Curious if your products contain endocrine disruptors?
Does it feel like you’ve tried everything to balance your hormones? You try to get 8 hours of sleep and never drink coffee on an empty stomach. You take your inositol supplement and drink 3L of water a day. But it’s not helping. It’s hard to imagine that our beauty products can impact our hormonal health, but several studies confirm that the products we put on our skin are having a big impact on our hormones.
Inside many of our beauty products are chemicals called endocrine disruptors which can throw off our hormonal balance. In this article we’ll list 7 harmful endocrine disruptors to avoid in beauty products.
What are endocrine disruptors and what do they do?
Endocrine disruptors are compounds (naturally occurring or man-made) that enter our bodies through our skin, the air we breath or the food we eat. Once they’re in our bodies they wreak havoc on our hormonal systems by either mimicking our hormones, blocking them from doing their job, or causing our bodies to over or under produce hormones. This can lead to several unwanted hormonal issues.
Endocrine disruptors not only affect our reproductive organs, but all major biological functions. Our mood, metabolism, sleep, and hunger levels are all regulated by our hormonal systems. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to:
- Early puberty
- Early menopause
- Thyroid conditions
- Hormonal cancers
Endocrine disruptors to avoid in your beauty products
Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT)
MIT and CMIT are used as preservatives that prevent bacterial growth in skincare and makeup products. MIT has been associated with developmental disorders, reproductive disorders and immune system dysfunction.
What to look for on a label: Methylisothiazolinone or Methylchloroisothiazolinone.
Phthalates / Fragrance
Phthalates are used to make fragrance last longer and to help products stick to the skin better. The controversies around the ingredient “fragrance” on a product label is due to phthalates. The ingredient “fragrance” can represent tens or hundreds of chemicals that the company is not required by law to disclose. It’s considered a company trade secret and therefore, we can never truly know whether the product contains phthalates or not.
Companies will try to move around this issue by using an asterix (*) after the word fragrance and labeling “fragrance from natural sources*”. This means nothing, as the company still hasn’t told us what chemicals make up their fragrance.
There is a large body of research supporting that phthalates pose a substantial risk to the developing fetus in utero. Therefore, pregnant women and women trying to conceive should be especially mindful to choose fragrance-free products. Phthalates have been linked to reproductive organ abnormalities, low sperm count, infertility, and other birth defects especially in developing baby boys.
To learn more about the impact of endocrine disruptors on pregnancy check out this article on why it's important to avoid endocrine disruptors during pregnancy.
What to look for on a label: “fragrance” or “parfum”.
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
BHA and BHT are used as preservatives in lipsticks, lip balms, makeup, deodorant, toothpaste, moisturizers, hair products and more.
The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption listed BHA as a Category 1 Priority substance based on evidence that it interferes with hormone function. Long term exposure to BHT may cause developmental defects, behavioral issues in children and thyroid disorders.
What to look for on a label: BHA, butylated hydroxyanisole, BHT, butylated hydroxytoluene.
Parabens are a widely used preservative in lotions, shampoo, conditioner, mascara, lip stick, hair treatments and more.
Parabens have been at the center of the clean beauty discussion for years. Large beauty brands and chemical advocates will argue that the amounts used in cosmetics are too small to cause harm. But throughout the years, as science has advanced, bans and restrictions have tightened around the use or parabens. Parabens are estrogenic and several studies now suggest that parabens can harm fertility and reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes and increase risk of hormonal cancers.
What to look for on a label: anything that ends in “paraben” - methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben.
Benzophenones act as penetration enhancers and facilitate the absorption of other ingredients into the body. They also help protect products from degrading under UV light. They’re found in nail polish, lotions, perfumes, hair spray, sunscreens, exfoliants and more.
Benzophenones are persistent and bioaccumulative meaning that they build up in our bodies. Different benzophenones have different endocrine effects. Some show estrogenic activity and some show androgenic activity. Regardless, they are endocrine disrupting.
What to look for on a label: Benzophenone-2, -3, -4, Oxybenzone, BP# (for example BP2).
Commonly found in shaving cream, makeup wipes, hair dyes, lotions, face masks, serums and more.
Phenols are used as a slimicide (gross word, we know), used to kill bacteria and fungi characteristic of aqueous slimes. It’s also used as a skin exfoliant. Some phenols are known to have an estrogenic effect on the body.
What to look for on a label: anything ending in -phenol.
Commonly added to products as a fragrance ingredient. Benzyl salicylate was recently added as a Group A - High priority substance being evaluated by the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) for its potential endocrine disrupting effects.
What to look for on a label: Benzyl Salicylate.
Lavender Oil and Tee Tree oil
Natural ingredients can have hormone disrupting effects as well. Both lavender and tea tree oil are phytoestrogens that hinder testosterone. The debate around lavender and tea tree oil is ongoing. Something important to consider when deciding whether to use products with lavender and tea tree oil is that these ingredients, since they are natural, are completely unregulated.
What to look for on a label: Lavender Oil, Lavandula angustifolia, Lavender latifolia, Tea Tree Oil, Melaleuca Oil, Melaleuca alternifolia.
The Cocktail Effect
Although the amounts of endocrine disruptors in each of our beauty products individually may seem negligible, together they create a cocktail effect. This is best described if we imagine for a second all the ways in which we come into contact with endocrine disruptors daily. Did you know that the average woman uses around 12 personal care products every day, exposing herself to about 168 different chemicals? She’s also likely to sit on a cushion containing flame retardant chemicals, eat out of a plastic container and wear water resistant clothing - all of which contain endocrine disruptors.
Women generally carry a larger body burden of endocrine disrupting chemicals than men do which is believed to be due to all the cosmetics we use.
Simply saying NO to brands that use endocrine disrupting ingredients is a huge step in lowering your overall body burden of endocrine disruptors. Check out this article to learn how to purge risky endocrine disruptors from your beauty products.
What you do every day matters. At Oliver, we’re proud to offer products that are completely free of endocrine disrupting ingredients. We’re creating a hormonally healthy future, join us!