by Heather Rothbauer-Wanish
For many women, applying makeup and other personal care products is a normal, everyday activity. The possibilities are almost endless for anyone choosing a blush, foundation, powder, lotion, or shampoo. From a variety of brand names to choose from, along with various ingredients, how does a person decide which products are best? And, how do you know which product is least likely to harm both your skin and your body?
When choosing cosmetics and personal care products like shampoo, conditioner, and lotions, it is important to consider if the products have parabens or phthalates in them. Both parabens and phthalates have been in the news as products to avoid, although doing so can prove to be somewhat difficult.
The American Chemistry Council represents companies that safely utilize various chemical compounds, including phthalates. According to the www.americanchemistry.com website, phthalates are a family of compounds whose primary use is as a vinyl softener; they are colorless, oily liquids with little or no odor and low volatility. Some phthalates are utilized as solvents or fixatives to help fragrances last longer.
According to www.thedailygreen.com, a website powered by Good Housekeeping, phthalates are known as “endocrine disruptors” and have been shown to cause damage neurologically and in the reproductive system. “Most of what we put on our skin is absorbed,” says Lisa Petty, a holistic wellness consultant and author of Living Beauty: Feel Great, Look Fabulous, and Live Well. As stated on www.theworldwomenwant.com, phthalates are chemicals that may damage the liver, kidneys, or lungs. While people may be exposed to phthalates in their current products, there are other phthalate-free alternatives that could easily be used to replace this ingredient.
When reading the labels on makeup products or other personal care products, phthalates will seldom be listed as ingredients. Rather, consumers must understand that phthalates can be recognized by their chemical names or abbreviations. According to www.thedailygreen.com, there are three steps consumers can take to ensure they are identifying products that have, or may have, phthalates:
- Read the ingredients. Items such as DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), and BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) are often found in personal care products such as nail polish, deodorants, and shampoos.
- Be wary of the term “fragrance.” A product that adds a “fragrance” to a product may be adding a combination of compounds, which may include phthalates.
- Choose plastics with the recycling code 1, 2, or 5. Recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain bisphenol A or phthalates.
According to naturalskincaresecrets.com, parabens are the second most common ingredient in skin care products — water is the first ingredient. While parabens are the most widely used preservatives in the United States, they may cause rashes and other allergic reactions. While many products may claim to be “natural” or “organic,” consumers should always be cautioned to read the labels of their chosen products. Today, parabens are utilized in an estimated 75 to 90 percent of all personal care products. While preservatives are essential for many personal care products, there are other natural preservatives that are safe and effective.
Similar to phthalates, parabens are found in hundreds of beauty products and can potentially cause long-term effects. Alexandra Spunt, co-author of No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products stated, “These antibacterial preservatives are cheap and effective — which is probably why more than three quarters of all cosmetics use them.” As Spunt points out, little is known about the long-term effects of parabens and our exposure to them. Like phthalates, parabens have been linked to mimicking hormones, causing further complications for consumers. “Parabens can migrate to body tissue when applied topically, and lab studies have shown that they can mimic estrogen and have been detected in breast tumors,” Sprout said.
Because the personal care products industry is largely unregulated, there are still more than 10,500 ingredients that have never really been evaluated for safety. The best way to avoid parabens and phthalates is to purchase products that signify they are paraben-free or phthalate-free. And, luckily for consumers, there are a wide variety of products in various price ranges that can suit your natural personal product needs.
If you are seeking paraben-free or phthalate-free personal care products, check out the Environmental Working Group’s online website at www.ewg.org. The databases available include makeup, body lotion, skin care, and dental care. Products are rated according to: overall hazard, cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity, and use restrictions.
For any woman seeking to use more natural and healthier personal care products, the information is available. However, it may require research, determination, and diligence to find the healthier products. While we may not know exactly what happens when these preservatives are used, it is better to be safe than sorry. And, isn’t your health worth it?
Read More: Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
Products to Consider
- Avalon Organics
- Suki’s Naturals
- Tom’s of Maine
- Aubrey Organics
- Dr. Bronner’s
- Burts Bees
- California Baby
- Dr. Hauschka
- Nature’s Gate
- Kiss My Face
- St. Ives
- Pure and Natural
- Garnier Fructis
- Sunrider Products
Definition from Environmental Working Group
Parabens (Propyl, Isopropyl, Butyl, and Isobutylparabens): Parabens are estrogen-mimicking preservatives, found in breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied. The CDC has detected parabens in virtually all Americans surveyed. According to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, longer chain parabens like propyl and butyl paraben and their branched counterparts, isopropyl and isobutylparabens, may disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders.
Phthalates: A growing number of studies link this chemical to male reproductive system disorders. Pregnant women should avoid nail polish containing dibutyl phathalate. Everyone should avoid products with “fragrance” indicating a chemical mixture that may contain phthalates.
Information Regarding Makeup and Personal Care Products Safety
- Use less. Cut down on the number of products you use to minimize the chemicals that come in contact with your skin.
- Avoid dark hair dyes. Many contain coal tar ingredients that have been linked to cancer in some studies.
- Reduce use of powders. Avoid baby powder for newborns and infants. Several ingredients common in powder have been linked to cancer and other lung problems when they are inhaled.
- Be fragrance free. Read the label to avoid deceptions. The word “fragrance” should not appear.
- Polish less often. Nail polish is one of the few products that routinely contains ingredients linked to birth defects. Paint your toenails and skip the fingernails. Paint nails in a well-ventilated room, or outside. Don’t use nail polish while you’re pregnant.