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Is Your Family Using Safe Cosmetics?

5 May 2015 – 06:12 PM EDT

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The vast majority of us use some sort of health and beauty supplies – everyone in your family probably has a few of their own. Babies tend to get slathered in lotion and teenagers use more products than anyone in the house, am I right? Have you ever considered the ingredients in your kids’ cosmetics? What about your own? There is an increasing concern over some of the components that make up these products. Do yourself and your family a favor and learn more about safe cosmetics.


Phthalates are a group of compounds used in many plastic materials including vinyl flooring, adhesives, garden hoses, plastic packaging and more. They are also found widely in cosmetics such as nail polish, hair sprays, aftershave, lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes and fragrances. Phthalates are a “plasticizer,” used to harden products or fix fragrances. The Environmental Working Group states that these chemicals damage the male reproductive system and can have negative effects on pregnant women. The Mayo Clinic also advises pregnant women to avoid phthalates. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have both found that phthalates are extant in nearly all Amercan’s bodies, including infants. Neither have concluded that they are dangerous enough to be banned in the United States although they are banned in other countries. Note that the FDA does not have any control over the contents of health and beauty products.


Parabens are chemical preservatives that prevent bacteria growth and are added to medicine, processed foods, drinks and cosmetics. They’re found in lotions, shaving cream, make up and hair products but not deodorant. It is known that they mimic estrogen which can certainly be problematic to men and boys. It has been found that the more complex parabens also may disrupt endocrine system (often leading to breast cancer) as well as cause developmental and reproductive disorders. Ugly stuff, to be sure. Again, the CDC found parabens in most people they tested and much more in women than men, probably due to increased cosmetics usage. However, the CDC and FDA both agree that parabens do not cause enough problems in low levels to be taken off the shelves.

How to Avoid These Ugly Additives

There are, of course, plenty of other problematic ingredients in health and beauty products beyond phthalates and parabens. These are easy targets: avoiding them will get you on the road to using safe cosmetics and they are easy to spot. Make it a new habit to start to reading the labels of your beauty products before purchasing. Lotions, shampoos and cosmetics with larger containers are required to display an ingredient list. Look for both parabens and phthalates near the end of the list (and at the end of a larger word such as “methyl paraben” or “diethylphthalate”). Smaller items such as eye liners or nail polishes may not list their additives. Check out the brand’s website to see if they are cataloged there and also visit the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep site for ratings on the safety of over 68,0000 products. They even have an app to download for looking up items while you’re in the store. You can also search for supplies that are free of such additives.

Although the verdict is not quite decided on the safety and long term problems that some chemicals may cause, I’d personally rather err on the side of caution. How do your family’s favorite lotions, sunscreen, shampoos, and soap rate on the Skin Deep’s grading system? WIll you switch any out?