As natural mamas, we take so much care with the food we choose for our kids and the cleaning products we use in our house; but, oftentimes, our personal care comes last in our laundry list of natural to-dos. But new research sheds more light on the chemicals in cosmetics, suggesting just how important it is to take a hard look at our beauty products.

Taking Shower Meme – Hormones in Cosmetics Are Your Toiletries Harming Your Health

Why Care About Chemicals in Cosmetics?

We’re exposed to so many chemicals every. single. day. According to one study, the average woman puts 515 synthetic chemicals on her skin every day without even knowing it. The problem? Up to 60 percent of these chemicals are absorbed by the body. (source) And research shows that the chemicals in cosmetics can cause a host of negative health effects, ranging from the more benign—allergic reactions—to the more severe and chronic—breast cancer and even adverse pregnancy outcomes.

In 2013, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) wrote:

There is “robust” evidence linking “toxic environmental agents” to “adverse reproductive and developmental health outcomes.” (source)

The Study

So researchers from George Mason University set out to understand exactly how chemicals in cosmetics can affect a woman’s hormones, and subsequently, her reproductive system. 

The method was straightforward: Researchers collected 509 urine samples from from 143 women aged 18 to 44 years, free of known chronic health conditions and birth control, at various stages throughout their menstrual cycle. They then tested the urine for the common environmental chemicals in cosmetics, such as:

  • Parabens: Synthetic compounds used as preservatives.
  • Benzophenones: Compounds that stop UV light from changing the composition of personal care products.

“This study is the first to examine mixtures of chemicals that are widely used in personal care products in relation to hormones in healthy, reproductive-age women, using multiple measures of exposure across the menstrual cycle” — Dr. Anna Pollack, study author and Assistant Professor of Global and Community Health

The Results

Researchers discovered that even low-level exposure to chemicals in cosmetics may negatively affect reproductive hormone levels.

“We have early indicators that chemicals such as parabens may increase estrogen levels. If this finding is confirmed by additional research, it could have implications for estrogen dependent diseases such as breast cancer.”

And study authors say their findings indicate that chemicals in cosmetics are even more complex than initially thought. In the study, some mixtures of chemicals in cosmetics decreased reproductive hormones. Other mixtures actually increased reproductive hormone levels.

The Takeaway

If the results of this study prove anything, it’s that we must take care with the cosmetics and toiletries we use. There are so many chemicals in cosmetics, and there is still so much research to be done about how what we put on—and in—our bodies affects us.

Our endocrine systems are so delicate and are responsible for so much of our health—our fertility, our moods, our sleep patterns, and more. This is a situation where it’s just better to be safe than sorry.

How to Limit Your Exposure to Chemicals in Cosmetics

If you haven’t already marched to your bathroom to inspect your toiletries, don’t worry… we’ll wait… 

All joking aside, there are some really easy things you can do right now to limit any potential exposure to the chemicals in cosmetics. Here are some ideas:

1. Inform yourself

You know the phrase: The best defense is a good offense. Arm yourself with the knowledge you need to make smart choices about the products you’re using.

Read this post to learn more about natural beauty products and how to lower your risk of exposure to the chemicals in cosmetics.

2. Read the ingredients

Never trust the front of the package. Many brands and products may look green, eco-friendly, and natural by using buzzwords and packaging designed to fool the consumer. A closer look at the ingredient list on some of these products can reveal nasty chemicals.

Look for the pseudonyms for parabens and benzophenones listed below on the ingredient list of any product in question:

  • Paraben
    • methylparaben
    • ethylparaben
    • propylparaben
    • butylparaben
    • isobutylparaben
  • Benzopheone
    • benzophenone
    • benzophenone-#
    • BP#
    • oxybenzone
    • sulisobenzone
    • sulisobenzone sodium

3. Do your due diligence

Check out websites like EWG Skin Deep—they have compiled hundreds of studies on thousands of products. It’s a great one-stop resource.

4. Ease up on soap

Many soaps have some nasty ingredients in them—plus, they’re bad for the environment and can even mess with a healthy microbiome and interfere with vitamin D absorption! Use a little bit of natural soap on your pits and bits, then put it back on the shelf. 

Read more about why I don’t use (much) soap here.

5. Make your own beauty products

The surest way to know you’re not being exposed to chemicals in cosmetics? Make use of some great natural alternatives. Try: coconut oil as moisturizer, activated charcoal as toothpaste, and sugar as an exfoliant.

Check out some of my favorite DIY beauty products below:

How About You?

Do you routinely check labels on personal care products? Share your experiences below!