One of the remarkable things about skincare products is how shocking it is that certain ingredients, for example, formaldehyde or parabens, are ever even allowed in them. One category of those types of ingredients is phthalates. Used in skincare, they are total no-nos for us for a multitude of reasons.
In the article below, we discuss what are phthalates in cosmetics, why they’re used, and why they should be avoided. We think by the time you finish reading this, you’ll want to go home and make sure these dangerous ingredients aren’t lurking in your skin care products — or anything else.
IN A NUTSHELL
Ingredient Category: Strengtheners, preservatives
Main Benefit: Phthalates help products last longer and make them stronger.
Find It In: Shampoos, makeup, skincare, toys, plastic containers among many other things.
Recommended Products: All Fleur & Bee products are phthalate free.
What Are Phthalates?
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are esters of phthalic acid. They are used primarily as preservatives, but they also make things strong. And by things, we mean actual, literal things like the packaging your food comes in (not the food — the actual package!), kids’ products like toys, nail polish, perfumes, and vinyl flooring. Yes, the same group of ingredients often used to make your floor may also be in your cosmetics.
While phthalates are still used in the U.S. in skincare and other cosmetics, many are banned in the E.U. If that doesn’t give you pause, we’re not sure what would.
Ready to check your ingredients lists? Here is a whole list of phthalates to look out for:
- DBP (dibutyl phthalate)
- DINP (diisononyl phthalate)
- DEP (diethyl phthalate)
- DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate)
- DMP (dimethyl phthalate)
- BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate)
- DNOP (di-n-octyl phthalate)
- DIDP (diisodecyl phthalate)
Why Are Phthalates Used in Skin Care?
Phthalates are used in skincare and makeup for a lot of different reasons. Here are just a few of them:
Phthalates are used as preservatives - When used in skin care phthalates can make products last much longer than they would without them.
Phthalates make color last longer - Phthalates also help preserve the color in cosmetics, which is why you need to look out for them in makeup.
Phthalates make fragrances last longer - Fragrances frequently have phthalates in them because they make the scent last longer.
Phthalates make products stronger - Phthalates are also used to make products stronger and more flexible, which is why they’re used in products like nail polish.
Phthalates make products less stiff - Because it can allow certain products to be more flexible, this is one of the main reasons they’re used in hairspray. Without phthalates, many hairsprays would be so stiff, your hair wouldn’t move.
Although phthalates clearly have some benefits in skincare and makeup, they are absolutely not worth it, especially since other, safer ingredients can do the same things just as well.
Why Phthalates Should Be Avoided!
Kind of seems like there are a lot of advantages to phthalates, doesn’t it? So, why are they so dangerous? Read on to find out.
Phthalates cause endocrine disruption - Of all the reasons not to use phthalates, this is usually cited as the most common one. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors which can cause a whole host of problems. For that reason, phthalates are thought to cause cancers such as breast cancer.
This can also cause birth defects for children born of women who were exposed to phthalates during pregnancy. It can also cause low sperm count for males born from women who were exposed to phthalates during pregnancy. Not only that, it’s thought to cause lower I.Q. and developmental delays in children.
Phthalates are thought to cause other kinds of cancer - Cancers like liver cancer have been associated with phthalates.
Phthalates cause obesity - Some studies suggest that the more children are exposed to phthalates, the more likely they are to develop obesity.
Phthalates are thought to contribute to infertility - In addition to causing low sperm count for males, phthalates are thought to also cause infertility in women as well.
Phthalates are thought to cause major problems regarding birth - The list of issues caused by phthalates regarding birth is not only long, but very serious. Exposure to phthalates is thought to cause everything from preterm birth to preeclampsia, to miscarriage – those are just the major issues.
Phthalates can interfere with the thyroid - Phthalates can cause issues with thyroid hormone levels and are thought to contribute to thyroid cancer.
Phthalates are thought to cause asthma - Phthalates are thought to cause inflammation of the body’s airways, especially in children.
Phthalates are thought to cause heart issues - Phthalates are thought to cause everything from increased blood pressure, to heart cell and artery wall damage.
While this may seem like a very scary list, believe it or not, this isn’t even everything.
What Kinds of Products Use Phthalates?
Part of the reason it’s so hard to avoid phthalates is that they’re in so many products. Here are just a few of the products in which you might find phthalates:
- Nail polish
- Food packaging
Again, this is just a partial list of products that could have phthalates in them.
How To Avoid Phthalates in Skincare Products
By now, you’re probably thinking that you’re going to do everything within your power to avoid phthalates. We want to help you do that. Here are some fairly easy tips to help you avoid phthalates:
- Check labels on skincare products
- Ask to check labels at the salon
- Commit to brands and products that don’t contain phthalates - Instead of checking every label of every product you buy, it’s a lot easier to commit to brands that simply don't include it in their products. Not to brag, but part of the Fleur & Bee ethos is that we absolutely, positively won’t use phthalates or frankly, any other “nasties” that could cause harm to your skin or your general health.
We hope this article is not only enlightening, but that it dissuades you from using any products with phthalates. Instead, opt for clean beauty products that stay far away from harmful ingredients.