Bath bombs are all the rage: they’re fizzy, they’re scented, they often contain essential oils, and many of them create a beautiful swirl of colors and sparkle in your bathwater. On the surface, bath fizzies seem to enhance and encourage a relaxing bath time experience. But what’s actually inside a bath bomb isn’t quite so pleasant; in fact, the ingredients hidden in many of them can be very harmful.
Hormone-disrupting chemicals, damaging dyes and toxin-laden fragrances are some of the star ingredients in popular bath bombs, and as you relax in the tub — you end up soaking up a lot more than you bargained for.
Damaging dyes stain skin, enter blood stream
One of the consequences of using bath bombs is that these vibrantly colored fizzies have the potential to turn your skin any shade of the rainbow — especially if you were to use one incorrectly. Last year, a woman reportedly turned herself bright pink for three whole days after mistakenly using the product incorrectly.
But stained skin isn’t the only concerning aspect of dyes in bath products. Artificial dyes are known for causing an array of ill health effects — and those effects are not just perpetrated through consumption. A Slovenian study from 2013 discovered that skin also absorbs dyes — particularly through mucous membranes and skin that’s just been shaved. After being absorbed through the skin, the dye particles enter directly into the bloodstream, instead of first being broken down in the digestive system or filtered out by the liver.
Many of the dyes used in cosmetics are controversial. For example, D&C Red 33 is a dye derived from coal tar or petroleum. Coal tar dyes are known carcinogens and products containing them are required to be labeled in California under Proposition 65. However, this dye, and others like it, can be found in many bath fizzies.
Artificial dyes of this sort have also been linked to causing allergy-like reactions, ADHD in children, and some have even been linked to neuron damage and brain cancer. At least nine commonly used synthetic dyes have been found to have harmful effects on human health.
Toxic ingredients lurk in fragrances
While “fragrance” may seem like an innocuous item on a label, that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Many synthetic fragrances — about 95 percent of them, actually — are derived from petroleum. Many synthetic fragrances are suspected endocrine disrupters. Phthalates, in particular, are known to be very toxic. Diethyl phthalate can be found in an estimated 97 percent of American citizens, and has been linked to damaging sperm in epidemiological studies.
And as an Environmental Working Group report revealed, “Fragrance secrecy is legal due to a giant loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels but explicitly exempts fragrance.” And with this explicit exemption comes implicit permission for the cosmetic industry keep the public in the dark about what really goes into “fragrance” — even when the ingredients are none so safe.
Other bath bomb health concerns
While toxic ingredients like endocrine-disrupting pthalates and carcinogenic dyes top the list for concerns when it comes to bath bombs (and other personal care products), there are several other concerning things about bath fizzies. For example, many bath bombs contain glitter. Glitter is generally made from non-biodegradable plastic, which means once you wash the sparkly stuff down the drain, it’s going to be sticking around in the environment for decades. Much like microbeads, glitter is considered to be a “micro plastic” that persists and never breaks down. While this is not a personal health concern, glitter is a major concern for environmental health.
There are some very personal health concerns related to the use of bath bombs, however. Urinary tract infections, for example, are a big concern when it comes to bath fizzies. While it is known that showers are better for preventing UTIs, the common allergens and skin irritants found in bath bombs can actually trigger the formation of an infection. The chemical fragrances found in some bath fizzies can also disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina, and can pave the way for a yeast infection to set in.
Unless you’re making your own homemade bath bombs, it might be best to stay away from them.