In the past few weeks we have looked at what organic means and what terms other than 100 percent organic mean. Now it’s time to look at an area that is not necessarily as closely regulated as food is—and that’s personal care products. In fact, you may have to take a closer look at the labels to be sure you are getting only what you intend to get and avoiding what you don’t want. For many people, they buy organic foods or filter their drinking water, but may not consider the personal care products they use.
According to industry estimates and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics polling and surveys, consumers use between 15 and 25 different cosmetic products a day which contain more than 200 different chemical compounds. The term “cosmetics” refers to any products you apply to your body that are not drugs. Shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, hand soap, sunscreen, lip balm, and hand lotion are all cosmetics.
Phthalates: One Example of an Ingredient to Avoid
On November 29, 2000 on CNN.com, an article titled Group links nail polish to birth defects reported the following: “A report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) said the chemical in question is called dibutyl phthalate or DBP. Phthalates are a class of industrial plasticizers that were invented in the 1930s. They are often used in cosmetics because they make nail polish flexible, help bleed the chemicals of fragrances, and help lotion better penetrate the skin. They aren't always required to be labeled on the products.”
Yes; you heard right. Phthalates can be in nail polish, cosmetics, fragrances, and many other consumer items—including baby care items. Here are some things to remember about them:
- Nail polishes frequently contain dibutyl phthalate (or DBP) to make them “non-chip.”
- Phthalates are rarely identified in ingredient lists as they are often listed under the catch-all of “fragrances.”
According to information from an article from the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition, recent studies of adults and children in the U.S. have found widespread exposure to phthalates—and are found in blood and breast milk. Fortunately, phthalates are not bioaccumulative, but because of frequent exposure to sources of phthalates, levels in the body may remain fairly constant.
So what can you do to get and use the safest personal products available? Here are some tips:
Look for product labels that have certified organic ingredients. Look for the USDA organic certification seal. The terms hypoallergenic, natural, for sensitive skin, dermatologist tested and recommended, organic ingredients used are not substitutes for certified organic.
- If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, then stay away from the product.
- Choose products with the fewest number of listed ingredients—and avoid phthalates.
- Avoid the ingredients petrolatum, paraffin, and mineral oil—all cheap crude oil by-products.
- Avoid preservatives and anti-bacterials.
- Look for fruit or vegetable based oils.
- Use personal care products that are food-based.