In recent years, the use of parabens, phthalates and sulfates in self care products has become increasingly taboo. It seems that these chemicals have been permanently put on the skin care ingredient blacklist of many companies, Eve Hansen included. With your health in mind, we vow to remain paraben, phthalate and sulfate free - but why? While you may have seen some negative press about these ingredients, very few truly understand why it is so important to rid our daily routines of these chemicals. In this blog, we will be discussing the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind parabens, phthalates and sulfates - oh my!
What are they?
Every product has a shelf life - the length of time a product can be used without ‘going bad’ - and natural products have an even shorter shelf life than most synthetic products do. To keep products fresh during the their time of intended use, chemists need to incorporate a form of preservative. Parabens are classified as groups of compounds that are used as preservatives in cosmetic, food, and pharmaceutical products. Parabens have been used in the beauty industry since the 1930s as a method of keeping cosmetics free from various forms of bacteria. Serums, face creams, shampoo and shower gels are all examples of products that are likely to contain parabens.
Phthalates are chemicals that are used to make plastic soft and flexible, and they may be found in cosmetics and personal care products (perfume, shampoo, soap, moisturizers, nail polish, etc.), food, wood finishes, detergents, plastic plumbing pipes, vinyl flooring, and many more products we use every day.
To help you visualize, sulfates are responsible for the sudsy lather you get out of most shampoos. If you’ve ever used a sulfate free shampoo, you’ll immediately notice that the wash is less foamy and bubbly. Sulfates are a large group of chemicals that are used as cleansing agents in a variety of beauty and personal care products.
Why are they harmful?
Although it hasn’t been proven that parabens directly cause cancer - it has been proven that parabens are able to penetrate the skin’s barrier into our bodies. Once in our bodies, parabens can potentially disrupt our endocrine system and interfere with our hormonal production by mimicking estrogen - leading to potential reproductive and developmental issues. In addition to our health, marine life researchers have reported a correlation between parabens in SPF products and damaged coral reefs.
Similar to parabens, phthalates can also be harmful to our endocrine systems as they may cause reproductive and developmental concerns. The European Union has banned cosmetic companies from incorporating phthalates into their products, but their use is still widespread in the U.S.
The concern around sulfates is that they are skin irritants that can strip skin of its natural oils - leading to dryness and irritation. For some, continued use of sulfates such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can set off a reaction as it can penetrate the skin’s barrier, making it more vulnerable to the absorption of other irritants. In skin care, natural alternatives to sulfates include gentle foaming agents such as sugar or coconut.
How to avoid them?
Read product labels! The best way to determine whether or not a product contains these harmful agents is to carefully observe ingredient lists. Phthalates, if identified on a label, are usually listed with an acronym like DHEP or DiBP. In personal care and beauty products, the sulfates that are commonly used are sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, and a paraben in an ingredient list usually ends with the word itself. Some common parabens used in cosmetics include: methylparaben, propylparaben, isoparaben, or butylparaben. With the wave of natural beauty companies pledging to never use these chemicals, avoiding parabens, phthalates and sulfates has become easier. Often, if a company stays away from using parabens, phthalates or sulfates, they will call it out in their “about us” section or product detail pages!
The Bottom Line
In their current form, parabens, phthalates and sulfates are still considered safe by the FDA as cosmetic companies only use a very small concentration of these ingredients. Despite being able to legally include these ingredients in products, the concern around them is reason enough to seek alternative skin care products that will not pose a threat to our health and bodily function.
Click here to take a look at our paraben, phthalate and sulfate free catalog!