Phthalates in Personal Care Products

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 risk with phthalates is that it has been suggested by some studies that they are endocrine mimics. This means that if they get into your body they can be mislead your internal control mechanisms so your body does things it shouldn’t. Most of the time your body is pretty robust and can cope with this sort of thing, but developing foetuses are very susceptible to this kind of problem. This means that there is a risk of birth defects. Now as far as I have read it the case for phthalates actually causing birth defects is not a strong one. But as I was asked my opinion, my opinion is that a small risk of a very bad thing is something that should be taken seriously.  We can get by without phthalates and we should do so.

I don’t think that legislation is anywhere near as effective in this as public pressure. The drawback is that it is easy to get confused by technical matters. There are hundreds of different chemicals that belong to the phthalate family and only a few of them are suspect. It is easy to get carried away and go too far, and there are websites and companies that love to play up the dangers of cosmetics either out of a love of dramatic statements or to flog overpriced rubbish that is supposedly ‘safe’. But I can tell you that retailers take consumer pressure a lot more seriously than they take regulations. The legal process is slow and can be influenced by the deep pockets of big consumer product companies.

So my opinion? I don’t think phthalates should still be in personal care products, and all the best to those people who have made a fuss about it.


If you enjoyed this post you might want to look at

What is wrong with SLES

Why Soap dries your Skin

Does eating sugar give you wrinkles?

Bisphenol A in plastics

What’s wrong with parabens – and a possible alternative

And for another blog that is a good source for real information on health scares, look up the Beauty Brains

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