Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Personal Care Products

Environmental toxins are everywhere. They’re hiding in our food, air, water, soil, cleaning supplies, personal care products, cookware, clothing, children’s toys, and just about everything we come into contact with on a daily basis. Even worse, many of these toxins are natural or human-made endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), meaning they interfere with our hormones and endocrine system — affecting everything from thyroid function and metabolism to reproduction. Some EDCs can even increase our risk of developing cancer, while others are associated with abnormal puberty in both girls and boys. 

Although we can’t avoid environmental toxins altogether, what we can do is say no to using products that contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals. There are hundreds of clean, chemical-free makeup, skincare, and personal care brands committed to creating non-toxic products that are better for humans, animals, and the environment. 

In this blog, we’ll look at some of the most problematic endocrine-disrupting toxins in makeup, skincare, and other personal care products — and discuss how to find clean, non-toxic alternatives. 

The problem with endocrine-disrupting chemicals

At least 1,000 different endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been identified to date, and there are likely many more that haven’t yet been studied. In fact, of the nearly 85,000 human-made chemicals that exist today, only about one percent have been studied for safety. This means we’re likely encountering many more endocrine disruptors on a daily basis, absorbing them into our bodies whenever we eat, drink, breathe, and touch everyday objects. 

When we come into contact with endocrine-disrupting chemicals (for example, through food, water, air, household items, and personal care products), these chemicals can mimic or block the production and release of hormones. This is because the endocrine system produces and releases hormones such as insulin, melatonin, testosterone, estrogen, and thyroxine — and these hormones affect numerous biological processes like reproduction, fertility, metabolism, development, mood, blood pressure, and sexual function. 

Since the endocrine system is extremely sensitive to even tiny amounts of endocrine disruptors, anything that interferes with how the endocrine system works can significantly affect our hormone production, bodily processes, and overall health. This is what makes endocrine-disrupting chemicals so dangerous, and why it’s important to avoid EDCs and other toxins in makeup and personal care products. We can’t avoid all endocrine-disrupting toxins in the environment, but we can control which personal care products we use. 

Some examples of endocrine disruptors in personal care products include:

  • Phthalates.
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
  • Bisphenol A (BPA).
  • Dioxins.
  • Triclosan.
  • Parabens.
  • Heavy metals. 
  • Oxybenzone and many other chemicals in sunscreen.

Phthalates, for example, are a group of endocrine-disrupting toxins in cosmetics, shampoos, fragrances, and many other products such as food packaging, children’s toys, and plastics. These environmental toxins have been associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in human adolescents, and developmental issues in laboratory animals (e.g. early puberty, genital defects, and lower sperm and testosterone counts). 

Other endocrine-disrupting chemicals in cosmetics are just as detrimental to our health. Parabens are associated with an increased risk of cancer, infertility, and poor birth outcomes; heavy metals in cosmetics can harm the brain and kidneys; PFAS may cause birth defects, high cholesterol, and liver damage; and BPA is associated with obesity, cancer, and abnormalities of the brain, nervous system, and heart. PFAS may even reduce the efficacy of vaccines and diminish the immune response. 

How to find non-toxic cosmetics & clean beauty brands

By consciously avoiding endocrine disruptors in cosmetics, sunscreens, and personal care products, we can significantly reduce our toxic load and mitigate our risk of cardiometabolic disease, reproductive issues, certain cancers, immune dysfunction, neurological disorders, and many other serious health conditions. Avoiding these chemicals in cosmetics isn’t easy, but there are a few simple steps we can take to protect ourselves, our children, and the pets we share our homes with:

  • Read all product labels and avoid using anything that lists ingredients such as “fragrance”, “synthetic fragrance”, “propylparaben, “butyl”, “parabens”, and “PC 7 plastic”. 
  • Look for products clearly labeled as “BPA-free”, “paraben-free”, and “phthalate-free”.
  • When purchasing scented products, ensure they’re only scented with essential oils. Our team at Optimal Health & Wellness swears by Young Living products
  • Avoid harmful ingredients in sunscreen like oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, and octocrylene, and opt for mineral sunscreens that use titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. 
  • Refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® database to find EWG Verified® products and other safer alternatives to potentially harmful personal care products. 
  • Look for nontoxic cosmetics and personal care products from trusted brands like Avalon Organics, Babo Botanicals, Beautycounter, Dr. Bronner’s, Honest Beauty, Just the Goods, and Well People.
  • Refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning to find non-toxic cleaning products for your home or office.  

Unfortunately, the information we’ve covered in this blog post is just the tip of the iceberg. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and other environmental toxins are all around us, and the negative health effects of these natural or human-made substances are likely much worse than we think. The good news is organizations like the Environmental Working Group are working day in and day out to make the world a safer and cleaner place for all.  

Want to learn more about how to adopt a clean, non-toxic lifestyle? Book a free 15-minute consultation to discuss your wellness goals with our team of integrative health practitioners!