I suppose I should start with how they are pronounced. The first four syllables are pronounced in the same way as the first two of thought. So not too hard to say. It is phthalates in the plural because phthalates are a family of chemicals that all share a common structure. You can find the details with a bit of googling if you are interested. Continue reading
Long standing reader Ffiona has not only a question but also some happy news as she expecting her first baby in July.
Hello Colin love the blog I always scan my feeds to see if you have written anything new and read that first. I have another question, this time about phthalates. I have seen stuff that says pregnant women should avoid fragrances because they contain phthalates. Is this just a scare story or is there something in it?
Thanks for the kind words Ffiona and thanks for sticking with Colin’s Beauty Pages for such long time. So what is the relationship between phthalates, fragrances and pregnancy? Continue reading
Oregon Soap Trail on Twitter asks a question.
‘In reading your beauty pages, I wonder, what is your opinion on the current phthalate controversy?’
This took me back a few years because this was something that was a bit of a hot topic in the UK about 6 or 7 years ago. I remember having a pile of work to do to get phthalates out of a set of formulations. The main use they are put to is as a solvent in fragrances. There is no requirement to label the components of fragrances on packs so there is no way for the consumer to know whether phthalates are being used in a particular product. I cannot tell easily how many products still contain them. My guess is that most companies are avoiding them for new products but may not have gone back and reformulated old ones.
The UK’s Sun newspaper has carried a story suggesting that pregnant women should avoid fragrances. The background to this story is the work of a Dr Sharp at the Human Reproductive Sciences Unit. He has found that a common component of fragrances, dibutyl phthalate, inhibits the development of the sex organs in male mice. Continue reading
The Daily Mail has published an article by Kate Lock drawing people’s attention to how bad cosmetics are.
Kate Lock asks Are Your Beauty Products Killing You?
I had never heard of Kate Lock before, so before responding I have tried to find out a bit about her online. She seems to be a journalist. That explains the eye-catching headline. She doesn’t seem to be a scientist. That explains why her article is full of inaccurate information.
I am nonetheless grateful to her for raising a few things that I am quite keen to talk about. It will take more than one blog to get through them all. But just to tackle the list at the bottom of the article.
Phthalates are a class of compounds, not an individual one. You can’t make blanket statements about their properties. Some chlorides are dangerous. DDT for instance. Other chlorides are quite safe. Common salt is a chloride. I actually do have some sympathy with what she is saying here. Phthalates are used in synthetic fragrances and I personally prefer natural fragrances. (See my article on how to spot a good fragrance from the ingredient list.) But as you will see if you read the article carefully – the data on phthalates has already been reviewed by the top EU experts. The dangerous ones have been banned. I read the summary of their deliberations on this issue when it was current a few years back. They were very cautious indeed.
I have already confessed that I used to put formaladehyde in formulations when I first started formulating cosmetics. But I haven’t done so for over 20 years and I do not know of a single formulation on the market today that uses formaldehyde as a preservative.
But here is some free technical advice for Kate Lock. Formaldehyde is very cheap and easy to test for. There are many labs that can easily tell you how much formaldehyde is in a product. Reading Scientific Services in Reading is one good one, but there are plenty of others. If you think there is formaldehyde in cosmetics why don’t you get some tested? You would then have some facts to base your article on.
Again parabens are not something I personally use and I recommend avoiding them. I have also proposed an alternative. (See my post what’s wrong with parabens.) But there is no good reason to believe that parabens cause any kind of cancer, let alone breast cancer. Let us read what the article says in detail:
“More than 12 studies have shown them to mimic the effect of oestrogen …. The link between oestrogen and breast cancer is already well proven, but a 2004 study …found evidence of parabens in breast tumours.”
Sounds scary? What has been done here is put together a list of disparate facts. Parabens mimic oestrogen? Maybe they do, but are they present at a high enough level for the effect to be measured? There is a link between oestregen and breast cancer. What does that mean? There is a link between oestregen and pregnancy. Does that mean parabens will make you pregnant? And it is not surprising that parabens have been found in breast tumours. If you use cosmetics containing parabens you will have parabens in your body.
Kate Lock cannot prove that parabens cause breast cancer any more than I can prove that she deliberately played up the risk of parabens to make an impact and sell her book.
Pesticides are less likely to be in cosmetics than in food. If the motive of the article is to draw attention to the risks of pesticides then surely it should concentrate on the biggest source?
Anyway, rant over. I suspect that Kate Lock and I will never become friends but she has raised some points that I will be looking at in more detail soon. In the meantime you can have your say on the beauty forum.