The 3 Ps: Parfum, Paraben and Phthalates

The 3 Ps: Parfum, Paraben and Phthalates

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At the beginning of my journey to clean beauty, I started memorizing these 3 P’s because it was easy to remember. I still have the findings of them on my phone’s note. Here is my research:


Although it’s ONE word on an ingredient label, FRAGRANCE can contain dozens, even hundreds, of chemicals – Yes, you read it correctly!!

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) continues to point out that a very large number of chemical compounds can be included in a wide variety of consumer products, including personal care products and cosmetics, and the manufacturers do not have to disclose what they are. Many of these mystery ingredients are most certainly harmful to your health.

Also at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, they tested products back in 2010 and found a number of allergens and hormone-disrupting chemicals in fragrance.

Disclosure: Greenify Organics is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for this site to earn fees by linking to those sites. If you buy any products from these links, I get a small share of the revenue at no additional cost to you. It helps me pay for my coffee so I can write more blog posts with my eyes open 🙂 Thank you for your support! Read the full disclosure.


FDA allows companies to hide behind the idea that certain formulations are

“trade secrets” and do not legally need to be disclosed!! This is a concept originally codified in the 1966 Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). Read about it here on the FDA site.

Fragrance allergies affect 2 to 11 percent of the general population. This translates to tens of millions of people globally affected by fragrance. It is found in most personal care products including sunscreen, shampoo, soap, body wash, deodorant, body lotion, makeup, facial cream, skin toner, serums, exfoliating scrubs and perfume.

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds. Of these 3,059 ingredients, some have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.

A 2016 study assessed self-reported health effects from fragrance. This survey of a random sample of US residents found that 99.1% of participants are exposed to fragranced products at least once a week from their own use, others’ use, or both. Participants also reported an extensive list of health effects experienced when exposed to fragrance ranging from migraines and asthma to gastrointestinal problems and cardiovascular problems.

The findings showed that a high percentage of the participants did not know of the chemicals included in fragrance and would not continue to use a fragranced product if they had previously known it emitted pollutants.


It was found that Paraben is in over 22,000 cosmetic products and in about 90% of the food samples tested in the US! That is very alarming considering the health effects. They can be found in almost all skincare products; like face wash, creams, lotion, sunscreen, toothpaste, etc.

Here are the 3 adverse effects of Paraben that I personally did not know:

  • Aging Skin | In a study done in 2007, after one month of daily applications of Methyl Paraben containing formulations, it remained unmetabolized and persisted slightly in the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) in the lab. Methyl Paraben might influence the ageing and differentiation of keratinocytes (Which are the 90% of the cells of the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin) See the whole study here
  • Breast Cancer | A researcher Philippa Darbre of England in 2004, in her investigation of estrogen’s effects on breast cancer, identified parabens in 18 of 20 biopsies of breast cancer tumors. When parabens are absorbed into the skin, they mimic estrogens, disrupt our endocrine systems and can lead to breast cancer. She found that not only do parabens fuel the growth of existing cancer cells, but they are also carcinogenic. She looked at 20 women with breast cancer and measured the tumor tissue for presence of 6 different parabens. One hundred percent of samples contained at least ONE paraben, with methylparaben being the highest. Check out her study
  • Infertility in Males | Researchers examined lab tests done on 315 male patients of a fertility clinic in Poland to pinpoint issues they were having with reproduction. All of the men provided samples of urine, saliva, blood and semen for analysis. Compared to men who had low concentrations of parabens in their urine, men with high concentrations of the chemicals also had a larger proportion of sperm with what’s known as abnormal morphology, or unusual size or shape, that’s associated with infertility, the study found. Higher levels of parabens in the urine were also associated with DNA damage in the sperm and what’s known as decreased motility, or slower-moving sperm that may contribute to infertility by being unable to travel far enough to reach an egg. Read the full report

3 Ways to Avoid Parabens

1. Look for products that specifically are labeled Paraben-Free

2. Know the pseudonyms and common names for Paraben which are:

  • Propyl Paraben (or propyl 4-hydroxylbenzoate)
  • Heptyl Paraben (or heptyl 4-hydroxylbenzoate)
  • Methyl Paraben (or methyl 4-hydroxybenzoate)
  • Butyl Paraben (or butyl 4-hydroxylbenzoate)
  • Ethyl Paraben (or ethyl 4-hydroxylbenzoate)

3. Both the European Commission and Denmark have banned Butyl Paraben and Propyl Paraben from diaper creams. So pay close attention to products marketed to kids!


Phthalates are a group of chemicals most commonly used to make plastic more flexible and harder to break. They also act as a binding agent or a solvent. 

Also known as plasticizers, they are found in a wide range of products and were first introduced in the 1920s as an additive in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and some healthcare products, such as insect repellent. They are found in color cosmetics, fragranced lotions, body washes and hair care products, nail polish and treatment.

Exposure to phthalates is widespread and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies have found phthalates present in the majority of the population, particularly among children and women of child-bearing age.

Links have been found to reproductive and genital defects, lower sperm count, disrupted hormones and infertility has been found in numerous studies on animals, the National Research Council stated in a 2008 risk assessment report.

According to two recent Harvard studies exposure to phthalates can increase the risk of miscarriage and gestational diabetes in pregnant women.

In infants and children, phthalates have been linked to allergies, male genital deformities, premature puberty, eczema, asthma, lowered IQ and ADHD.

A 2010 study on New York schoolchildren associated prenatal phthalate exposure with social impairment later in life. A 2007 study by a Harvard research team concluded that levels of certain phthalates were linked to sperm DNA damage among men at an infertility clinic.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission said in a 2014 risk report that exposure to certain phthalates may induce adverse effects to the thyroid, liver, kidneys and immune system.

3 Ways to Avoid Phthalates

  • Stay away from fragrance! Unfortunately, you will very rarely see phthalates listed on a product label. When it comes to cosmetics, the word fragrance or parfum on a label almost ALWAYS means phthalates. What you want to see are claims like: no synthetic fragrance OR scented with only essential oils OR phthalate-free.
  • Crack the code! Plastic products with recycling codes 3 and 7 may contain phthalates or BPA. Look for plastic with recycling codes 1, 2, or 5.
  • Read the labels on nail products, and choose options that do not contain DBP (dibutyl Phthalate). Some nail product labels indicate they are “phthalate-free.”

So no, the sky is not falling! I’m here to tell you about my research, the studies and let you decide for yourself. However, we do live in a world where we’re exposed to enough potential toxins that it’s worthwhile to keep up to date on the hidden health risks. 

And know that there are healthier options – clean, natural, vegan, cruelty-free, nontoxic products – that you can choose from and not worry about whether or not it’s causing you and your family harm.

My Favorite Natural Clean Beauty Stores

Five clean beauty stores that carry many of the clean skincare and makeup brands at different price points.

They are a platform for connecting you with all the nontoxic beauty.

A place where people KNOW that EVERY product is nontoxic.

Citrine Natural Beauty Bar – Here you can find skincare under $50. You can refine your search by skin concerns and skin type

The Detox Market – Try the little sample bag they offer AND get 10% off your order when you sign up for emails

Petit Vour – Take a look at their beauty sale AND you can take their useful foundation quiz.

Aillea – See products under $25

The Choosy Chick – This family-run company was created out of a personal quest to find safe and effective health and beauty care products. They have nontoxic products for the whole family! Shop their sale here.

As always,

Read labels

Know your ingredients

AND stay safe!



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