vinyl flooring and shower curtains but, what I’m going to cover in this blog is more about how they are used in conventional beauty products. Phthalates can actually be referred to as a “family” of chemicals due to there being so many different types, all with different uses. Phthalates prevent nail polish from chipping, they stop your hairspray from going too stiff, they can also act as a binding agent and they’re used often to make a scent last longer, think perfume or anything scented such as moisturisers, detergents, makeup, shampoo...
Are Phthalates Harmful?
Phthalates can cause a range of long-term side effects. Our body can actually absorb them either through the skin, they can be inhaled, or in the case of being used in soft plastics, they can be ingested (this happens when you heat your mother’s leftover lasagne in a soft plastic container in the microwave.) Not so hungry now, are you?
Phthalates are most famously known for being hormone disruptors. This means that when phthalates are absorbed by the body, they can cause hormonal imbalances that can lead to cancer, reproductive issues including miscarriages and birth defects. Increased levels of phthalates like DEP and DBP are also known to decrease sperm count and quality, leading to male infertility. There is also research to suggest they can damage the liver, kidneys and lungs. The most vulnerable to the harmful effects of phthalates are unfortunately pregnant and breast-feeding women.
This family of toxic chemicals in cosmetics are actually so toxic that they were banned by the European Union in 2003. Unfortunately, they are still widely used in cosmetics in Australia, the US and Canada today.
How to Identify Skincare Products with Phthalates?
Now that you know what phthalates can do, you’re probably thinking about checking the label of every skincare product you own. If you want to avoid products containing this chemical, then always make sure to read the label. You’ll need to keep in mind however that a lot of phthalates are hidden within the word “fragrance”. If a products label just says “fragrance” and doesn’t break down what the fragrance is made of (example, essential oils or fruit extracts) then that’s a big red flag! Some natural brands will write “fragrance” with an asterisk *, then below it will advise that it’s made from essential oils or natural substances in which case you’ve got the green light.
Phthalate Family Portrait for you below.
How to Avoid them
When there are SO many harmful chemicals in all of the products we use on a daily basis, there are either one of two things you can do. One: you can ignore everything, stop caring or worrying about your health or that of your kids and just continue living the way you were OR 2: you can start switching your personal care products slowly but surely to toxin free, organic, natural alternatives. Personally, I can’t for the life of me go back to using regular over-the-counter products. The further I go down the rabbit hole of learning about the harmful effects of everything I was using, the further away I want to distance myself from those products, no matter how much I loved them.
Here at Natural Society, we take pride in checking the label on every product for you before it goes on the site, and NONE of our products contain harmful toxins.
Author: Reema Poojari