Are Personal Care Products Messing With Your Hormones?
Hormones are the body’s messengers, and play a vital role in generating whole-body health. Today we will be exploring how conventional personal care products can be detrimental to health by destroying your hormones. We’ll also dive into xenoestrogens, how such products can cause estrogen dominance, and serve up some better options for your health when it comes to personal care items.
Hormones and Health and Personal Care
Our hormones are essentially signals sent out by the endocrine system. Hormones tell each part of your body what work to do, when to do it, and for how long. These signals regulate processes, including growth and development, sexual function, metabolism, and mood. The list of human hormones is enormous but includes the likes of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, oxytocin, leptin, insulin, ghrelin, and melatonin.
Approximately 40% of all cancer in women is hormonally driven, especially breast cancer, which is typically estrogen-dominant cancer. Other cancers that are influenced by hormone health include brain cancer, kidney, pancreas, and lung cancer. Thankfully, there is a lot of information available for us to take control of our health and naturally support our hormones.
Toxins in Personal Care Products
To increase shelf life, improve the texture, reduce cost, and various other factors– modern personal care products are full of toxic chemicals. These products contain large amounts of hormone-disrupting chemicals. By getting to know the top 10 offenders, you can easily avoid the bulk of these toxins.
The Top 10 Chemicals in Personal Care Products to Avoid Are:
- Sodium Lauryl/ Laureth Sulfate (SLS and SLES): a foaming agent used to break down water in grease, causes skin irritation, cataracts, and detrimental long term effects on the organs.
- Petroleum/ Paraffin/ Mineral Oil: a petrochemical pollutant derived from crude oil, causes premature aging and skin disorders.
- Formaldehyde: a carcinogen that hides in products under the alias’ such as quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), glyoxal and oxaldehyde.
- Synthetic fragrances/ Parfum: another big offender- and this category is particularly nefarious because company’s patented scents mean that they don’t have to release information regarding their formula, and a single “fragrance” could include up to 200 ingredients. Ditch any product that lists “fragrance” as an ingredient.
- Parabens. These guys are possibly the most common offenders. Parabens are in almost every conventional personal care product. They mimic estrogen and wreak havoc on the endocrine system (read: PMS, hormone imbalances, auto-immune, infertility) and are to cancer. Found on labels as isobutyl paraben, butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben.
- Mercury (aka Thimerosal and Merthiolate: Mercury is a metallic compound used as a preservative, which then gets stored in the brain. This can lead to neurodegenerative diseases.
- Phthalates: these plasticizing chemicals help contents stick to skin (like nail polish/ hairspray, but also in synthetic fragrances), linked to congenital disabilities and damage to kidneys, lungs, and liver. Found on labels as BDP, DEHP, and DEP.
- Hydroquinone: this skin lightening chemical prevents the production of melanin and is linked to cancer, organ toxicity, and skin irritation.
- Propylene Glycol: the same ingredient found in antifreeze, linked to organ damage and skin diseases.
- Triclosan: This antibacterial product is associated with antibiotic resistance; by killing all the bad and the good bacteria, you wipe your body’s natural microbiome, which is a natural defense to viruses.
These harmful chemicals are unfortunately found in almost every personal care product on the shelves of your local stores. The big-name brands that we recognize are often leading us down the path of hormonal havoc. To truly support our bodies and health long term, a complete overhaul of personal care products is usually in order.
Some of the common personal care products that contain toxic ingredients include:
- Shampoo/ conditioner
- Shaving gels
- Hair sprays/ styling products
- Body cream/ oils
- Perfume/ cologne
- Nail polish
Xenoestrogens: A Hormonal Nightmare
Xenoestrogens are a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that mimic estrogen, one of our body’s natural hormones. A healthy endocrine system naturally releases the right amount of hormones, but this process is disrupted with the introduction of these exogenous xenoestrogens.
