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Ingredients we DON'T use in our products - Part 1

Parabens, Chemical Fragrances, and Phthalates

This is the first blog post in a series on a list of ingredients we do NOT include in any of our handmade body care products and why.

I am not an expert in this field, but I have researched each of these ingredients extensively and have concluded that I don’t want them in or on my own body, so I’m not going to put them in my products.

Even if the evidence was inconclusive against a particular ingredient, there are studies and research that indicate possible issues – and that is a good enough reason for me. At least until more conclusive studies are done.

Before I dig into the first three ingredients on our list, I want to go over the role of the FDA. We hear about products getting FDA approval all the time. But what does that mean? The FDA is a regulatory entity. They make sure laws that are passed regarding food, drugs, cosmetics, and a host of other things, are followed and remain safe for public use. They do not pass laws; they only make sure current laws are followed.

The law does not require cosmetic products and most ingredients in them to have FDA approval before they go to market. So, no one is regulating how much of these ingredients are going into the products. As long as products are safe for consumers to use when used according to the directions on the label, cosmetics can have as many chemicals in them as they want.

Also, according to the FDA, they themselves, are not authorized to order recalls on any products. Any recalls are voluntary actions taken by the manufactures or distributors. And the FDA cannot take action against any cosmetic unless there is reliable scientific information showing the product is harmful when used as directed.

For there to be change in the way the FDA regulates laws, the laws themselves have to change and this can be a very slow process.

Here’s a great example of this. In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Act was passed – which changed the laws about how tobacco products could be sold and distributed. It was 1964 when a definitive report was released that links smoking cigarettes with lung cancer. And the 2009 law doesn’t outlaw cigarettes, which do in fact cause harm. But now the FDA regulates how much nicotine can be in tobacco products. Since nicotine is what makes cigarettes so addictive, I guess the less nicotine, the less addictive, the less responsibility cigarette companies have when you die of smoking related diseases.

Anyway, I like to look at what the FDA says about these ingredients to see what the baseline acceptability is, but I also like to find other sources and reports as you’ll see because I like to look at different sides of the story.

First up, Parabens.

Here is what the FDA says about them.

Parabens are a family of related chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products. Preservatives may be used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, in order to protect both the products and consumers.

There are six main parabens commonly used in cosmetics. They are: methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isopropylparaben, and isobutylparaben. These are synthetic parabens. There is a small body of research that says there are naturally occurring parabens, but these are very rare. If you hear a report that naturally occurring parabens are common, check the author and where they got their information. Companies who specialize in getting chemical additives approved for use in food wrote a paper on these ‘natural’ parabens. However, at this time, there are no peer-reviewed scientific studies to confirm this theory.

The argument against parabens is this: Parabens can act like the hormone estrogen in the body and disrupt the normal function of hormone systems affecting male and female reproductive system functioning, development, fertility, and birth outcomes. It can also interfere with the production of hormones and cause early puberty in girls.

According to PubMed:

Scientific studies have reported the estrogenic activity of parabens. The estrogenic potency increases with the length of the paraben and branching side chains also increase estrogenic activity, as observed in in-vitro and in-vivo studies.

In the same PubMed study, they show evidence that parabens are not discarded by the body as some claim but have been found intact in the breast tissue of women. And some are theorizing that this could be one cause of breast cancer.

I think on this point there is a lot more research that needs to be done, but there is enough evidence here to convince me that not all is well when it comes to parabens and it’s better to leave these synthetic chemicals out of my products.

Chemical Fragrances & Phthalates (Tha-lates)

If you really want a head scratcher, look up ‘fragrances’ on the FDA website. Basically, fragrances are regulated differently based on the intended use. If the fragrance in a product is applied to a person’s body “to make the person more attractive”, the fragrance in that product is considered a cosmetic. Things like perfume, cologne, and aftershave. claims fragrances are safe and includes a list of requirements a fragrance chemical must go through before it is approved for use in consumer products. There are four steps.

1. Determine if it could cause an adverse effect.

2. How much exposure causes an adverse effect?

3. Determine how th