Liz Talks, Episode 41: Fragrance, phthalates, and stepkids; sun-protective clothing

Can you really get sun protection from clothing? Is a stepkid’s fragrance habit going to damage my little ones’ health? What’s the deal with teenagers and The Body Shop? Liz answers a few burning questions on this episode of Liz Talks.

Liz Talks Episode 41

  • Updates [2:55]
  • UPF clothing [5:44]
  • Pre-teens, step-kids, and safer personal care [16:15]


Welcome to Liz Talks. I’m Liz, and I’m a nutritional therapy practitioner and best-selling author; but here, I’m 0% professional and 100% mom, spouse, friend, and over-analyzer. We’re going to talk food, beauty, family, fitness, mental health, friendship, marriage, and everything in between in this season of Liz Talks, and I’m so glad you’re along for the ride.

Remember; this is a podcast about thoughts, feelings, and opinions. And I definitely do not give individual, personal, or medical advice. 

This is episode 41, topic: fragrance, phthalates, and step kids; and sun protective clothing. 

In case you missed it, last weeks’ episode 40 was an interview with midwife Lindsey Meehleis; who is such a thoughtful and insightful individual with an Instagram that has actually made me pause, think, and consider. Which is so valuable and so rare these days. I’m so grateful she was willing to come on. And we had a really juicy conversation. So I hope you’ve listened. 

Before I begin, I want to quickly thank Arrowhead Mills because they sponsor this podcast. Podcasting is a labor of love, and it takes time and sweat equity. And to have a company put their faith in my work, in effect to support my small business, is life changing. Arrowhead Mills was focused on sustainable farming long before it was cool. And their range of products from cereals; yes, cereals. To corn meal to premade gluten free pancake mixes are a choice that I feel good about for my family. 

So, next time you go to the store, look for Arrowhead Mills products. You can also find them on 

I also want to remind you about an affiliate that I absolutely love, and judging from the response, you all absolutely love it, too. And that’s Vibrant Body Company. Please do not keep wearing a bra that is uncomfortable and restrictive and blocks your lymph flow and makes you sad because it is awful. Go to; I don’t know why I felt like I needed to put the www in there. I’m old. It just means I’m old. And use code LIZ15, all caps, for 15% off their comfortable, no wire, certified clean bra. They have a buttery soft shelfy tank, which I wear all the time. And their underwear are actually cooling; I swear. It’s really amazing. 

So trust me. I used to be all sports bras all the time. But I actually finally swapped that out for a real bra, and I’m never going back. So With code LIZ15, all caps. I also put all of this information in the show notes of every podcast. You will find these bras so comfortable, so functional, and so perfectly constructed for your body. And you can do a virtual bra fitting with Heidy; their master bra designer. She’s amazing. I am a convert, and I know you will be too. 

  • Updates [2:55]

Ok, friends. Some updates! I have been thinking. And I really enjoy the interviews that I do. And oftentimes those go 45 minutes to an hour or more. But, my thought is; one of the promises that I made was that these would be carpool line friendly. I don’t know if I can do that; because as I’ve talked about in previous episodes, I really like the long form conversational stuff. And I’ve gotten a good amount of feedback that you all enjoy it, too.

At the same time, I have to say; I spend many hours putting together each and every Q&A podcast that I make. Because it involves me coordinating with a researcher, interpreting the research with her, asking follow up questions, and really outlining; I mean, truly. Even for this one little segment that I’m going to do on UPF clothing here in a minute on sun protective clothing; it was several hours of work.

And that’s great. I love to do it. But at the same time, what I pour into each individual podcast might need to get stretched out a little bit so I’m not spending as many hours on a single podcast; but rather the same amount of hours on several podcasts.

So what I’m going to try to do is continue with the longform podcasting when I have an interview, so we can really dig in and get juicy with all of the topics that I want to cover. But maybe on these Q&A episodes, I’m going to go from maybe three or four questions to maybe two questions. One longer, or one or two sort of medium length questions. So that way, the research time is kind of spread out across several podcasts and checking those boxes for a couple of weeks longer.

Because it’s tough to do that every single week or every other week. It would be probably a better use of time; at least for now for me to stretch it out a little bit. So, same great content. Just maybe we’ll have longer long-form conversational type interviews and then for the Q&A episodes, maybe condensing them a little bit. 

