Skincare Ingredients to Avoid, Part 4: Phthalates

Posted on December 12, 2012

Recent media coverage has begun to expose the dangers of phthalates in beauty and skin products. What makes these compounds so alarming is that they are proven to enter the human bloodstream through the skin, yet remain present in many products intended for use on infants.

Chemical Pthalate CompoundUses in Beauty Products

These chemicals are used in beauty products to improve texture or to alter the taste of alcohol ingredients. There are many types of phthalate chemicals, but those most commonly found in cosmetics are diethyl phthalate (DEP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Another type, called diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) has been removed from most products but is still legal for use in the US.

DEP can be found in many perfumes and fragrances, while DBP is most often seen in nail polishes. You will also find these chemicals and many like them in plastic products, such as baby bottles, toys, and even apparel.

A Direct Line to the Bloodstream

Many studies have been performed to measure the effect of phthalate chemicals on the human body. Each and every study found the presence of the chemicals in the bloodstreams of users after direct exposure.

The incident was first discovered by the Environmental Working Group when they uncovered the presence of DBP in the bloodstream of every single woman who was wearing a DBP-infused nail polish. Another study found that infants showed excessively high levels of DEP in the bloodstream directly after the application of baby lotions containing the chemical.

Many substances can be absorbed by the skin into the bloodstream and it is not always frightening, but phthalates are not harmless chemicals.

Health Implications

In 2004, the European Union prohibited the use of DEHP and DBP in cosmetic products. This is not surprising when you consider that these chemicals have been linked with diabetes, cancer, and birth defects.

A study by the Environmental Health Perspectives journal found that women with high levels of phthalates in their bloodstream were up to 70% more likely to develop diabetes. The US Center for Disease Control has linked the chemical with liver cancer, prompting the state of California to list it as a known carcinogen.

While some states require special labeling, the FDA has not chosen to take regulatory action agains phthalate chemicals. In other words, these compounds can still be found in many of your beauty products, from facial moisturizers to shampoos – so how can you avoid them?

Avoiding Harmful Chemicals

Always read the ingredients carefully for any product you plan to put onto or into your body. Phthalate chemicals can be identified by the following names:

  • DBP: dibutyl phthalate
  • DEP: diethyl phthalate
  • DEHP: diethylhexyl phthalate
  • DMP: dimethyl phthalate
  • BzBP: benzylbutyl phthalate

Take especial care to check lotions and soaps for infants and pregnant women, since phthalate chemicals have been linked to birth defects and hormonal problems. Living Clean offers products that are free of phthalates and other harmful chemicals.

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