Green Beauty School: Parabens, Phthalates and Sulphates
Does anyone else out there feel like everything you eat, breath and slather yourself in is going to get you in the end? Would you rather just give up on green beauty in the face of it all? Resign to apathy? Free fall into a pile of asbestos cackling like a madwoman? Do you even know what a phthalate is? Do you even know how to say or spell that? I don’t. I just type a bunch of random letters into the computer and let the software correct it for me (thank you, modern world).
Please excuse the interrogation. Sometimes it just feels like there are so many questions and, often, too many answers. But just think about it this way: each time you learn how to distinguish between a ‘phthalate’ from a ‘Sodium Cocoamphoacetate’, you’re taking a tiny piece of power back into your own hands, and, for that matter, back into your own body.
So we’re taking you to Green Beauty School. We’re breaking it down into tiny, bite-sized pieces (all organic and paraben free, of course). And we’re going to begin by giving you the most common culprits. The toxic guys. The ones with long names and leather jackets, who’ve been sneaking into our bathrooms over the past century or so.
And that’s the big point to make, really. In the context of humanity, these chemical compounds have only been around for a hot minute, so it’s not all that surprising that we’re only now finding out how shady they are.
So, what are they?
Suphates: Simply put, a sulphate or sulfate is a cleansing agent derived from sulphuric acid – the most common being Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). It’s essentially a cheap way to make your face cleansers, body washes and shampoos lather up…it’s also found in acid batteries and drain cleaners. Mi scusi? Yes, it’s true.
Parabens: Parabens, on the other hand, are a kind of preservative used to death in all kinds of cosmetics. The most common are Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben and Ethylparaben. Look out for those big, fancy words on your ingredient lists, ladies.
Pthalates: A phtglgkdksj…kidding… A phthalate is a kind slippery, softening agent – a solvent, if you will – found in nail polishes, hairsprays and fragrances. Their big boy names are: Dimethylphthalate (DMP), Dibutylphthalate (DBP) and Diethylphthalate (DEP).
Why are they bad for me, again?
Sulphates: When it comes to sulphates, there is little research to suggest that they may be harmful to your health. While these are powerful at removing dirt and oil, in reality, they are incredibly aggressive detergents that are not only bad for the environment, they will also strip your hair and skin of their natural oils and protective barriers, leading to dryness and increased sensitivity.
Parabens: As of yet, the research surrounding parabens is far from conclusive, yet when you hear of several well-documented studies finding this stuff all up in the tissue samples of breast cancer tumours, you’re kinda like “eeeeeeeeeh, I think I’ll pass”. Apparently, they had the same reaction in Denmark, because Propyl and Butyl Paraben have been banned from products for children up to 3 years old.
Pthalates :Again, several studies have found phthalates to be potent endocrine disruptors (read: not good for hormonal balance), which we can tell you more about here. There were two in particular (this one and this one) that caused quite the stir, findings that suggested this chemical could even be affecting the hormonal development and future fertility of unborn male foetuses in pregnant woman.
What are my alternatives?
Sulphates: Sodium Cocoamphoacetate and Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate may have as verbose and dubious a name as their chemical counterparts. But they’re actually two popular natural foaming agents used in place of SLS and SLES. Both organic compounds derived from vegetable and coconut oils, they’ll give you a solid yet gentle lather, remove dirt AND hydrate instead of strip.
Parabens: Commonly used and safe natural preservatives includes Phenoxyethanol (derived from ether alcohol) and Sodium Benzoate (good enough to eat).
Pthalates: Phthalates are used in most mainstream perfumes. They help synthetic fragrance compounds stick to your skin. Opt instead for an perfume oil. It’ll synergise with the natural oils found in your own skin giving off a carnal waft of perfume and body chemistry.
Try: The Ayu Perfume Oils