Now, if questions keep pouring in, I’m going to try and get to them at the very least if questions come in and I know I’m not going to get to one in a timely manner, I will respond individually. Which I’ve done a couple of times lately. It’s always nice to connect with people one-on-one. 

So keep submitting questions. Even if you’re worried that it’s not going to get answered in a timely manner, I still really am going to try to at the very least get back to people one-on-one if I know a question can’t be answered until 5, 6, 7 weeks down the line. 

Ok. So, that’s the plan for now. As always, it could change. I think being changeable is fine. It means that you are wise and that you listen. And hopefully aren’t just flitting with the wind. I think I’m a wisdom person more so than a flitting person. But you never really know. 

  • UPF clothing [5:44]

Ok. I spoke briefly about a segment on UPF clothing that I wanted to do; and here goes. This was yet another really cool interaction exchange with my researcher, Amanda, that I’m excited to share with you today. I wish that I had dug into all of this stuff before the summer started, so I could have been useful this year. But I could always republish these as we get closer to the summer next year, and hopefully it will be useful to people through the summer months at some point. But better late than never, right? 

So when I was in Florida a couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with a store owner. I was actually going; completely random story. But we were taking family pictures and I completely forgot to bring anything to wear. So I had to go to whatever store was open at the time, and that was a swimsuit store. So I was hoping I could just find a coverup and maybe a skirt that would work. Spoiler alert; I did. Found some Tommy Bahama stuff that worked out just fine. 

But I got in a conversation with one of the gals that was working at the store. And of the many things that we talked about in that conversation; one of them was that when you wash your rash guards and dry them, it takes away all the sun protection. And I was like; really? This is not something that I’ve ever heard of before. I just kind of thought rash guards were protective by virtue of their tight weave, and I was like; how does washing take all of that away? 

And she wasn’t talking about necessarily the fabrics breaking down. She was actually talking about a protective coating that was on rash guards that made them sun protective. And this was another thing that I was actually not familiar with. I did not realize that there was actually some kind of additional protective coating that was put on sun protective clothing to make it more filtering or absorbent of UV rays. Or more protective of UV rays. 

So I did a little bit of research around that, and I wanted to bring the research to you. So UPF is ultraviolet protection factor. And most of us have seen that; especially if we use rash guards when we go to the pool or to the beach. And UPF is an official rating for the UVA and UVB protection level from the clothing that you buy. SPF, sun protection factor, is a rating for sunscreen protection from UVB rays. Remember SPF has nothing to do with UVA rays, which are the really bad rays. It is a marker of protection from UVB rays; which, if you can remember, B is for Burn. UVB rays are the rays that burn you. UVA rays are the ones that really get down to the DNA and do the most damage. 

And for more on that, you can listen to my sunscreen episode or the sunscreen episode I did with Elizabeth Joy on her podcast; and then she was on my podcast. She’s awesome. She’s a doula. She was in my episode 36. I also did an episode with her around sunscreen. Which reiterated most of the stuff that we talked about on my sunscreen episode. But if you’re sick of listening to me talk, you could listen to me talk to someone else. 

So again, this comment by the swim store worker in Longboat Key, Florida really got me curious about UPF clothing. And as usual, I took it to my researcher, Amanda, and she dug into it for me a little bit. 

Now, the gal in Longboat Key is not entirely correct. I think she was probably, again, talking about clothing that is; the word is impregnated. {laughs} Impregnated with additives that enhance UV protection. But that is not all UPF clothing. UPF is just a marker of how much what you’re wearing; it’s a testable rating for whatever it is you’re wearing and how much it protects you from the sun. So UPF is increased by the tightness of the weave of the clothing as well as the color. And this one was interesting to me.

Dark and colorful; like vivid colors, offer much more protection than white, for example. And whether a garment is wet or dry also changes the UPF. Wet is less protective in general than dry. And I’ll talk about that more in a second. 

So for impregnated {laughs} clothing, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two potential compounds that can be added to clothing for UV protection. Interestingly, Amanda found some eczema clothing that’s impregnated with zinc to help with itching. So this isn’t some like space-age technology. It’s something that has been used for other purposes. It’s not just this brand new thing.

