Chemicals in Cosmetics You Should Avoid

Consumer Reports has an article about chemicals in cosmetics that are probably not that awesome for your health. They’re called phthalates and they are found in nail polish, body lotion, perfume, hair spray, and more.

How bad are they? They’ve been linked to developmental and reproductive health risks, and some big name brands are reformulating to remove them.

How do you avoid them? You can check labels but since disclosure isn’t required, they might not be listed.

What is being done? California has a new law going into effect this year that will require cosmetic manufacturers that sell over $1 million dollars worth of product a year in the state to “report any products containing a chemical that is either a carcinogen or a reproductive or developmental toxic agent. Among those that must be disclosed are the phthalates DBP and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP).” California will make this info public, so companies might start reformulating…

Consumer Reports Conclusion: “While the scientific jury is still out, we at ShopSmart believe it makes sense to reduce your exposure to phthalates, especially if you’re nursing, pregnant, or trying to become pregnant.” —MEGHANN MARCO

What you should know about chemicals in your cosmetics [Consumer Reports]


Edit Your Comment

  1. dwarf74 says:

    Before I’ll take this seriously, I’d like to know whether the phthalates got tested at 35 or 70 mph.

  2. segfault, registered cat offender says:


    I think they’re probably “Unsafe at Any Speed.”

  3. WindowSeat says:

    Phthalates are also used to make pvc and other plastics soft, which in turn are used in a lot of children’s toys.

  4. Antediluvian says:

    What WindowSeat said, plus any soft, flexible plastic products.

    SaranWrap* and ZipLock bags* come quickly to mind as a possible problem but I haven’t been able to overcome my addiction to using them to store my leftovers in the fridge.

    *including the properly spelled trademark brands (Loc? Lock? Lok?) and all the generics too.

  5. Antediluvian says:

    And don’t forget that phthalates is a wicked fun word to pronounce. Woo-hoo, chemical names!

  6. “SaranWrap* and ZipLock bags* come quickly to mind as a possible problem but I haven’t been able to overcome my addiction to using them to store my leftovers in the fridge.”

    They’re a lot more dangerous if you consume or absorb them, and women eat ridiculous amounts of lipstick yearly, and most cosmetics and lotions have compounds meant to increase absorption by the skin.

    (It’s also why you should keep little girls away from nailpolish because there’s ALL KINDS of things that’ll make them sick in nailpolish and you can’t keep an 8-year-old from nailbiting.)

    I don’t nuke anything in flexible plastic, because there are concerns about releasing carcinogens into the food due to the heat, and it takes all of two seconds to dump it on a plate instead, but storing food in phthalate-containing containers is probably pretty low on the danger scale.

  7. *kicks to see if lost post will come up*

  8. oudemia says:

    They’re in sex toys too. Silicone only, folks!!

  9. Citron says:

    Silicon or glass!

  10. infinitysnake says:

    “Phthalates are also used to make pvc and other plastics soft, which in turn are used in a lot of children’s toys.”

    Yes, and even though there are alternatives, mthe companies that make them would rather pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

  11. magic8ball says:

    So we’re saying that currently, cosmetics manufacturers have NO responsibility to tell consumers whether their products contain carcinogens or reproductive or developmental toxic agents? That’s very comforting. [Throws away lipstick.]

  12. echoesofspring says:

    EWG has another cool resource I didn’t see mentioned in the CR article – The skin deep report, a database of products (cosmetics, lotions, eye care, etc.), the ingredients that are in them, and their safety. I’ve been using it to find safer brands:

  13. TedSez says:

    If you Google “phthalates,” the first result is the Phthalates Information Center (, a site sponsored by the American Chemistry Council meant to tout the chemicals’ benefits and downplay their dangers. They argue that the idea that phthalates are bad for you is based on flawed research, and refer to all negative articles in the press as “scare stories.”

    Really, it’s like reading a tobacco-industry press release from about 20 years ago.

  14. amen, echoesofspring. I check all my personal care products at EWG these days. An unexpected side benefit of trying to get lower down the “scary chemical” scale is that my asthma has almost completely gone away … how scary is that?

    Those products are just filled with so many irritants, even beyond the frightening endocrine disrupters and carcinogens and toxins.

  15. Her Grace says:

    Eyebrows, while I agree with you for the majority, the whole plastic-releases-deadly-toxins-when-microwaved thing I don’t buy. For now (if some conclusive evidence can be presented otherwise, I’m happy to change that stance). That said, it is just as easy to dump things on a plate and I generally do so–eating on a plate feels somehow more humane than out of a little plastic box.

  16. meanandgreen says:

    I’m glad that they are taking this step and it is another reminder that there are chemicals that we need to be aware of in all aspects of our lives. From matresses and toiletries, to all that others mentioned above. Here are some great sites that touch on the mentions in this thread:

    Organic Mattresses – Organic…

    Organic Lubes & Glass Toys – Love Me Natural…