Phthalates, synthetic musks, and allergens, oh my!  
Not rendering correctly? View this email as a web page here.


What You Need to Know

Phthalates (pronounced tha-lates) have an active history and reach broadly into everyday living. For today, we will focus on the relationship with fragrance, as fragrance is quite the 'aha moment' for many. You know how when you pick up a scented product and look at the ingredient label, and it just says “fragrance?” Do you ever wonder what’s actually in that fragrance?

Well, fragrances can be made up of up of hundreds of different chemicals—out of more than 3,000 commonly used fragrance ingredients. Most companies keep individual ingredients secret and just list “fragrance,” claiming that they have to keep their scents secret to protect the uniqueness of their products.

The problem with that? Common fragrance ingredients can include:

  • Phthalates (hormone disruptors linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, cancer, feminization of male wildlife and, in more and more studies, genital defects  in baby boys - yikes);
  • Synthetic musks (these are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, buildup in our bodies, and a breakdown our cells’ defenses against other toxic chemicals);
  • And allergens (which not everyone is allergic to, but if we are, we deserve to know if it’s in a product we like, right?!).  


Where to Look/Alternatives

Steer the shopping cart away from a company that sees a need to hide ingredients from you. If a product just says “fragrance” on the label, put that product down and slowly back away. This frisky term "fragrance" is a hot topic and the upcoming year will include a showdown between companies who will are transparent on websites and labels, and those who aren't. We will be celebrating many of them over the upcoming year.  For now: 

Look for products fragranced with essential oils to avoid phthalates and synthetic musks

Stop using air fresheners, an unneeded exposure and fad of our pop culture.

Reduce your use of fragranced products by looking for fragrance-free:Fragrance.jpg

  • cleaning products
  • laundry detergent
  • personal care products
  • feminine care products

Let’s take it up one more level with a little detective-like Savviness:

  • “Unscented” doesn’t mean “fragrance-free!” It means there are other chemicals in there to mask the scent. Sneaky, huh?
  • “Fragranced with essential oils” is generally a little safer decision than just “fragrance” (although it’s even better if the label lists which essential oils) because it’s less likely to hide toxic synthetic chemicals. Some people can be allergic to certain essential oils, so be sure to find what works for you and a place to choose wisely. Did we mention this is a hot current topic?  

Dive a Little Deeper

Here’s a little thought exercise: imagine a fragranced skin care product has both phthalates and synthetic musks. The musks break down your cells’ defenses and allow the phthalates in just a bit easier to do their dirty work. SCARY.

When it comes to air fresheners, we can’t stress enough what a great starting point this is to eliminate these from your home. Studies below show that the more we use fragranced products, the more these chemicals build up in our bodies in blood and breast milk, and certain hormone-disrupting chemicals (like the culprits mentioned above), can have serious lifelong effects on our reproductive health and our children’s development.

Once you are familiar with this topic, you may start to see subtle examples of the fragrance-free impact reaching into our lives. Many hospitals are fragrance-free, as well as conferences, work places and public events. On the other hand, you may become acutely aware of hotels and other businesses who install automatic air fresheners pushing particles into the air needlessly. 

Bottom line: This is a gateway toxin to understanding the big picture of our imperfect world: without clear labeling, we cannot fully decide for ourselves. Our right to know and understand is right worth fighting for, so until we know exactly what’s in fragranced products, it’s a good idea to reduce your exposure to fragrance wherever you can. 

Learn More

Does your mind crave more? Below are a few more links we thought you might find interesting. This isn't a complete listing, but offers more threads for the conversation. 


  • Campaign for Safe Cosmetics This overview of phthalates has an excellent list of references at the end linking the claims of the dangers of phthalates to 40 scientific studies.

Savvy Members

Once, many of us blamed ourselves and our bodies for headaches or rashes. Now, many women realize it was a co-worker's afternoon lotion application, or BFF's body spray on the school bus, that interacted with our bodies. This F word (fragrance) is a hot button in unfolding safe cosmetics legislation and Savvy's founder will be present testifying in D.C. 


Share this forward. Click a button. Change a friend's life. 

Did you receive this from a caring friend who shared forward? Come on over to the Savvy Women's Alliance or enroll in our 12 week email 'scavenger hunt'

Mugshots Scavenger Hunt 
Savvy's Mugshots shares harmful chemicals found in everyday products and those which you can reduce your exposure through action.
Mugshots is intellectual property of the Savvy Women's Alliance, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.