There’s another filter called tinosorb, which is also a European sunscreen filter that I had heard of before. And here’s what I know about it from the sunscreen perspective. It’s considered reef safe. It’s actually a trade name for a few types of UV filters in Europe and Australia and a couple of other parts of the world. Not in the United States. As I talked about in the sunscreen podcast, the US is way behind. It’s not even in the race for UV filter innovation. Which probably is why everything here right now is just made of zinc; different types of zinc.

Tinosorb actually has a good safety profile. There’s no evidence of hormone disruption. It’s a broad spectrum filter, approaching spectral homeostasis. At least more so than anything we have in the United States that’s not zinc. And by the way; spectral homeostasis is another term from my sunscreen podcast. So go back and listen to that. 

And again, it’s reef safe, as far as we know. So I think part of the reason so many sunscreens in the United States are kind of being overwritten by various forms of zinc is because oxybenzone; I believe it was oxybenzone, was found to be potentially damaging to ocean ecosystems. So you’ll see reef safe on a lot of sunscreens. It’s sort of a buzzword at this point, but it’s probably better than nothing. 

Anyhow. One thing to be mindful of, if you’re buying UPF clothing that’s impregnated with additional UV filtration is; how many washes the filtration is actually rated for. So non-impregnated UPF clothing can also lose effectiveness over time, if the color fades or the fabric stretched out. And many of them also lose filtering ability when they’re wet. But I don’t believe that impregnated clothing solves that problem. Because washing and drying, as the woman in Longboat Key said; that is when you might run into a problem with whatever {laughs} the fabric is impregnated with washing out or degrading over time. 

Something really interesting that Amanda found is a company called Nozone. It’s a company that manufactures super-duper tight weave shirts that are supposed to still be breathable and light weight for really high level UV protection. So if you do utilize clothing and rash guards and you want something you just know is really, really well made for that purpose, check out Nozone. It looks like a cool company. and I might order some stuff for next year from them. 

So, again. Fabrics can get a UPF rating simply by virtue of being made of really tightly woven material; synthetic materials and darker colors. Which; obviously, if you’re not going to be cooling off in the water, you probably would be miserable in a dark shirt on a hot summer day. So there are tradeoffs. So I would say the benchmark here would probably be darker shirts in water, since perhaps the darker shade will compensate for the lessening in UPF when the fabric is wet. But if you’re actually out there golfing or something, please don’t wear a black shirt to try and protect yourself from the sun. Go for something super tightly woven, lighter, maybe a bright color. Because bright and vibrant is better than white. Maybe a little orange or pink, you know. 

Now, one comment Amanda, my researcher, made is that yes; it can be confusing for consumers to navigate just how much protection they need for the climate they live in. And this is where things get so individual. Amanda remarked that it likely depends on the average UV index of the place where one lives, or where they travel to. Like, Florida for vacation in July; which is what we did. So I do think the UV index can be useful.

And a friend of mine actually asked me about that semi-recently. And I was like; you know, I don’t really know what to say. But in thinking about it; my thoughts were this. The UV index; it measures the strength of the sun’s rays. And I can help sort of guide you in knowing what level of protection you might need on a given day. But at the same time, obviously you still have to listen to your body. If you’re feeling it and you need a break; do it even if the UV index where you are is low. 

And note that if you’re at, like a white sand beach, that sand. The white sand is going to be reflecting the UV light back to you. So that might change your calculus, as well. You might not always feel like the UV index is high. Or, you might have read that the UV index is low, but be in a situation; whether by virtue of your skin tone or your location; white sand beach, whatever it might be. That would need to inform your choices for that day, as well.

So I think the UV index is obviously really useful. Especially if it’s really high; you should cater your approach that for sure. But don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security. 

Ok, that’s really what I wanted to say about UPF clothing. Again, I’m going to try some of that clothing from Nozone just to make me feel a little bit better about the actual UPF level that I’m getting, versus just some of these rash guards that I don’t even know where we got them. We’ve washed them a million times. And I’m excited to give those a try. But do know that there is a difference between clothing that is impregnated with UPF type substances and clothing that is just really tightly woven that protects you from the sun. I don’t know that impregnated clothing is all that major of a thing. I don’t know that it’s really taken off. But at the same time, it does seem like it’s being talked about. Maybe just in Florida, or places that are a little bit warmer. I had never really heard of it before, I don’t think. For that purpose, especially. But hopefully this helps in your decision making a little bit. 