These hormone-mimicking agents bind to hormone receptors, which prevents our real hormones from binding as they usually would. As a result, there are higher amounts of free-flowing estrogen in the blood, a condition known as estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance is a common issue for women but can be problematic for men as well as children. The more children are exposed to these chemicals; the quicker puberty comes on. For men, it can lead to an imbalance of dominant male hormones and a wide range of adverse hormonal effects.
The harmful impacts of estrogen dominance include:
- Low libido
- Weight gain (especially hips and thighs)
- Thinning hair and eyebrows
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
Personal Care Products: Go Natural
The harmful health impact caused by conventional personal care products doesn’t mean you have to put down deodorant forever. There is an ever-increasing market of all-natural personal care products that are non-toxic, friendly to the body, and the environment.
Don’t worry about overhauling your entire stock of products, because this can be daunting and expensive. Instead, go for the natural option next time you run out of your shampoo or deodorant.
Although we cannot control our exposure to every single environmental toxin out there, it serves our health to control the things that we can. By investing in non-toxic personal care products, you give your hormones a chance at functioning optimally and supporting whole-body health.
Skincare products are one of the most significant sources of the exposure of these xenoestrogens, so merely by making the swap to more natural options, you will be taking a massive leap in the right direction. Since xenoestrogens do not bioaccumulate in the body, they are able to leave the body relatively quickly.
Beware of Greenwashing
One thing to be mindful of when going ‘natural’ with personal care products is the common practice of ‘greenwashing.’ Greenwashing is essentially the use of the famous natural health movement to sell products that are actually far from natural or healthy. The body care industry is wildly unregulated, and so words like ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ are thrown around when the product itself may contain a wide range of toxic chemicals.
Standard greenwashing practices also include highlighting the essential oil used, which may be a natural derivative, but they fail to highlight the other toxic ingredients (like parabens or SLS). The key is always to read the label. The more you begin to read labels, the quicker you will be at identifying the common nasty ingredients that are slipped into various personal care products.
If you aren’t sure whether the ingredient is harmful or not, check it out on the Environmental Working Group website. This non-profit organization helps inform consumers about the levels of toxicity in beauty and home products. In time, you’ll start to recognize ingredients and find trustworthy brands you can rely on for you and your family’s health.
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Davis, Devra Lee, H. Leon Bradlow, Mary Wolff, Tracey Woodruff, David G. Hoel, and Hoda Anton-Culver. “Medical Hypothesis: Xenoestrogens As Preventable Causes of Breast Cancer.” Environmental Health Perspectives101, no. 5 (1993): 372. https://doi.org/10.2307/3431889.
Donovan, Maryann, Chandra M. Tiwary, Deborah Axelrod, Annie J. Sasco, Lovell Jones, Richard Hajek, Erin Sauber, Jean Kuo, and Devra L. Davis. “Personal Care Products That Contain Estrogens or Xenoestrogens May Increase Breast Cancer Risk.” Medical Hypotheses68, no. 4 (2007): 756–66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2006.09.039.
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Russo, Jose. “Estrogen and Breast Cancer,” January 2004. https://doi.org/10.21236/ada428032.
Singleton, David W. “Xenoestrogen Exposure and Mechanisms of Endocrine Disruption.” Frontiers in Bioscience8, no. 6 (2003). https://doi.org/10.2741/1010.
“Your Health and Hormones.” Endocrine Society. Accessed November 22, 2019. https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones.
Hello , I’m 66 years old and I am having hair loss and I have neuropathy. That makes me feel old. I have done a pretty good job at getting rid of most of the chemicals in my life , but I’m a hairdresser and that is my work , so I’m in chemicals half of my life . It doesn’t look like I will be retiring any time soon . What should I do?
Thank You , Cindy
My 16 year old daughter, has a lot of problems with her hormones. Her FHS is super high and her estrogen is super low. She’ a like in full blown menopause with hot flashes and lack of sleep. Her ovaries had stop working so no period since last December. She did acupuncture, colon irritation, she’s taking vitamines, maca, royal jell etc. She also switch to natural product for the shampoo, soap. Now her last resort is to take some hormone replacement. What should she do?