How to Avoid Parabens & Phthalates


How can we figure out if our makeup, body wash and shampoo and stuff is safe?

There’s so much to worry about these days. And like everything else health-related, there’s so much conflicting info to sift through. Who has time for that?

Well, um, I kind of do. And because blogging about wellness is my job, I’m going to take a stab at it for all of us.

Because I saw a quote the other day from Russell Brand who, however crazy you might believe him to be, does make sense to me sometimes. He said:

“It’s a problem when people are more concerned with the lives of rich people they’ll never met, than with the chemicals they consume and ingest into their own bodies.”

Damnnnnnnn, Russell. I agree.

And as I dig deeper into all of this safe cosmetics business, I wanted to share my findings with you.

So first up, I looked into the two of the most commonly referred to “toxins” that we hear about in the beauty and personal care industry: parabens & phthalates (pronounce ‘thal-lates’ – just fyi).

So what’s the deal with parabens?


(I found most of my info on the Environmental Workings Group‘s website)

Are estrogen-mimicking preservatives used widely in cosmetics. The CDC has detected parabens in virtually all American bodies tested. According to the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, longer chain parabens like propyl and butyl paraben and their branched counterparts, isopropyl and isobutylparabens, may disrupt the endocrine system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders.

So here’s my take…

Even if they’re not 100% sure of it, doesn’t it just seem like a good idea to avoid things that a scientific committee on consumer products is saying may disrupt our endocrine system? Because here’s the thing to remember, scientists can’t just come out and say they believe that these preservatives cause health issues if they don’t have 100% proof. But 100% proof is very hard to acquire in research.

Just because they can’t prove it without a doubt, doesn’t mean there isn’t strong evidence to suggest they’re unhealthy for us.

Furthermore, when we zoom out on society as a whole, and we see the increases in autoimmune disease, thyroid issues (part of our endocrine system) and reproductive and development disorders – and what I think is really scary, early menstruation in little girls – can’t we start to see, in the very least, a probable connection between it all?

And if so, doesn’t it seem like a good idea to play it safe and avoid this shit? Can’t we assume, as rational human beings, that it’s not in our best interest to rub chemicals all over our bodies every day?

Besides, it’s not like avoiding parabens is difficult. And there’s no reason to be consuming them in the first place.

Conclusion on parabens | It seems like there’s something dangerous going on, like these science peeps are on to something, and that there’s no harm in avoiding them anyway. Parabens, out.

**If you’re freaking out, don’t be. There are tons of affordable and effective (and pretty and great-smelling, non-crunchy, non-granola products out there on the market that don’t use parabens at all. Our favorite for personal care is Beautycounter and we’re proud to sell them right here at CTK. Obsessed with them and their founder, actually.**

Screenshot 2016-03-18 10.04.03

Okay, moving on to Phthalates.

(Not sure why they felt the need to add the ‘ph’ to the beginning and make the word so difficult but, nevertheless, let’s chat about them as well.)

Phthalates (again, majority of info from the EWG) 

A growing number of studies indicate that this class of plasticizing chemicals – used to make products more pliable or make fragrances stick to skin – damages the male reproductive system. Pregnant women should avoid nail polish containing dibutyl phthalate. Everyone should avoid products with “fragrance” indicating a chemical mixture that may contain them. They may disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. These are found in; synthetic fragrance, nail polish and hairspray.

Jeez, have you ever tried to find mainstream personal care products that don’t include “fragrance”?

My take on phthalates…

Here, we’ve learned that these hard-to-pronounce chemicals are:

a. found in pretty much everything and

b. may cause birth defects, endocrine disruption and reproductive issues

The key word here being ‘may’.

So again, it’s basically too soon to tell. Too many studies still need to be done to definitively prove it.

But it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of folks who stand to lose a lot of money should these claims ever be definitively proven. Namely, the self-policing cosmetics industry.

And industry interest in profits generally outweighs industry interests in public health, historically speaking. I think we can all agree on that.


What I am trying to do here, is appeal to your natural sense of skepticism.

  1. I think we can all agree that perhaps our society’s ongoing exposure to synthetic chemicals may be playing a role in our increasingly alarming health issues.
  2. And if we can all agree with the above statement, then we can also reasonably agree that it makes sense to attempt to reduce our exposure to them.

That’s the mindset I’m operating from here.

What I’m doing with all the ‘may’ and ‘reasonable’ is attempting not to be an alarmist. I’m not saying I’ve found evidence that if you use products with parabens in them you’re going to immediately get sick.

It’s not that simple. It never is. But, it also doesn’t mean that they’re safe.

When I read a label that said my skincare was going to bleach my ugly, old bathrobe, it made sense to me that I might be better off, if I didn’t rub a bleaching agent all over my face. I’m applying that same logic here with parabens and phthalates.

Since it’s reasonable to assume there are health risks associated with longterm exposure to these chemicals, it makes sense to me to try to avoid them. Especially since there is virtually no downside to my doing so.

No one is saying that they’re good for us.

The best anyone is saying is that they’re not bad.

And I’m trying to keep in mind that there is a 200 billion dollar industry out there set to lose a whole bunch of money should more consumers start to believe that they are. Or worse for said industry, should our government actually start to try to protect us from them through legislation.

So I’m gonna go ahead and just say no to parabens and phthalates going forward. And I think it’s reasonable to suggest that you look into doing so yourself. Which you can do right here.

But I’d really love to hear what YOU think about this. Have I missed something? Do you have further evidence for either side of this debate? Leave a comment below.

And if you like this post, please share it with your friends on Facebook.

And if you’re interested in learning more about safer, natural beauty, or are interested in the affordable alternatives to parabens and phthalates, just pop your email in here. We’ll send your some more info and a little guide to shopping for safer personal care products.

Also published on Medium.



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