  • Pre-teens, step-kids, and safer personal care [16:15]

Alright; here’s the question that I really wanted to tackle today. It is so; just so dense. And I loved it, so I’m excited to talk about it. And maybe you all will have some wisdom to share, as well. If you do, reach out to me; And I could forward it along to the question asker. 

Here’s the question. “I just listened to the parenting episode, and it was really eye opening; especially everything about losing control as they get older. I know you value safer products for the home and family. So I’m wondering if you’ve had any resistance there, and how you handled it. My stepdaughter, who is now 12, one day just threw away everything personal care and had her Pop-Pop take her shopping. She came back with half the Bath and Bodyworks store. It was hard for me, after feeling so accomplished cleaning up our entire home. Cleaning, personal care, etc. My daughter was just a baby at the time, so I got really defensive when she’d spray the mist. I tried to be gentle, and explain how it’s not good for baby’s breathing and such, but I couldn’t say anything that resonates with her. 

One day she sprayed what smelled like 25 sprays, and I took all the sprays from her, saying she couldn’t spray them responsibly, so I had to take them for my daughter’s health. Not a good move, I know now, but I don’t know how to approach it. I worry any time they try to go into a room. It’s also hard because her mom, grandparents, and entire rest of the family doesn’t value safer products like I do. I was just curious if you had any insight on how to go about this. I’ve since let it go, because I think it started with her being uncomfortable with puberty and body odor, but my anxiety is through the roof for my own children’s health. Thanks Liz!” 

And by the way, I got permission to reprint this question in it’s entirety. So there’s that. 

And here’s what I wanted to say about it. First of all; I want to acknowledge the difficulty of probably being the kid that’s there half the time; let alone being a pre-teen who is starting puberty and entering that stage of life where; more is more! More makeup; more fragrance; more trying so hard to fit it. I remember that. I remember being obsessed with; it was either Bath and Bodyworks or maybe the Body Shoppe; the white musk fragrance. I bathed in it. I don’t even want to think about it anymore.

But just being that kid that’s popping in half the time. And the stage of life. It just has to be difficult. 

So I am not an expert on preteens. I’m barely even an expert on my own kids. So it would probably be good to look into some kind of communication philosophy for dialoguing with preteens. Specifically when you’re not technically the primary parents. 

So, obviously, that would be useful. I would be remiss if I didn’t throw that out there. But I also want to acknowledge how you feel about using these sprays around your precious babies! And I’ll take a moment to talk about the science. Because while I wanted to say; eh, just try not to worry about it. It’s just life. There is concerning science. And it’s also happening in your home. It’s different from a mother-in-law that wears perfume and uses dryer sheets but is only around once in a blue moon. This is your home. And it’s potentially affecting kids at such a vulnerable age. 

And in particular, I’m thinking about phthalates, which are compounds hidden within other ingredients. And thus, not always listed on ingredient lists. But there are other compounds, too, of course. But let’s just talk about phthalates for a moment. 

These are; they’re not volatile organic compounds. They’ve not VOCs, but they are semi-volatile organic compounds. SVOCs. And they’ve been linked with early puberty; early breast development; which is linked to breast cancer. With asthma via direct interaction of the chemicals with the airways. And with a host of other things. Obesity. And even simply changes in waist circumference; specifically exposure in girls at 6-8 years old is associated with BMI and waist circumference at 7-13 years old. And that’s not nothing. 

Phthalates are also associated with cancer at varying levels of exposure. And that doesn’t mean that exposure via this specific route, your preteens Bath and Bodyworks addiction, is going to cause your little ones to develop asthma or experience early puberty. But it does mean that you are not a crazy hippie. 

And I suppose if you really wanted to prove something, you could test you or your girl’s urine for phthalates when your stepdaughter was there and when she wasn’t, see what the difference is. It’s a few hundred bucks from what I could see, but maybe you’ll learn something. I don’t know that that would actually be productive; but in my mind, I like to quantify things. And I’m always very curious. And I’m always very much wanting something to back up what I’m saying. So I couldn’t help but throw it out there. But don’t get lost in that idea. 

