Pronounced thal-ate, phthalates are a growing concern in the health community. Phthalates are used in hair care products to increase the spreadability of a product. They are used to make the perfume stick to your scalp and hair. They are endocrine disruptors meaning they can cause early puberty in girls and reduce sperm count in men. Research has shown phthalates to interfere with reproductive function and hormonal systems (including male infertility and reduced sex hormones), as well as cause birth defects.

Phthalates, a family of industrial chemicals used to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and as solvents in cosmetics and other consumer products, can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system.

Phthalates are linked to endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and cancer, have been banned from cosmetics in the European Union. Phthalates affect different groups of people in different ways: Unborn babies and children are among the most affected. Phthalates can do more harm to males. Kids in puberty are also at risk. “Times of biological transformation seem to leave us vulnerable to these chemicals,” Zota says. Cosmetics include phthalates to enhance the texture or include in the fragrance, of the product. They’re actually illegal in California and some parts of Europe.