It’s widely agreed upon that the regulatory laws for cosmetics are stronger in Europe than the are in the US. Europe has banned far more chemicals suspected of causing cancer and birth defects than the US has. One type of chemical that has been banned in certain forms is phthalates.
Phthalates are a preservative that help perfume linger and make nail polish last longer. Some experts believe that they may pose health problems, primarily concerning the liver and endocrine system. Congress has passed legislation banning phthalates in children’s toys, but no such ban is in place for beauty products.
In 2003, the European Union began enforcing a ban on selling cosmetics that contain DEHP and DBP, two phthalates that are still allowed in the US. A third type of phthalate, DEP, is still used by some European cosmetics companies, but studies have found that it may be just as toxic as DEHP and DBP.
As for American fragrances sold in Europe, they must abide by EU regulations. However, although the FDA has requested that products containing phthalates state so, they are not required to be listed on a fragrance.
If you’re concerned about potential toxicity, you may want to consider paring down the number of products you use, choosing products with fewer chemicals, and avoiding synthetic fragrances.