Beautiful photos of bath bombs have been splashed across Instagram and Pinterest for years, turning what used to be a simple soak into a psychedelic scent festival. While it may seem like a princess’s dream to bathe in melted rainbows, the list of ingredients is more in line with something Gargamel would have dumped in his cauldron.
Here are just a few of the ingredients that can be found in commercial bath bombs:
● Fragrances — Terms like “fragrance,” “fragrance oils,” or “fragrance oil blend” are frequently used in products, but did you know that the FDA doesn’t require companies to disclose the chemicals used in them? Below are a few of the many possible chemicals that may make up a portion of “fragrance” in bath bombs. Some “fragrance” components have been listed on the EPA’s hazardous waste list.
○ Benzene derivatives
■ Dangers: Human carcinogen, hormone disruption, reproductive malformation, lower immune response
■ Dangers: Respiratory allergies, liver disease, embryo toxicity, diabetes/hypertension, sclerosing peritonitis, cerebral ischemia/neurodegenerative diseases, and other aging-associated diseases
■ Dangers: Decreased hormone levels, low sperm quality, obesity, ovarian ageing, can lead to cancer
● Talc – Although this ingredient isn’t extremely popular in bath bombs, it’s been found in a few products of a well-known brand. If you haven’t seen the news yet, talc has been associated with an elevated risk of ovarian cancer, so it’s not the sort of thing you’ll want to marinate in.
■ Dangers: Linked to a higher risk of ovarian cancer. You can read more about talc and ovarian cancer here.
● Glitter – Most bath bombs contain glitter or a vegetable oil based lustre.
■ Dangers: Since glitter is formed from small pieces of plastic, once it runs down the drain, it’ll never biodegrade. And remember, glitter and lustres don’t belong in the sensitive, pH balanced vagina. It can cause inflammation and infections such as UTI’s and yeast infections.
● Artificial Dyes – Even the beautiful swirls of synthetic and artificial colour are known for causing an array of ill health effects.
○ D&C Red 33: A dye derived from petroleum or coal tar (a known human carcinogen)
■ Dangers : Allergy-like reactions, ADHD in children, and some have even been linked to neuron damage and brain cancer.
● Parabens – Preservative ingredients that extend shelf life of the products.
■ Dangers: Known to disrupt endocrine system and can lead to early puberty. They can trigger allergic reactions in the skin which leads to quick exposure to the body, especially if you’re soaking in the bath. Certain parabens have been associated with breast cancer.
If you’re a bath fanatic who needs more than just hot water to feel pampered, here are some simple solutions –
- For a fragrance fix that doesn’t turn you into a human teabag, use scented candles or incense. You’ll still get that calming aroma without steeping yourself in unknown chemicals—and the soft light will set the mood for relaxing.
- If bubbles are your thing, and you don’t want to spring for a jacuzzi, you can find natural recipes for making bubble bath all over the internet. Here’s one from DIY Natural.
- Is it the eye-popping colour that your crave? There are much safer options to consider than dipping yourself in dyes. Look for submersible LED lights that can illuminate your bath from below.
- If you refuse to relinquish your bath bomb addiction, at least seek out talc-free options, and products scented with recognisable ingredients rather than “fragrances.” Or, if you’re the DIY type, you can try making your own!
Words by: Kayla Mackie, Product Safety Investigator at ConsumerSafety.org