Greenly Basics: What’s the deal with PHTHALATES?

Greenly Basics Phthalates Blog Photo


Written by Marie of And The Color Green for The Greenly Guide

Marie - And the color Green


Marie was raised by hippies so a natural perspective towards living has always been a no-brainer. Her philosophy towards green living is to seek knowledge and just do the best you can. She can be found on You Tube where she creates videos around all things green from household to beauty.




Here is another ingredient that you will frequently see advertised as NOT being in products.  What is it, and should we avoid it? Let’s jump in!

Common names

I wish this list was shorter, but it isn’t. In fact, these are just the most common phthalates. The good news is that they can be easy to spot as they usually have phthalate attached to their name.

DBP (dibutyl phthalate)

DNOP (di-n- octyl phthalate)

DiNP (diisononyl phthalate)

DEP (diethyl phthalate)

BBzP (benzyl butyl phthalate)

DEHP (di 2-ethylhexl phthalate)

DiDP (diisodecyl phthalate)

DnHP (di-n- hexyl phthalate)

DMP (dimethyl phthalate)

DnOP (di-n- octylphthalate)

Bisphenol A (BPA) is another plasticizer.

Common products you might see them in

Nail polish, deodorants, shampoos, shaving cream, makeup, and hair spray are just a few!

What are they?

Technically, they are the ester of the salt: phthalic salt. In plain terms, they are called plasticizers.

How did they end up in beauty products?

Simply put, they are used as plasticizers, solvents, and fragrance ingredients in a variety of beauty products.

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What do we know?

• According to the 2005 CIR report, they are readily absorbed into the skin.

• According to the CDC, there are measurable levels of phthalate metabolites in the general population.

• Again, according to the CDC, women have higher levels of exposure due to personal care products.

• The California Prop 65 currently bans 6 phthalates as they believe they are linked to cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.

• The European Union currently bans the use of four phthalates.

• Like it or not, you have been exposed to them.


What are the proposed safety risks?

The health concerns for phthalates are too numerous to list. Here are a few highlighted concerns.

• Varying studies link phthalates to endocrine disruption.

• Of particular concern is their connection to birth defects in rats.

• Multiple studies indicate exposure to phthalates can cause impairment of normal male development.

• Linked to testosterone reduction in both male and female genders.

• Possible link to asthma in children.

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Straight Science Talk

Because phthalates are such a large class of chemicals, it makes it very hard to ban them as a group. Often times a particular phthalate will be called harmful and excluded from products only to have another less studied phthalate take its place. Regulation of a broad class of chemicals of this nature could take years in this country (It took the USA twenty years to ban triclosan from soap).

Common Sense Talk

A quick Google search on phthalates will yield enough info to convince you that phthalates should be avoided. The real question is, can you avoid them? The simple answer is no. They are prevalent in more than just beauty products. They are used in toys, flooring, food, household cleaners, and anything that is flexible plastic! The good news is that every time you chose to purchase a product labeled phthalate free you are sending a message to manufacturers that you do not want phthalates in your products. The vote that everyone listens to is the one made by your dollars!

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“Annual Review of Cosmetic Ingredient Safety Assessments – 2002/2003.” International Journal of Toxicology 24.2 (2005): 1-102. Web.

Westervelt, Amy. “Chemical enemy number one: how bad are phthalates really?” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 16 May 2017.

Bornehag, Carl-Gustaf, Fredrik Carlstedt, Bo Ag. Jönsson, Christian H. Lindh, Tina Kold Jensen, Anna Bodin, Carin Jonsson, Staffan Janson, and Shanna H. Swan. “Prenatal Phthalate Exposures and Anogenital Distance in Swedish Boys.” Environmental Health Perspectives (2014): n. pag. Web.

“California Proposition 65 Reformulation of Phthalates in …” N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017. T, Tillett. “Phthalates and childhood asthma: revealing an association through urinary biomarkers.” Environmental health perspectives. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2017.

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