Why Should We Ban PARABENS, PHTHALATES, and SULFATES from Cosmetic Products

ban phthalates PFAs parabens sulfates

When we look into our cosmetics today and a few years ago, we might notice some changes in ingredients.

From focusing on specific ingredients to products all-in-one, we make educated decisions about our next choice. On the other side, the beauty industry also eliminates some ingredients creating new trends such as clean beauty. This category of cosmetics is not defined or even regulated by the government.

Where there are no regulations, the responsibility relies on consumers and companies, which is confusing when choosing effective beauty products that are not harmful. Consumers use about 10 personal care products containing 126 ingredients per day. Moreover, the human body can absorb as much as five pounds of cosmetic chemicals every year. That is a lot.

Even more confusing is that some ingredients can be considered harmful, depending on the concentration. It is crucial to pay attention to the ingredients and understand them scientifically.

This blog will discuss ingredients such as Parabens, Sulfates, and Phthalates that caused most of the rumour in recent years. We will dig into genuine evidence, research and touch on misconceptions created by the beauty brands themselves.

1.    Parabens

The Definition:

Parabens are a family of synthetic chemicals commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics, food, and pharmaceutical products. Parabens have been used in the beauty industry since the 1930s.

Common Parabens Examples: Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, and Sodium Butylparaben

The Pros:

Parabens extend the lifespan of cosmetic and food products. They work as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent, so the product stays fresh for longer.

The Cons:

Most paraben toxicity data are from single-exposure studies, meaning one type of paraben in one product. It means that the studies on parabens require further assessment, specifically when we cumulate multiple products with parabens.

There are five parabens ( Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Phenylparaben, Benzylparaben, Pentylparaben) banned in European Union due to the concern for human use[1]. In addition, the use of Propylparaben and Butylparaben also has concentration limits and is prohibited in children's products below the age of three.

Parabens are believed to act as an endocrine disruptor and enhance the actions of the natural estrogen known as estradiol.  Parabens have been linked to breast cancer, skin cancer, and decreased sperm count[2]. In addition, there are multiple studies showcasing parabens effects on increased cell growth[3][4], reduced cell death[5], metastasis[6], and blockage of chemotherapy agents[7].

Other studies have also shown a link between allergic reactions and increased skin sensitivity.

The Verdict:

While browsing the internet, you might find many counterintuitive articles. Some might say that parabens at a low dose can be used, while others will ban them right away. The confusion is based on a conglomerate of articles posted over the last ten years. The first studies conducted on parabens were not conclusive. With more years since the first rumour about harmful parabens were exposed, more studies became available. The parabens should be banned based on genuine evidence and research.

2.    Sulfates (SLS/SLES)

The Definition:

Sulfates are detergents, or surfactants, typically found as cleansing agents in skincare and hair-care products.

The Function:

Sulfates remove dirt, sebum, and other product residues from skin or hair and have properties that enable lather. There are commonly found in facial cleanser, body wash, toothpaste, and shampoo. Your household items such as laundry or dish detergent might also include them.

Common Sulfates Examples: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Myreth Sulfate

The Pros:

Sulfates have been used since ancient Greek times, and they vary by source. Some sulfates are synthetic, and others are obtained from natural sources like coconut or palm oils, while others are derived from sulfur- and petroleum-based products. They are well known for creating the lather and removing well dirt and sebum.

The Cons:

They irritate eyes and skin with increased reaction in people with asthma.

Potential reaction in asthmatic people while using sulfates includes dermatitis, urticaria, flushing, hypotension, abdominal pain and diarrhea [and] life-threatening anaphylactic and asthmatic reactions. If you have asthma, stay away from products containing sulfates.

When left on the skin for an extended time, sulfates can irritate and strip skin of its natural oils - leading to dryness and irritation, dandruff, or acne.

Although many believe that sulfates are linked to cancer, there is no established scientific proof or studies that would support this claim as of yet[8].

Sulfates in your shampoo are also responsible for washing off your hair colour, so if you want to keep the vibrant look of your hair, then switch your products to sulfate-free.

The Verdict:

If you have asthma, avoid sulfates and always choose sulfate-free products. If you're not sure what is causing issues with your scalp dryness or causing acne, use sulfate-free cosmetics. If you decide to avoid sulfates, make sure that your cosmetics do not contain sulfonates (PFASs), as they might be used as a replacement surfactant and are proven to cause cancer[9].

3.    Phthalates (DEHP, DIDP, BBP, DBP, DINP, DEP, DMP)

The Definition:

Phthalates, or phthalates esters, are chemical compounds used as plasticizers. They can be found in almost everything from plastics (toys, food packaging, vinyl flooring) to cosmetics (nail polish, soaps, hair sprays, shampoos, perfumes).

The Function:

The primary function of phthalates is to make materials pliable. In cosmetics, they are used as solvents and stabilizers in product formulations. For example, nail polish might contain dibutylphthalate (DBP) to reduce cracking; hair spray may use dimethylphthalate (DMP) to avoid stiffness, while diethylphthalate (DEP) can be added as a solvent and fixative in fragrances. DEP is the most common phthalate used in cosmetics.

Common Phthalates Examples: di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), butylbenzyl phthalate (BBP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP),  diisononyl phthalate (DINP), and diethyl phthalate (DEP), dimethylphthalate (DMP), other names include

The Pros:

There are no pros to phthalates. We might question sulfates, but we will stand our ground and recommend avoiding phthalates and parabens.  The FDA allows phthalates in cosmetics in the US, but the opinion is based on outdated studies. Health Canada, regulatory health and cosmetics controlling body in Canada, only banned DEHP. The EU prohibited phthalates use in cosmetics products.

