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Synthetic Musks

Synthetic musks are a large, poorly-studied class of chemicals added as scents to cosmetics, including perfumes, lotions and many other personal care products. Several studies suggest some of these compounds may disrupt hormone systems or trigger skin sensitization when exposed to UV light.
Synthetic musks identified in fragrances have been found in the cord blood of newborn babies as well as in blood, breast milk and body fat.
Two types of musks have historically been used in fragrances, cosmetics and personal care products: nitromusks, such as musk ketone, and polycyclic musks, such as Galaxolide and Tonalide. Synthetic musks are widely used as scents in personal care products and are found in many perfume, lotions, colognes and body sprays.
There is evidence that exposure to synthetic musks can have hormone disrupting effects. Galaxolide and Tonalide can bind to and stimulate human estrogen receptors, and both musks have been shown to affect androgen and progesterone receptors.
Tonalide has also been reported to increase the proliferation of estrogen-responsive human breast cancer cells. Further, Tonalide has been identified as a photosensitizer, a chemical that becomes more toxic when exposed to sunlight on the skin and has been linked to liver toxicity.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. (2011). Synthetic Musks. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Retrieved from