What’s in a Fragrance?

When you read the ingredients on the back of a beauty product, you’re likely to come across one simple word: Fragrance. Sounds harmless enough. But what you should be asking yourself is: What’s in a “fragrance?” Because the answer, more often than not, inclues phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals that disrupt hormones and are known to cause a wide range of birth defects while playing a part in both male and female infertility.

The word “fragrance” is really just a catch-all for something that can contain literally hundreds more chemicals. Yet under current law the word can be substituted for all those ingredients even though they might make up 20% of the entire product. Phthalates are routinely found in fragrances. They are most often used in nail polishes, lotions, shampoos, hair gels and deodorants, (look for an ingredient listed as DBP, DEHP or DEP).

The FDA does not regulate the use of phthalates in cosmetics. In 2000, the Environmental Working Group released a report saying, “Phthalates are recognized as toxic substances under environmental law, but companies are free to use unlimited amounts in cosmetics.”

A 2005 study at the University of Rochester measured levels of phthalates in the bodies of pregnant women and found a significant relationship between the levels present in mothers and changes to their male infants’ genitals. This not only confirmed that phthalate levels in mothers have an affect on their unborn children, but it also confirmed what many researchers have said for decades: Phthalates are especially harmful to the male reproductive system. Another study published a month later also found decreased testosterone levels among baby boys exposed to phthalates coming from their mom’s breast milk.

Find out which specific beauty products you are currently using that are known to contain phthalates by scanning this comprehensive report entitled Not Too Pretty: Phthalates, Beauty Products and the FDA.

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