by Dr. Irene Reyzis






Phthalates are a group of chemicals found in a wide variety of consumer goods. They are mostly used to soften plastic, but they can also be used in cosmetic ingredients. Phthalates may be added to products directly, you might find them as ingredients in hair spray, conditioners, deodorants, makeup and perfumes. Dibutyl phthalate is sometimes used as an additive in nail polish to increase its flexibility. The chunky glitter found in eyeshadows, eyeliner and nail polish is usually made from polyethylene terephthalate.


Phthalates tend to slip in undercover in many cosmetics as part of the fragrance, or as an impurity. In synthetic fragrances they are used to carry other chemicals in the blend. When phthalates are present in ingredients like fragrance, this is usually NOT noted on product ingredient labels.


In the body phthalates are known to disturb hormone activity. Studies have linked phthalates to early puberty in girls, low sperm counts in men, and increased risk of breast cancer. Environmental and consumer health groups claim phthalates may contribute to the rising incidence of reproductive problems in women and testicular cancer in men, as well as infertility in both genders. Heavy, short-term exposure to phthalates may cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, eye irritation, dizziness, and headache. Repeated, long-term exposure may cause damage to the kidneys and liver. Pregnant women should consider their level of exposure most of all, as phthalates can be harmful to the developing fetus and cause birth defects.




Barrett JR. Chemical Exposures: The Ugly Side of Beauty Products. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2005;113(1):A24.


López-Carrillo L, Hernández-Ramírez RU, Calafat AM, et al. Exposure to Phthalates and Breast Cancer Risk in Northern Mexico. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2010;118(4):539-544. doi:10.1289/ehp.0901091.


Martino‐Andrade, A., & Chahoud, I. (2010). Reproductive toxicity of phthalate esters. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 54(1), 148-157.


Saillenfait, A., Sabaté, J., Robert, A., Rouiller‐Fabre, V., Roudot, A., Moison, D., & Denis, F. (2013). Dose‐dependent alterations in gene expression and testosterone production in fetal rat testis after exposure to di‐ n ‐hexyl phthalate. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 33(9), 1027-1035.


Singh, S., & Li, S. (2011). Phthalates: Toxicogenomics and inferred human diseases. Genomics, 97(3), 148-157.–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Phthalates-Information/

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