"Effects can occur from a very small amount of a chemical, and these ‘low dose effects’ can be different than the effects of higher doses. This makes the outcomes difficult to predict. Further, health effects may not show up until many years after exposure occurred, making it hard to connect cause and effect."Quote from TEDX Endocrine Disruption Exchange
You may be doing everything right when it comes to eating healthy—choosing fresh and organic foods over heavily processed and preservative laden foods, eating nutrient-dense meals, and watching your coffee and alcohol intake. But did you ever stop and consider that what you're putting on your skin from the outside could be causing harm to your health?
One of the most infamous and alarming examples is the Johnson & Johnson baby powder scandal. In 1982, world renowned epidemiologist, Dr Daniel Cramer, linked Johnson & Johnson's baby powder to ovarian cancer (it is alleged J&J knew since the 60s and did nothing). If you've heard of the case but are not clear on the details, this Reuters article is a good read, if somewhat disturbing.
Another example is when Dr Philippa Darbre, a UK scientist, found parabens, a chemical preservative in many cosmetics, in breast tissue in 2004.
While unravelling disease is a monumental task, and not everything in our vanity or medicine cupboard wants to harm us, for years now, consumer health advocates and some researchers have warned that at least some ingredients commonly used in personal care and beauty products are unsafe. And, Scientists have uncovered that even minimal amounts of chemicals we encounter daily can disrupt our hormones.
So, it isn't surprising that more and more of us are looking closer at the ingredient lists of the products we use in our skincare routine to see if they contain hidden dangers in the form of unnecessary toxins and endocrine disruptors.
Your endocrine system is where all those hormones come from - it's the collection of glands such as the pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, ovaries and testicles that produce hormones that regulate everything from metabolism to sexual function, sleep, and mood.
Your endocrine system can be affected by everyday toxins and pollutants that can alter the way they are supposed to behave, earning them the name 'endocrine disruptors. These disruptors can be responsible for irregular periods and breakouts and, very rarely, illnesses and cancer.
Leading the assault on our hormones are some of the most commonly used ingredients in skincare. It's gotten to the point where even the WHO has issued statements about it. Pregnant women and children are most vulnerable to these exposures, but what's worse is that these exposures will likely not become apparent until much later on.
Yes, it probably does freak you out a little. But now that you know, you can do something about it by avoiding skincare products containing these unnecessary additives that could be damaging your endocrine system.
The Endocrine Disruption Exchange is a brilliant resource by TEDX. For 16 years, a team evaluated and interpreted scientific evidence on the effects of common chemicals to prevent harm to human and animal health. Although the program is now closed, they are offering the resources on the site until September 2022 - you can look up ingredients on their comprehensive database.
In the meantime, we'll go over some of the common ingredients you want to go and check your product labels for - and toss out anything that has any of these endocrine disruptors listed.
This endocrine disruptor is mostly used as a preservative, though you'll also see it for antiseptic and disinfectant purposes. It's found in topical acne treatments and those to treat skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. What's most fascinating is that it is known to irritate the skin, yet it is in your hair dye and all these other things you likely use regularly. Beware of resorcin, 1,3-benzenediol, and 1,3-dihydroxybenzene (m-hydroxybenze, m-dihydroxyphenol) to avoid it.
This sunscreen agent and UV absorber is supposed to protect you. It's also used in moisturiser, foundation, nail polish, lip products, and shampoos and conditioners. Your body absorbs it quite readily, though. And here's the thing… it's toxic to coral reefs. So, if it causes them damage, imagine what it's doing to you! Steer clear of products with oxybenzone, benzophenone and derivatives, and sulisobenzone.
Stay away from triclosan and triclocarban. This active ingredient serves as a preservative and antibacterial agent for soaps, mouthwash, antiperspirants, toothpaste, etc. Since it bioaccumulates in the environment, it may be what is causing antibiotic resistance and has been shown to affect autoimmune diseases.
Indeed, one of the worst there out there are those phthalates. BPA is found in cans and bottles and some of the toys that our children play with. But the worst part of it is that other types of phthalates aren't listed on your labels. DEP (diethyl phthalate) is used in nail polish and fragrances. Thankfully in Australia and the EU, many phthalates have been banned in cosmetics, including dibutylphthalate, diethylhexylphthalate, diisobutylphthalate and di(methyloxyhexyl) phthalate. On labels, check for BPA, DEP, DBP, and DEHP. Anything that simply lists' fragrances' should also be questioned as it's usually a chemical cocktail you're liberally dousing your skin in.
Parabens are preservatives that should really make you think twice because they can mimic estrogen. Parabens have been found in human breast cancer tissue too, as mentioned earlier. This nasty compound has no benefits (there are safe preservatives formulators can use).
How to Stay Safe from Hormone Disruptors in Skincare
While that list above isn't nearly complete, it's a good start in getting you to re-examine what ingredients you're slathering all over your skin. If you want to make a change for the better and protect yourself from future health issues, there are some things you can do.
- Avoid these nasty endocrine disruptors
The most obvious thing is to avoid these chemical agents mentioned here as much as possible. Reducing your exposure to them will minimise damage to your health. Read labels.
- Say ‘no’ to plastic
Packaging made of plastic is another problem, especially drink bottles that may have travelled in the heat or plastic containers used to microwave. When it comes to single use plastic, it is not sustainable for the earth, but it also potentially puts you up close and personal with these hormone disruptors. With personal- care and beauty products, try to use glass packaged products (some bathroom products are hard to put into glass safely, but you'll experience huge wins by going for low-hanging fruit such as food and drink packaging and choosing glass or a material other than plastic personal care products where possible). As a side bonus, being thoughtful of these concerns will also benefit the environment.
- Never use synthetic fragrances
Synthetic fragrances are easy to spot because they will be labelled as 'fragrance' on your products - and there can be up to 4000 chemicals in a 'frangrance'. These are usually made of those phthalates, though, which can disturb your thyroid and have been suggested to cause male reproductive issues. If you want to smell as lovely as a flower, go for natural perfumes that list essential oils and botanical ingredients. These will give you a pleasant aroma without any of those nasty chemicals. Breast Cancer Prevention has more information on frangrances and why you want to avoid them here.
And, of course, if you're looking for naturally-formulated skincare products without any chemical additions, Indagare Natural Beauty offers award-winning organic skincare products to nurture your skin the way it deserves. The entire range only includes the purest forms of botanicals because you don't need synthetic ingredients to look naturally beautiful and healthy! Our waterless formulating means we don't need to use ANY preservative, so you don't need to research to see if our preservative system is one of the safer options. And every product is entirely free of synthetics and toxins and certified cruelty-free by PETA. Discover more about our values here.