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March 16, 2023

Chemical free gifts for your mum this Mother’s Day  

As we approach Mother’s Day, retailer shelves and online shops are brimming with an abundance of “health, beauty and wellbeing” products – from bath bombs and body scrubs to makeup and moisturisers – all of which are marketed as the perfect gift to help mums relax, unwind and feel good. But some of these products may expose us to chemical ingredients that might be harmful to our health, and create a chemical burden for our body. So how can you avoid them?


Clean perfumes and fragrances 

Consumers deserve the right to know what chemicals are used to manufacture their perfume so they can make an informed choice about what they are buying. However, the reality is that very little is known about the ingredients actually used to give perfumes their unique fragrance. The terms “parfum” and “fragrance” were originally used on perfume bottles as a way of keeping companies’ formulas a trade secret, but this means a number of ingredients can be kept hidden from the labels of products. Among these ingredients are phthalates, an endocrine disruptor that can affect your hormonal balance.  


In a 2021 study conducted by the Danish Consumer Council, Stand up to Cancer, and the Dutch organisation Tegengif-Erase all Toxins, 20 popular perfumes were selected and their labels compared with substances of concern listed by several authoritative bodies, such as the European Commission and the Danish Government. A total of 26 problematic chemicals were found in the selected perfumes, including suspected endocrine disruptors, with researchers concluding that the current regulatory framework is unfit to protect consumers from exposure to problematic chemicals in perfumes. 


Fortunately, in recent years we’ve seen a “Clean perfume” movement emerging in the market with many brands shunning phthalates and selecting natural, organic ingredients in their place. While we always recommend checking the label of products, remember that phthalates don’t need to be listed by law on an ingredient list. The only way to be 100% sure that your perfume contains no phthalates is by choosing a brand that promises that is 100% phthalate-free.   

Naturally scented candles  

The majority of candles are made using paraffin wax, a bi-product of petroleum, including candles scented with essential oils or ‘naturally’ scents. Scent libraries used in candles can often be complex, and phthalates might be added to bind fragrances together and to extend shelf life. However, as candles burn, these phthalates are released into the air where they potentially could be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. 


If you’re thinking about purchasing a candle for your mum this Mother’s Day, choose 100% beeswax or soy candles that are either unscented, or using only essential oils. Avoid synthetic fragrances, and look for products specifically marked ‘phthalate free’ that  use more natural ingredients.  


We’d all like to think that chocolate is good for us, so the good news is that it’s a natural source of Tryptophan, a precursor to the production of other hormones that can help with sleep. After absorbing tryptophan from food, our body converts it to 5-HTP (5-hyrdoxytryptophan), and then to serotonin and lastly, melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a role in your natural sleep-wake cycle. Natural levels of melatonin in the blood should be the highest at night, helping us to get to sleep, and gradually decrease in the morning, prompting us to wake up. Choose an organic chocolate to avoid pesticides used in the production of the ingredients.

Paraben free cosmetics 

Parabens are routinely added to skincare and cosmetics products because of their preservative and antibacterial properties. However, we don’t fully understand what a safe level for human contact is yet. Consequently the use of parabens is tightly restricted and only permitted at low concentrations. A growing body of evidence suggests parabens can indeed harm our health, especially during sensitive periods of development when hormones are working at force, for instance during puberty or pregnancy.  


Thankfully, there are many brands out there offering ‘paraben free’ alternatives. Unlike with phthalates, parabens are easier to spot on the ingredients section of any product – the word will typically end in ‘paraben’, for example methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben. There may be more than one in the ingredients of a single product. Our guide to parabens offers further insight into paraben usage and the potential health risks of exposure.  

Organic flowers  

Cut flowers do not have the same regulatory controls as crops, meaning that the use of pesticide and herbicide is much higher in cut flower production than foodstuffs. The world’s most widely produced herbicide, and perhaps its most divisive, is a chemical called glyphosate. Sold under a variety of brand names, including Roundup, it is used across hundreds of products in agriculture, forestry, and home gardening. Glyphosate has been linked to many illnesses including the disruption of the endocrine system, fertility, and reproduction. Described by the World Health Organisation as “probably carcinogenic” to humans, it is also widely believed to be a cause of many chronic health problems, most significantly, cancer. Nevertheless, given the difficulties in proving cause and effect, even in rigorous scientific studies, scientific opinion remains divided, and it is still currently legal to use in the UK. You can read more about glyphosate and its health risks in our guide. 


To help avoid exposure to herbicides such as glyphosate, grow and pick your own seasonal flowers at home if you can. Not only does it add a personal touch, but it is the most sure-fire way of ensuring that no unnecessary chemicals are used in the growing process. Plus, your transportation emissions will be non-existent. If this isn’t possible (or if you’ve left it too late this year!), try to buy seasonal, locally grown flowers and ask the florist about any pesticides or herbicides that may have been used in the growing process. Alternatively, you could buy a locally sourced potted plant, or plant your own bulb as a gift, but remember not to spray it with insecticides or weed killers. The online directory Flowers from the Farm promotes British grown flowers and is great place to start when looking for blooms grown locally and sustainably.  

Always check the label 

Before purchasing gifts for Mother’s Day always check the label and read the ingredients list. Any ambiguous or vague ingredients, such “fragrance” are perhaps better off avoided because it’s probable they’ve been produced using chemical substances. We recommend an ingredients checking tool called Yuka which helpfully deciphers product labels and analyses the health impact of food products and cosmetics. It’s free to download on your phone and easy to use – simply scan the barcode of any product you’d like to check.  The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep search tool is also helpful, with information on thousands of popular personal care product ingredients. 


We would like to wish everyone a very happy, healthy Mothering Sunday this weekend.





The information on our website should not be used as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. is not responsible for the content of external websites. The inclusion of a link to a third-party website should not be understood as an endorsement.  



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