What Are Phthalates and Parabens?

What are phthalates and parabens? Aside from being hard to pronounce, they are hard on the human endocrine system!

Think for a moment about the number of products you apply to your body throughout the day. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, moisturizer, toothpaste, makeup, makeup remover, sunscreen… phthalates and parabens can be found in most typical daily cosmetic products. Cosmetic ingredients do not remain on the surface of the skin. They are designed to penetrate deep into our skin and there they remain. According to Mercola.com, the body can absorb as much as five pounds of cosmetic chemicals every year. This constant exposure is raising questions about health risks from potentially dangerous chemicals.

What do phthalates and parabens do?

Phthalates are mainly used as plasticizers to add flexibility and softness to plastics. They are used in cosmetics and personal care products as well as household items such as shower curtains, food packaging, and vinyl toys, and are almost always present in anything with artificial fragrances, from candles to scented lotions. Parabens are synthetic preservatives used in foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and personal care products to allow the products to survive on shelves for long periods of time.

While products such as sunscreens won’t outright label them as containing phthalates and parabens, a simple test is to turn the package around and look at the ingredients. If it lists “fragrance” then it almost assuredly contains phthalates.

EWG.org, an online database of safety profiles for cosmetics, considers phthalates and parabens, among hundreds of other ingredients, dangerous to reproductive health and breast tissue. Pregnant women and young children should be most wary of these dangerous chemicals, but everyone should be aware of their effects. Phthalates have been linked to deformed sex organs in baby boys and early puberty in young girls. They have already been banned in children’s toys, and there is a growing feeling that they should be banned in personal-care products as well.

A study by Dr. Shanna Swan, an epidemiologist at the University of Rochester Medical School compared the levels of phthalates in a group of pregnant women with the health of the baby boys they gave birth to. Dr. Howard Snyder, a pediatric urologist at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, says Swan’s findings line up with what he’s seeing in newborn baby boys: an alarming increase in deformed sex organs. “Thirty, 40 years ago, the best data we had then was that hypospadias occurred in about one in every 300 live male births. It’s up to now about one in 100. So there’s been a threefold increase,” Snyder explained. [CBS news]

Long-term risks of parabens

Parabens can mimic hormones in the body and disrupt functions of the endocrine system. Multiple studies have reported that long-term exposure to estrogen can increase breast cancer risk. Estrogen, and synthetic chemicals that act like estrogen, play a role in stimulating the division of breast cells and affect other hormones that stimulate breast cell division. Your body does not easily break down synthetic estrogen, and it can accumulate in fat cells, including breast tissue. Endocrine disruptors such as parabens can lead to early puberty in adolescent girls and boys and can adversely affect the male reproductive system. [livestrong.com]

Due to the omnipresence of phthalates and parabens, it is hard to completely avoid exposure. So how can you to minimize risk? A lot! You can start by avoiding artificial fragrances, ditching the hairspray and only using plastics with recyclying codes 2,4, or 5 (meaning they are less likely to contain phthalates). For your skincare regimen, do your research beforehand and avoid products with harmful chemicals. We can help! Goddess Garden mineral sunscreens, Daily Facial Care Routine products, Essential-Oil Perfumes and Aromatherapy products do not contain phthalates, parabens or any other nasty chemicals.

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