The beauty products you’re using? They don’t need government approval or review before landing on your bathroom counter. Find out which toxic ingredients to avoid, the reasons why they affect hormone health, and some better options to help your body maintain hormone balance.
What endocrine disruptor chemicals are & why they matter
Our skin absorbs nearly 60% of the chemicals we put on it. Many cosmetics in the U.S. have ingredients that can lead to hormone imbalances or other health issues. Endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, are connected to early puberty, changes in insulin response, decreased fertility, and forms of cancer. They may also have effects on autoimmune diseases, nervous system disorders, and increased risk for high blood pressure and strokes.
Preservatives help products last longer. They stop bacteria and mold from growing. But not all chemicals used as preservatives are safe for hormones. One type to keep an eye on: parabens. They can be found in many beauty and personal care products—and even in food packaging.
Parabens’ effect on hormone health
Parabens from makeup can become absorbed by the skin. Enzymes in the skin turn some of the parabens into PHBA. PHBA is naturally occurring and can be found in produce and in the body. However, other parabens make their way to the bloodstream unchanged. Studies link high amounts of parabens to changes in sex hormone levels. The reason: parabens and estrogen have similar chemical structures. This lets parabens bind to estrogen receptors in the body, where they have estrogenic effects.
Because they act like estrogen, parabens can affect health and fertility. In men, they cause sperm and testosterone changes. In some women, they can promote the growth of certain types of cancers. And, they also affect ovarian reserve.
Ovarian reserve is the ovaries’ ability to provide quality egg cells. As we get older, our ovarian reserve naturally declines. But, according to Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center, parabens can harm the ovarian reserve in younger women. Less ovarian reserve may make it more difficult to get pregnant.
Another type of chemical to look out for: phthalates. They’re found in plastics and keep it sturdy yet flexible. But many perfumes, shampoos, and nail polishes contain phthalates, too. In fact, phthalates often get called the “everywhere chemicals.” They don’t chemically bind to the packaging they’re a part of. Because of that, they easily seep into other substances.
Phthalates and hormones
According to the American Chemistry Council, phthalates are not synthetic hormones and don’t mimic them. They also say the amounts of phthalates we get don’t cause harmful endocrine effects. However, other studies have come to different conclusions. In animals, phthalates influence sex and thyroid hormones. Research completed during human pregnancy raises questions, too. Phthalates may play a role in a baby’s birth weight, head measurements, length of gestation, and more.
Some good news: many companies have taken phthalates out of their products. However, some haven’t. It can be hard to tell just from looking at a label. Phthalates are sometimes listed under an umbrella ingredient term. For example, a general word like “fragrance” may be used rather than listing each individual ingredient.
Refining petroleum for commercial products creates petrolatum. Many lotions, lip balms, and other moisturizers contain this chemical.
Some safety organizations say well-refined petrolatum isn’t harmful. But it’s hard to know a product’s full history. In Europe, petrolatum needs proof of a pure refining process to be used as an ingredient in personal care products. But the United States doesn’t keep an eye on petrolatum refinement for cosmetics. Petrolatum that’s not refined well can become contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH. PAHs are carcinogens and may cause cancer.
Check moisturizing products for petroleum-based ingredients before tossing them in your cart. Look for words like petrolatum, paraffin oil, and mineral oil. Steer clear of these ingredients if you can. Found one that you love with white petrolatum? That’s among the safer options.
3 safer cosmetic brands for your hormones
To see how your current brand stacks up, head to The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics database. The site offers great resources for cosmetic safety. Plus, they rate a large number of products on the market.
Ready to switch up your brand? Some we love (who are also dedicated to safer ingredients) include:
Jane Iredale promises talc-free, paraben-free, and phthalate-free mineral makeup. They stand against testing cruelty. And they’ve also earned seals of approval from PETA and EcoCert. Celebrities like Cindy Crawford, Jessica Biel, Emma Watson, and Rihanna reportedly love Jane Iredale.
Ilia Beauty creates vibrant, long-lasting makeup. They advocate and practice transparency by clearly list ingredients. Many products include a mix of organic and natural bases. However, nontoxic synthetic ingredients exist in some of their formulations, too. Also, Ilia Beauty strives for sustainable packaging: recycled aluminum, paper, or glass.
Founded by makeup artist Rose Marie-Swift, RMS Beauty helps women eliminate hormone-disrupting chemicals from their makeup routine. The brand uses organic, food-grade ingredients. The natural state of their ingredients feels healing and can help you feel better about what you’re putting on your skin.