So basically what I’m thinking is; I believe that there are very likely effects of lower exposures over time. And there have been studies that suggest that cumulative exposure to multiple supposed toxins in personal care does have an effect that’s sort of greater than the sum of it’s parts. Or worse than the sum of it’s part. I don’t know what the proper word there would be. And at times it is probably difficult to quantify. But this is valid, nonetheless. And these negative effects are probably difficult sometimes to link directly to your white musk eau de toilette. 

But, the way I think of it is this. If there is a big fire; there was most certainly a smaller fire first. So, maybe we’re talking about cancer in rats. Or maybe we’re talking about large amounts of phthalates having environmental consequences on humans. And we’re thinking; but we’re not getting that much. But you have to think about the smaller fire. What is the smaller fire that’s setting the stage? What could that do? What changes could that cause? And certainly, what are the consequences over time?

Ok, I’ve got to pause here and say I’m not fear mongering. But I’m trying to be realistic and add to your argument and your confidence in making changes in your home. So for the record, our bodies can detoxify phthalates through sweat and through urine. But if the body is detoxifying them, that means that the body has been exposed to them. And they had to process them in the first place. And that’s where the problems take root. They don’t just go right through us, touching nothing, and interacting with noting. 

Yes, I’m very glad they don’t just stay in the system and have a never-ending phthalate party; but it’s also no comfort to know that they’ve made their way through the system in the first place. It still feels violating. Like, if your teenager had a house party while you were out of town, but the partiers were gone by the time you got back, would that make you feel all that much better about the fact that they were in your house in the first place? No. No! 

“Hey mom, but they all went home.” Um, ok. But they peed off the balcony and broke the floor tiles where they put the keg down. And I’m supposed to be happy that they aren’t here doing that right this minute? I don’t know if that was actually a good analogy. {laughing} 

But, I’ll move on. And I do want to note that you can literally punch into Google; phthalates dangers and you will find actual studies. Actual scientific literature out there that is very clear about the dangers of phthalates in particular, and other compounds in some of these items as well. So while these companies actually make it kind of difficult to find their ingredients; I think the Body Shoppe is easier to find the ingredients list. But Bath and Bodyworks is a little harder. You have to scroll to the very bottom of the website. Tap on ingredients, and then punch in whatever product you want the ingredients from. It’s just a roundabout way to say; we don’t want you to look at this, on the actual listing. 

But you can go, you can pull an ingredient, and look at any environmental toxicity from it. Or any toxicity from it by punching that into Google or going to the Environmental Working Group. The Environment Working Group; I’ll talk about that more in a minute. I’ll put a pin in that for now. 

I think it’s worth noting now that there is very little regulation around cosmetics and body products in the United States. Part of why; by the way, I was so inspired when I joined Beautycounter 7-plus years ago, because their entire mission was around not just selling products, but also selling safer products and moving the market forward. And doing advocacy work literally in Washington DC. I went; I went to my state senator’s office to talk about moving the needle on legislation; health protective legislation. And as far as I know, the FDA’s role in regulating cosmetics is limited to colorants in fragrance products. Which are probably their entire own issue. 

But the point is; I learned from that journey that the US has not passed a major federal law governing the cosmetics industry since 1938. And that is crazy. And as a detour; I don’t know if the question asker lives in California, but two pieces of legislation in California did pass in 202. The Safer Fragrance Bill and the Toxic Free Cosmetics Act. The Safer Fragrance Bill closed what was known as the fragrance loophole. But that still just really represented the fight to get consumers access to the information about the ingredients that were still in their products. 

California being the most progressive state in the United States on this type of legislation still does not require companies to remove certain potentially toxic and endocrine disrupting cancer linked ingredients or even to test for them as contaminants. It just created a database so that those informed enough to look could see what was in their products. 

The Toxic Free Cosmetics Act; the other one, banned 15 ingredients in California from cosmetics. Asbestos, lead, formaldehyde, mercury, multiple forms of parabens, toluene, triclosan, and PFAs, among others. But not phthalates, it appears. And those are what are of the top concern when it comes to fragrance. So it’s very confusing. It’s progress, but we need to be informed on what kind of progress it actually is. 

