Sometimes, I wonder how did we get to the point we are now. How did we get to the point where food is poisoned with various additives, pesticides. Where cosmetic products seem like poison being slathered on on a daily basis. Where everything seems artificial and where most things are – whether it’s in a form of artificial taste, artificial scent or artificial personality, appearance – not what they claim to be.
There doesn’t seem to be a product we could just grab and throw in a shopping basket without having it thoroughly inspected; and even if we do inspect the product, a declaration may be misleading, hiding what’s in the product. We’ve come so far where the companies don’t even want us to know what’s in the products; like we don’t even have the right to know what we’re putting in and on our bodies, starting with GMOs, which are present in both our food and cosmetics.
One of the most sold beauty products are perfumes. People have been using some type of fragrance since forever; trying to cover body odor, trying to seduce the opposite sex. 1000s of years ago, people were mixing various herbs and flowers and oils in order to create a fragrant product. Then came distillation process, with a rose, of course, being the source of amazing scent. Alcohol, as the ingredient which made the fragrant product lasting longer, followed.
And what do we have today? Phthalates and synthetic fragrance ingredients all under a name “fragrance” and/or “perfume”. Reading a cosmetic label on a product won’t help us much, when 100s of cosmetic compounds are hidden under the name fragrance and/or perfume and treated and protected as a trade secret; phthalates being one of the hidden cosmetic compounds.
An ingredient, or rather – a compound of cosmetic ingredients – called fragrance is not part of an actual perfume only; it can be found in basically any cosmetic product: shampoo, body lotion, soap, foundation, eye shadow, nail polish, hair spray, facial cream – you name it. These extremely dangerous cosmetic compounds are present in all the products we use daily. So, what can you do if you want to avoid them? Use only those products, which have no hidden ingredients in them and which list the fragrant ingredients as having a source in essential oils and other non – toxic sources.
What are Phthalates?
Phthalates are a class of chemical compounds, used in a variety of products, from cosmetic products to plastic toys, shower curtains, food packaging, cleaning products. Phthalates act as solvent, fragrance ingredient, film forming agent, hair conditioner, masking agent, plasticizer. In cosmetics, phthalates are found in makeup, scented lotions, nail polish, body washes, hair care products (shampoo, conditioner).
Two most used Phthalates are Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and Diethyl phthalate (DEP). DBP is used in nail polishes, while DEP is used for the purpose of a scent lasting longer. Other phthalates: Benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP), Dimethyl phthalate (DMP) and Di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP).
Phthalates are rarely listed on ingredients list and if they are, they are under these names: phthalate, DBR, DEP and mostly under “fragrance” or “parfum/perfume”.
What are the health concerns of using Phthalates?
The health concerns from phthalates are numerous and very serious:
- Endocrine disruption: Two decades of research suggest that phthalates disrupt hormonal systems, which can cause harm during critical periods of development. Phthalate exposure in pregnant women, as measured by urine samples, has been associated with a shortened distance between the anus and genitals in their male babies, indicating a feminization had occurred during prenatal genital development. Shorter anogenital distance is characteristic of female sex in both humans and animals. Other research in humans has shown that baby boys exposed to phthalates in breast milk had alterations in their hormone levels. [Swann SH, et al.(2005). Decrease in Anogenital Distance among Male Infants with Prenatal Phthalate Exposure. Environmental Health Perspectives, 113: 1056-1061.Available online: http://www.ehponline.org/members/2005/8100/8100.pdf. Accessed July 24, 2008.] [Main KM, et al. (2006). Human breast milk contamination with phthalates and alterations of endogenous reproductive hormones]
- Developmental and reproductive toxicity: Research in adult human males has found exposure to some phthalates is associated with poor sperm quality and infertility. Further research in male animals has shown that exposure to various phthalates causes birth defects of the genitals – such as hypospadias (an abnormal location for the opening of the urethra on the underside of the penis) and undescended or small testicles – resulting in low sperm counts and infertility. Female laboratory animals exposed to phthalates also have been found to have alterations in sex hormones and experience fetal loss. One of the ways that phthalates interfere with reproductive functioning is by reducing the levels of sex hormones, which are critical for development and functioning of the sex organs. Additional research suggests that these same mechanisms may link phthalates to breast cancer. Phthalates have also been shown to cause proliferation of breast tumor cells and renders anti-estrogen treatments, such as tamoxifen, less effective against tumors. [Hauser R, et al. (2007). DNA damage in human sperm is related to urinary levels of phthalate monoester and oxidative metabolites. Human Reproduction. 22:688-695.] [Malkan, S (2007). Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, pp. 17. Gabriola, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.] [10Gray LE, et al. (2006). Chronic di-n-butyl phthalate exposure in reats reduces fertility and alters ovarian function during pregnancy in female Long Evans hooded rats. Toxicological Science 93(1):189-95.] [11 Borch J, Axelstad M, Vinggaard AM, Delgaard M (2006). Mechanisms underlying the anti-androgenic effects of diethylhelxyl phthalate in fetal rat testis. Toxicology 223: 144-155.] [12 Jobling S, Reynolds T, White R, Parker MG, Sumpter JP (1995). A variety of environmentally persistent chemicals, including some phthalate plasticizers, are weakly estrogenic. Environmental Health Perspectives 103(6):582-7.] [13 Kang SC, Lee BM (2005). DNA methylation of estrogen receptor agene by phthalates. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Part A 68: 1995-2003. [14 Kim IY, Han SY, Moon A (2004). Phthalates inhibit tamoxifen-induced apoptosis in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health 67: 2025-2035.]
- Organ system toxicity
- Human respiratory toxicant
European Union banned Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) in cosmetic and personal care products.
Which perfumes do not contain phthalates?
With natural organic perfumes we go back to where it all started: using ingredients such as organic alcohol, carrier oils, herbs and essential oils.
Whether synthetic or natural, perfumes have always been expensive. Paying 200€ for a perfume does seem unreasonable, even when you know how much certain ingredients in the perfume cost. When a natural perfume consists of such expensive ingredients like rosa damascena, neroli oil, sandalwood oil etc. it’s expected that the perfume would be expensive. Although, this has to be said – some brands are really exaggerating with their prices.
So why not try making your own perfume? You can make your own perfume using alcohol and your very own mix of essential oils. You can make a solid perfume, using coconut oil or bees wax and a mix of essential oils. Or you can make your own perfume roll-on, using carrier oils, such as jojoba oil and a mixture of essential oils. In The Craft of Herbalism (you can read our review here), you will find detailed instructions on how to make your own perfume: from the description of top, middle and base notes, to detailed instructions on how to make solid or liquid perfume to eau de toilette spray. With making your own perfume, you will save a lot of money and you will be able to create your very own scent.
It makes sense that one of the designer brands calls one of their perfumes Poison. Might as well. You, on the other hand, can opt out of using such poisonous “beauty” products – by either buying natural organic perfumes or making them yourself.
Visit our Toxic Ingredients glossary for more information on which cosmetic ingredients to avoid.