The Cons:

In the first place, phthalates should never make their way from the plastic industry to cosmetics, and they should be banned in all kids products. There's so much evidence and links to the harmful effects of phthalates. Some of them include increased risk of breast cancer[10], hormonal disruption (estrogen), increased cell proliferation and tumour formation[11], male and female infertility[12], earlier puberty in girls[13], and abnormalities in male offsprings[14]. They are also linked to diabetes, asthma, and obesity.

All claims are backed up by genuine evidence, research, and studies. They can also be found on every cancer awareness organization's website, yet phthalates are not banned in our cosmetics and plastic products in North America.

From plastics to cosmetics, phthalates can be almost found everywhere, including your perfumes. Phthalates are often hidden under the catch-all label "fragrance" in ingredient lists. As a trade secret protects companies from exposing ingredients of "fragrance", the phthalates are commonly used in perfumes to make them last longer and might be hidden behind this buzzword.

The Verdict:

Avoid all products containing phthalates, and check all your products labels.

The Status Quo

Many other harmful ingredients can cause serious side effects that might go unrecognized for years once our body is exposed to them for a prolonged time. As we use more and more cosmetic products in our daily routine, the sum of all ingredients goes up, so does its concentration. With the increased concentration of questionable ingredients, we are already putting ourselves at risk. Given all the evidence gathered in this article, check your products' labels, and don't wait to dispose of them. The longer you wait, the more harmful effect they have in the long term.

As the responsibility relies on consumers and beauty products manufacturers, there is a misconception and misunderstanding between the parties that shouldn't take place.  Major beauty brands still use harmful ingredients such as parabens and phthalates.  They are considered cheap, so as long as the government regulations allow them, the major beauty brands will use them in their formulations. Hence, your best friend here is you and your knowledge about the cosmetics products to avoid.

ADOREYES beauty products are all parabens, sulfate, fragrance, and phthalates free, and we hope that more beauty brands will follow the same suit.



[1] Source: https://members.wto.org/crnattachments/2013/tbt/EEC/13_3893_00_e.pdf
[2] Chen J, Ahn KC, Gee NA, Gee SJ, Hammock BD, Lasley BL. Antiandrogenic properties of parabens and other phenolic containing small molecules in personal care products. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2007;221(3):278-284. doi:10.1016/j.taap.2007.03.015
[3] Darbre, Philippa D, and Philip W Harvey. “Parabens can enable hallmarks and characteristics of cancer in human breast epithelial cells: a review of the literature with reference to new exposure data and regulatory status.” Journal of Applied Toxicology 34, 9 (2014): 925-38. doi:10.1002/jat.3027.
[4] Pan, Shawn et al. “Parabens and Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Ligand Cross-Talk in Breast Cancer Cells.” Environmental Health Perspectives 124, 5 (2016): 563-9. doi:10.1289/ehp.1409200.
[5] Darbre, Philippa D, and Philip W Harvey. “Parabens can enable hallmarks and characteristics of cancer in human breast epithelial cells: a review of the literature with reference to new exposure data and regulatory status.” Journal of Applied Toxicology 34, 9 (2014): 925-38. doi:10.1002/jat.3027.
[6] Błędzka, Dorota, Jolanta Gromadzińska and Wojciech Wąsowicz. “Parabens. From environmental studies to human health.” Environment International 67 (2014): 27–42. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2014.02.007.
[7] Darbre, Philippa D, and Philip W Harvey. “Parabens can enable hallmarks and characteristics of cancer in human breast epithelial cells: a review of the literature with reference to new exposure data and regulatory status.” Journal of Applied Toxicology 34, 9 (2014): 925-38. doi:10.1002/jat.3027.
[8] Cara AM Bondi, Julia L Marks, Lauren B Wroblewski, Heidi S Raatikainen, Shannon R Lenox, and Kay E Gebhardt "Human and Environmental Toxicity of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Evidence for Safe Use in Household Cleaning Products" Environ Health Insights. 2015; 9: 27–32. doi: 10.4137/EHI.S31765
[9]Breast Cancer Prevention Partners “Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs – including PFOA and PFOS)” https://www.bcpp.org/resource/pfoa-and-other-pfas-chemicals/
[10] Fu, Zhiqin et al. “Association between urinary phthalate metabolites and risk of breast cancer and uterine leiomyoma.” Reproductive Toxicology 74 (2017): 134-142. doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2017.09.009.
[11] Hsieh, Tsung-Hua et al. “Phthalates induce proliferation and invasiveness of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer through the AhR/HDAC6/c-Myc signaling pathway.” FASEB Journal 26, 2 (2012): 778-87. doi:10.1096/fj.11-191742.
[12] Tranfo, Giovanna et al. “Urinary phthalate monoesters concentration in couples with infertility problems.” Toxicology Letters 213, 1 (2012): 15-20. doi:10.1016/j.toxlet.2011.11.033.
[13] Harley, Kim G et al. “Association of phthalates, parabens and phenols found in personal care products with pubertal timing in girls and boys.” Human Reproduction 34, 1 (2019): 109-117. doi:10.1093/humrep/dey337.
[14] Swan, Shanna H et al. “Decrease in anogenital distance among male infants with prenatal phthalate exposure.” Environmental Health Perspectives 113, 8 (2005): 1056-61. doi:10.1289/ehp.8100.