Phthalates are a group of chemicals called plasticizers that are added to plastics make them more flexible. Plastics like vinyl, food wrappers, certain children’s toys, tubing, and countless others are made in this way. Phthalates are also used in personal care products like soaps, shampoos, hairsprays, fragrances, lotions, and nail polish. They are used to prevent nail polish from cracking, as a solvent for fragrances, and to give hairspray flexibility.
Here’s the problem – phthalates are endocrine disruptors. This means that exposure to phthalates interferes with your normal hormone signaling, which ultimately results in bad things such as developmental issues, tumors, and birth defects. Studies have found exposure to phthalates related to reproductive abnormalities in baby boys, decreased sperm quality and testosterone in men, and early puberty in girls.
How much phthalate are you exposed to? Well, data from NHANES revealed that there is widespread, general exposure to phthalates and that females had higher levels of the phthalates found in cosmetics than men. So ladies, we need to work on that!
Conclusion: Any product that does not explicitly state that it is phthalate free likely contains phthalates. If there is “fragrance” as an ingredient in a soap, shampoo, lotion, personal care item, candle, air freshener, perfume, body spray, etc – then it has phthalates. If you are using regular nail polish or hair spray, it will have phthalates. Look for products that state they are “phthalate-free” on the label or use items that are scented with essential oils.