Phthalates are a group of chemicals found in a wide range of consumer products - everything from plastic toys to shower curtains to some nail polishes and baby shampoos. Exposure to high levels of some phthalates has been linked to health concerns and possible endocrine (hormonal) disruption. While the science around the safety of phthalates in personal care products remains contested, we prefer to take the precautionary approach and leave them out of our products.
Phthalates are mainly used as plasticizers, helping make plastic products more flexible, functional and durable. They can also be found in some personal care fragrances, where they are used as a solvent and fixative to help preserve the longevity of the fragrance (typically they are not required to be listed when used in fragrance blends).
Phthalates broadly come in 2 groups: ‘long-chain’ and ‘short-chain’ phthalates, depending on their molecular weight. Long-chain phthalates have 9-13 carbon atoms in their backbone, which makes them more sturdy and durable for applications like PVC flooring, cabling and other building materials. Commonly used long-chain phthalates include Diisononyl phthalate (DINP) and Diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP). Short-chain phthalates have 3-8 carbon atoms in their backbone, and can be found in adhesives, inks, cosmetics and fragrances. Commonly used short-chain phthalates include Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and Diethyl phthalate (DEP).
Concerns around phthalate exposure exists, in part, due to their widespread use in many everyday products, allowing for a culminative daily exposure through inhalation, ingestion and dermal exposure. However, scientific evidence of the negative impacts to human health from this everyday exposure have not been well studied or reported. In the EU, some phthalates (DBP, BBP, DEHP) are outright banned from use in cosmetics, while others (DEP in fragrances) are considered a low risk due to their minor concentration. In recent years, the EU has taken steps towards increasing restrictions and regulations for four phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP and DIBP) in childrens toys and products. The United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) continues to monitor phthalate levels in cosmetics, but withholds further regulation until more scientific evidence exists to show their risk to human health. We believe the ongoing safety debate around phthalates in consumer products supports our precautionary approach.
Other names: Diisononyl phthalate (DINP), Diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), Diethyl phthalate (DEP), Diisobutyl Phthalate (DIBP), Benzyl Butyl Phthalate (BBP)
Chemical class: Esters
Diane Koniecki, RongWang, Richard P. Moody, Jiping Zhu. (2011) Phthalates in cosmetic and personal care products: Concentrations and possible dermal exposure. Environmental Research, Volume 111, Issue 3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2011.01.013
European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Products. (2007) Opinion on Pthalates in Cosmetic Products. https://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_sccp/docs/sccp_o_106.pdf
SGS REACH. (2019) EU Proposes to Expand Restriction of Phthalates Under REACH. https://www.sgs.com/en/news/2018/04/safeguards-05418-eu-proposes-to-expand-restriction-of-phthalates-under-reach
United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Cosmetic Ingredients: Pthalates. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/phthalates