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What's in your Personal Care Products?

Posted by Brandy Pridham on

Over the last few decades there has been a shift towards understanding how our health and development are affected by our lifestyle choices. Consumers are increasingly concerned with what is in the everyday products that we use on our children and ourselves, but it can be a challenge understanding the chemical list of ingredients found in our children’s favourite bubble bath. Both parabens and phthalates are ingredients that can be found listed on any number of grooming products in your bathroom. Both have been used for decades and were once considered safe and effective and are now considered potentially dangerous to human health.

Parabens are widely used preservatives found in cosmetics and other personal grooming products like our shampoo, conditioner, body lotions and facial scrubs. They are typically used to limit bacteria growth in products and to increase their shelf life. Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are used to make plastic products softer and more flexible and can be found in a variety of products, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, children’s toys and some cosmetics like nail polish and perfumes. Phthalates can also be used in the plastics used in food preparation and packaging. Both parabens and phthalates have been widely used for decades, but growing health concerns have highlighted the need for more research into their use.

One of the biggest concerns associated with both paraben and phthalate use is endocrine disruption. There is concern that both parabens and phthalates behave like specific hormones in our bodies and interfere with our normal hormonal activity. This disruption may lead to developmental issues like physical abnormalities and fertility problems. Both parabens and phthalates are considered a xenoestrogen – an agent that mimics estrogen in our bodies. Xenoestrogen has been linked to breast cancer and other reproductive issues.

Research into these chemicals and their effect on human development is on going, but consumer concerns have encouraged companies to look into alternatives. Increasingly, there are now options for you to make a safer choice when purchasing products for your family. You can avoid parabens by looking for “paraben-free” products and by looking over the list of ingredients in the products you are considering. Butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben are commonly used, but a good rule of thumb is to look for ingredients ending in –paraben.

You can minimize your exposure to phthalates by checking the ingredients on your cosmetic products and avoiding products that contain phthalates. Some foods can also have low levels of phthalates due to leeching from plastics. Using glass containers will help limit this exposure. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, Health Canada currently restricts the levels of DEHP, dibutylphthalate (DBP) and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) allowed in children’s toys. Health Canada also restricts the levels of DINP, diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) and di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP) allowed in children’s toys that are likely to be placed in a child’s mouth. Look for toys and children’s products that are made from materials other than plastics. If you aren’t sure what the product is made of, you can always ask the manufacturer. For a more detailed and comprehensive look at parabens, phthalates and other potentially harmful substances you can read more at

 Be happy, Be well, BHealthy!

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