But did you know that cosmetics and personal care products contain a mix of chemicals that can profoundly affect human health? Some chemicals are classified as what is called "endocrine disrupting", which means they interfere with the body’s hormones and cause serious adverse health effects (1).
• One in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors.
• The average woman will absorb up to 10 pounds of lead from her lipstick in her lifetime.
- Dr. Sara Gottfried
• A research study conducted on the umbilical cord of newborns revealed over 230 chemicals...
It's not a question of whether or not we are toxic, it's a question of how toxic are we.
- Dr. Brenda Watson
Many chemicals, both natural and man-made, can actually mimic and interfere with the body’s hormones, known as the endocrine system. These chemicals are called endocrine disruptors, and are linked with developmental, reproductive, brain, immune, and other problems (2). Endocrine disruptors are found in many everyday products and things in our environments, including some plastic bottles and containers, liners of metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, pesticides, cosmetics, and personal care products.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires U.S. manufacturers to report the safety of their cosmetic products to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But unfortunately, cosmetics are not required to undergo the same strict regulations for approval as drugs do, and as a result, many harmful chemicals end up in many of the products we use every day.
When absorbed in the body, an endocrine disruptor can decrease or increase normal hormone levels (left), mimic the body's natural hormones (middle), or alter the natural production of hormones (right).
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Common Endocrine Disruptors
The average woman uses 12 products containing 168 different ingredients daily. Many cosmetic chemicals are designed to penetrate into the skin’s inner layers, and they do. Consequently, some common cosmetic ingredients turn up in people’s bodies. Among them: industrial plasticizers called phthalates; parabens, which are preservatives; and persistent fragrance components like musk xylene.
I bet if you ran to your bathroom and looked at the labels on your typical makeup, shampoo, body wash, shave gel, deodorant, moisturizer, and hair products, you'd find a bunch of ingredients that you either don't recognize or can't pronounce. That's because they're probably chemicals - and chemicals do not belong in the human body and have adverse affects on our health. Here is a list of some commonly found chemicals that we are exposed to on a regular basis:
- Bisphenol A (BPA) — used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, which are found in many plastic products including food storage containers
- Dioxins — produced as a byproduct in herbicide production and paper bleaching, they are also released into the environment during waste burning and wildfires
- Perchlorate — a by-product of aerospace, weapon, and pharmaceutical industries found in drinking water and fireworks
- Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) — used widely in industrial applications, such as firefighting foams and non-stick pan, paper, and textile coatings
- Phthalates — used to make plastics more flexible, they are also found in some food packaging, cosmetics, children’s toys, and medical devices
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) — used to make flame retardants for household products such as furniture foam and carpets
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) — used to make electrical equipment like transformers, and in hydraulic fluids, heat transfer fluids, lubricants, and plasticizers
- Triclosan — may be found in some anti-microbial and personal care products, like liquid body wash
How Do These Chemicals Harm Us?
Research done by the National Library of Medicine and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NIH) did a study on users of mouthwash and sunscreen. They concluded that people who used mouthwash on a daily basis had significantly elevated urinary concentrations of mono-ethyl phthalate, methyl and propyl parabens, and BP3" compared to those who NEVER used mouthwash. Similarly, individuals who reported ALWAYS using sunscreen had significantly higher urinary concentrations of triclosan, methyl, ethyl, and propyl parabens, and BP3 (59%, 92%, 102%, 151%, and 510% higher, respectively) compared with NEVER users of sunscreen (4). Further, several studies have linked the feminization of American baby boys to those whose mothers were exposed to a common fragrance chemical called diethyl phthalate during pregnancy (5).
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that adolescent girls’ bodies are contaminated with chemicals commonly used in cosmetics and body care products. In fact, they detected 16 potentially toxic chemicals — phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and musks — in blood and urine samples from 20 teen girls. Studies link these chemicals to potential health effects including cancer and hormone disruption.
To make matters worse, teens may be particularly sensitive to exposures to hormone-disrupting chemicals, given the complex role they play during puberty – precisely when girls typically experiment with an increasing number and variety of body care products. When the EWG surveyed them, the teen study participants reported using an average of 17 personal care products each day, 40 percent more than an adult woman (6).
How to Reduce Your Chemical Exposure
- Eat organic produce to avoid chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides
- Choose only clean, quality organic meat without antibiotics or hormones
- Exercise and/or use infrared saunas
- Bathe in Epsom Salts to help draw toxins out from your skin
- Use only chemical- free cleaners and laundry detergents
- Choose natural and chemical-free beauty & personal care products or make your own
- Don’t wear perfume – use essential oils
- Use glass or stainless steel cookware and bake-ware
- Get a shower filter to avoid absorbing chlorine and chemicals through your skin
- Get a good quality air purifier/filter for your home
- Put lots of house plants around your home (they help produce oxygen and purify the air)
- Avoid scented air fresheners and deodorizing room sprays – light a chemical-free candle that is scented with essential oils
- Wear cotton against your skin whenever possible
- Use cotton bed sheets
- Choose a wooden cutting board to cut fruits and vegetables (a separate one for preparing meats)
- Do not heat food in plastic containers/plastic wrap in the microwave
- Detox your body regularly (at least 4 times per year) with a whole foods approach and engage in daily detox activities for optimal health
I encourage you to implement as many of these tips as you can so that you can reduce the amount of chemicals you are exposed to. Making your own cleaning and personal care products is also an easy (and inexpensive) way to reduce your risks. Here are a couple of simple recipes for you to try:
Mix 1 part water with 1 part white vinegar and add 10-20 drops lemon or orange essential oil.
Luxurious Homemade Ultra-Rich Lotion with Natural Oils, Beeswax, and Shea butter
Author: Wellness Mama
- ½ cup almond or olive oil (can infuse with herbs first if desired)
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- ¼ cup beeswax
- Optional: 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
- Optional: 2 tablespoons Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter
- Optional: Essential Oils, Vanilla Extract or other natural extracts to suit your preference
- Combine ingredients in a pint sized or larger glass jar. I have a mason jar that I keep just for making lotions and lotion bars, or you can even reuse a glass jar from pickles, olives or other foods.
- Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and place over medium heat.
- Put a lid on the jar loosely and place in the pan with the water.
- As the water heats, the ingredients in the jar will start to melt. Shake or stir occasionally to incorporate.
- When all ingredients are completely melted, pour into whatever jar or tin you will use for storage. Small mason jars (8 ounce) are great for this. It will not pump well in a lotion pump!
Use as you would regular lotion. This has a longer shelf life than some homemade lotion recipes since all ingredients are already shelf stable and no water is added. Use within 6 months for best moisturizing benefits.
Once I discovered that natural and homemade skincare not only reduced my exposure to harmful chemicals, but also dramatically improved the quality and appearance of my skin, I never looked back! I personally love using the Oil Cleansing Method ( recommend this to all of my clients) instead of commercial skincare products, and I've been using this method for years to keep my skin clear, bright, soft, and virtually blemish-free. While it's impossible to completely avoid all the chemicals and hormone disruptors we are exposed to, it's important to take action NOW for our health and for the health of our families.