Many personal care products include fragrance or perfume; these ingredients can be allergenic to sensitive individuals and often contain phthalates as a carrier.  It is best to minimize the use of fragrance and instead choose unscented products.  When you do choose to use a scented product, look for those whose scent comes from an essential oil as this may be less allergenic and does not involve phthalate. 

Parabens and formaldehyde are commonly used preservatives in makeup, lotions, and deodorant. Triclosan use as an antibacterial in soaps and lotions has increased but its value in personal care products has been questioned. It has been identified as an endocrine disruptor and appears to increase allergy.


Scent-Free Policy for the Workplace, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Formaldehyde in personal care products

Urinary excretion of phthalate metabolites, phenols and parabens in rural and urban Danish mother-child pairs

Does antibacterial soap cause more harm than good? FDA to decide after four decades

Triclosan exposure and allergic sensitization in Norwegian children, Bertelsen et al. 2013

People with Asthma, Allergies Should Avoid Air Fresheners, Scented Products, Brownstein 2011

  • Cosmetics - Perfume, mascara, liner, blush, anti-aging creams, skin lighteners, nail polish/remover

Chemical(s) of Concern: fragrance, phthalates and preservatives such as parabens, formaldehyde and methylisothiazolinone.

Alternatives: Limit use and look for products with plant-based ingredients; parabens-free; unscented or natural essential oils

Link: EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic database

Reference: How your wrinkle cream could destroy your skin: The chemicals in cosmetics that can trigger severe allergies  

  • Hair dyes, soaps, shampoo, hairsprays, hair straighteners , lotions, deodorants

Chemical(s) of Concern: triclosan, formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates

Alternatives: products labeled ‘phthalate-free’, ‘paraben-free’ and/or “EU Compliant”; use unscented products

Triclosan Technical Fact Sheet (pdf)

Triclosan Consumer Fact Sheet (pdf)

Link: Hair dyes, soaps, shampoos (HHS Household Products Database)

  • Sunscreen 

It is important to prevent sunburn and sun overexposure to maintain healthy skin and a lower cancer risk.  The best way to do this is by covering up with a hat and shirt during the hottest part of the day.  Sunscreen plays a valuable role however, not all sunscreens block the harmful UV rays.  All sunscreens need to be reapplied after going in the water; some sunscreens contain chemicals that have been linked to endocrine disruption. 

Chemical(s) of Concern: PABA (para-aminobenzone); oxybenzone; avobenzone

Alternatives: Use broad spectrum SPF 30 products based on zinc oxide and titanium; limit exposure to early or late in the day; use protective clothing  


Playing it Safe in the Sun (CTDPH)

EWG Sunscreen Guide