Give Chemicals the Bird: Phthalates

Phthalates are one of those hard-to-pronounce additives used in many chemical sunscreens. The FDA has confirmed their toxicity and even warns against their use, but they’re still allowed in skincare and bodycare products. (i)You can also find them in almost any synthetic fragrance, which means products with “parfum” or “fragrance” on the label are likely to have them.

Fragrances—something smells fishy

Phthalates are used in fragrances because they help prolong the scent. They’re also used as solubulizers, meaning they help one thing effectively dissolve into another. Perhaps the strangest use of phthalates in skincare is to keep liquid plastics in liquid form. Yes, we said liquid plastics. Ingredients like polymers are added to chemical sunscreen products to help the chemicals sit on the skin long enough to prevent a sunburn. The phthalates liquefy the plastics so they spread in an even layer, like liquid plastic wrap.

The National Toxicology Program reports that phthalates are “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”(ii) Phthalates also block the actions of both testosterone and estrogen,(iii) so they’re especially toxic to pregnant women, babies and children at critical periods of development.(iv) Phthalates can cause birth defects(v) and health issues in newborns(vi), and can increase the risk of breast cancer.(vii) They are actually banned from children’s toys and pacifiers, yet they still make their way into our skincare and beauty products!(viii)

Needless to say, phthalates are bad. That’s why we never-ever use them. But, just like parabens, they find their way into almost any product under the sun. And remember, the label may not call out phthalates specifically if these chemicals are contained within the fragrance.

Freedom from phthalates

Chemical sunscreen makers aren’t just adding these things to their products as some kind of sick science experiment. They add them because they do a job. Sometimes, one solution causes another problem, so they add more chemicals to fix it. Their intentions aren’t bad—we can all see the problem/solution pattern here—but the approach is tunnel vision, often driven by cost. At Goddess Garden, we look at the big picture. That’s why we completely scrapped everything and started from scratch.

For comparison purposes, we don’t have a natural substitute for phthalates because we don’t need anything like them. All of our products, including our perfumes, are free from phthalates and fragrances. Our sunscreens also don’t have the same issues chemical sunscreens do. Lavender is already used for its other benefits, and it just happens to have a great smell. We don’t have to mask any weird-smelling ingredients either, so we just let our lavender speak for itself. We don’t need phthalates to help items dissolve because the ingredients we use dissolve well in our coconut and sunflower oils. And we don’t need to use liquid plastics, or keep them soft, because we use minerals instead of chemical sunscreens. These minerals already rest on the skin’s surface without needing a chemical additive to make this happen.

A force for change

It would be wrong to fault the chemists who are just trying to solve problems. The fault lies, instead, in a broken system. It’s hard to switch gears, and even harder when those gears turn an industry. Their products fill a demand, but demand for better, safer products is what will inevitably be a force for change. And keep in mind, we’re here with natural alternatives to help you give chemicals the bird!

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