And by the way, on the note of phthalates, I looked it up on the Bath and Bodyworks website, and here’s what it said: “While not added as an ingredient, very small amounts of phthalates 1,4 dioxane might be present when ingredients mix. When impurities are identified, we ensure the levels are below industry and global regulatory limits for customer safety.” 

And that means exactly nothing. First of all; the amounts of phthalates that would qualify as “very small amounts” is that relative to what? Relative to what might cause problems? Or relative to what a teaspoon looks like? 

So “While not added as an ingredient”. obviously, phthalates are not added as ingredients to fragrance cosmetics. They’re just found as a component of the single ingredient; fragrance. So that’s some crafty language there. And then, the phrase, “When impurities are identified”. So, tell me you don’t test for impurities without telling me you don’t test for impurities. That’s all that is. 

I’ll also add that all Bath and Bodyworks and Body Shoppe products listed on the EWG site are listed as moderate to high hazard. And in a recent podcast, I talked about how it’s important to actually dig in and see why that might be the case. Because at times, one ingredient might be listed as problematic when the usage of it is only problematic when it’s used internally. Or applied on broken skin. But in general, I doubt that’s the case here. I think they’re just using potentially problematic ingredients across the board. And they’re not in this safer skincare category anyway. It’s not their niche. So why do we expect that from them? I guess we shouldn’t.

So, the reality is, this is probably not good for the little ones. I don’ think it’s deadly. And I don’t think it’s impacting them immediately. And again, I don’t mean this in a fear mongering way. They’ll probably be fine. Most of us will probably be fine. But however painful this is for you to control, it is something you can control. And if you can come to a sense of empowerment around that, maybe that would be a good thing. 

There is compelling research around many of the compounds used in personal care. And even, to a point, congress is starting to look at it. And hopefully they’ll do something meaningful about it over the next 100 years. 

But in my opinion, it is valid to put your foot down about it in some way. We have told family members, when our babies were young, to please refrain from wearing scents of fragrances. And I’m just like; too bad so sad about it. I’m ok being the bad guy on this point.

And by the way, I’ve had a few people close to me make comments about whatever they’re using being unscented. And I learned something recently that is really interesting. It is that as far as labels goes; fragrance free means no added chemicals for fragrance. Unscented could mean that certain chemicals have been added to mask odors. So what you want is fragrance free; not unscented. Ok. Little tangent there.

So whether setting a boundary means you don’t allow her to use things in your house at all. Use those particular products in your house at all. Or you simply don’t allow them outside of her room. I do think taking that step is likely worthwhile. The good thing is; now, versus 10 years ago when I first started looking into this stuff, there are a ton of really top tier brands out there doing body and fragrance now without all these conventional toxicants and questionable ingredients. 

So, I’m wondering; can you take her on a shopping spree and buy her a bunch of those things? Maybe a little bonding time with some retail therapy. Or maybe it’s; I don’t want to be mean or make your life worse, but we have to come to some sort of compromise because I can’t let you have these in the house. It might harm your sisters; and it could also harm you. The studies say X, or the doctor says Y. And not everyone knows this, and that’s not their fault. But I know it. And I can’t put anyone in this household in that position. So I’d love to take you to Lush, or wherever. Have you pick whatever you want from this website to have and enjoy when you’re here.

And then the Growing Pains, or the Family Ties, or the Full House music comes on, and you have this beautiful moment where you both understand each other and everything is fixed and it’s perfect. Or maybe you can ask your spouse to do all of that, or your partner to do all of that. 

And maybe they can even go out and you can be the bad guy. But they can go out and actually; mean stepmom, let’s go appease her and buy all this new stuff for you. I mean, do you care how it happens as long as it happens? I don’t know. Sometimes the ends justify the means. Right? 

So I hope that wasn’t too; I’m not trying to scare. I’m just trying to support you and back you and hopefully offer some solutions. So please, let me know how it goes. And if anybody out there has ideas or information that I can pass along, reach out to me

Ok. That’s going to be it for this episode of Liz Talks. A big thank you to Arrowhead Mills for making this episode possible. Remember, you can ask me anything by sending me a DM @RealFoodLiz on Instagram. But the best way to ask is to go to That way, they don’t get lost in my inbox. 

I appreciate you! I’ll see you next week.

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