How Safe Are The Personal Care Products You Use?

March 4, 2017

If you’re looking to reduce your exposure to toxins, your bathroom cabinet is a good place to start. Americans spend a lot of money on cosmetic products. In fact, in 2016, the cosmetic industry made 62.4 billion dollars in earnings – double the amount earned in 2003. Despite the size of the industry, there is little regulatory oversight of the ingredients used in personal care products.

Not Just Skin Deep

When you apply a moisturizing lotion to your skin, you may think it gets absorbed by the skin, but doesn’t go any deeper. In reality, however, some of the chemicals do find their way into your body. According to the Environmental Working Group’s report on cosmetic safety, certain ingredients in personal care products like “phthalate plasticizers, paraben preservatives, the pesticide triclosan, synthetic musks and sunscreens are common pollutants in the bodies of men, women, and children”. Even babies in the womb can be exposed to theses chemicals. One recent study found that babies exposed to phthalates, triclosan, BPA, and substances containing perfluorolalkyl while in the womb appear to be at increased risk for developing adverse neurological behavior and obesity.

Some of the most common toxins found in your personal care products include:

  • Phthalates: Can inhibit testosterone production, reduce the quality of semen, and cause altered genital development in men. They have also been associated with allergies, asthma, breast cancer, and obesity.
  • Triclosan: Suppresses thyroid hormone function and reacts with estrogen receptors, potentially increasing the risk of estrogen-dependent cancers.
  • Parabens: Have estrogen-like or “estrogenic” effects, making them of concern with regard to the development of breast and uterine cancers.
  • Synthetic musks: Are used in fragrances and also have estrogenic effects. Additional health problems associated with synthetic musks are allergies, asthma, skin rashes, and headaches.
  • BPA: Has been widely studied and may have cancer-promoting properties even at low doses.
  • Perfluorolalkyls: Appear to adversely affect hormone function.

One of the most harmful of the various chemical ingredients found in personal care products are a group called Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs). EDCs can impair, alter or mimic the normal functioning of certain hormones and, thus, can potentially wreak havoc with your health by targeting a number of organs, including breasts, ovaries, testes, pancreas, and even fat tissue. The ability of EDCs to exert an estrogen-like influence makes them particularly dangerous with regard to estrogen-dependent cancers like breast cancer and uterine cancer. EDCs are also found in pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, and certain dietary supplements (phytoestrogens).

A recent study of the use of personal care products in adolescent girls found that this age group to have a greater risk for exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) due to their high use of cosmetics. After having the study participants abstain from using conventional personal care products for 3 days and instead use products low in chemicals, a decline of 27-45% in urinary concentrations of EDC chemicals was found on average.

Not Hard To Find

You don’t have to go out of your way to come into contact with harmful chemicals. Here is a list of everyday products that contain these toxic substances:

  • BPA: Used in food & drink packaging, food storage containers, water bottles, baby bottles. Look for recycle numbers 3 & 7 on products.
  • Phthalates: Used in the manufacturing of:
  • Flexible plastic products (PVC products): Food storage containers, children’s toys (look for the recycling number 3 on products & containers), & feminine hygiene products; Use only microwave safe containers as phthalates can leach out of plastic containers and plastic wraps into foods.
  • Personal Care Products: Body lotions, shampoo, hair gel, hair spray, lipstick, soaps, deodorants, perfumes, nail polish.
  • Paraben Preservatives: Found in food products, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, including personal lubricants & deodorants/antiperspirants.
  • Perfluorolalkyl Substances: PFAs are found in drinking water near industry sites, military bases, and wastewater treatment plants.
  • Synthetic Musks: Found in fragrances as used in perfumes, air fresheners, and dryer sheets.
  • Triclosan: Used as an antimicrobial in acne creams, soaps, toothpastes, body washes, mouth washes, shaving creams & fabrics.

Not So “Natural” After All

So, are you better off using “natural” products? Yes and No. Many personal care products carry the label “natural” or “organic”, but the truth is that many of them contain petrochemicals. Products that carry the label “organic” may contain only 10% organic ingredients. That’s why it’s important to read labels, but even then, the FDA does not require companies to list some ingredients if, for example, they are trade secrets, fragrances or nanomaterials. Fortunately, the Environmental Working Group has made it easy to know if the products you use contain harmful chemicals, their SkinDeep cosmetic database rates products based on their ingredients.

Reducing your exposure to the toxins found in your personal care products as well as other products – like cleaning products – can give your body the advantage it needs to stay healthy. Start by reading the ingredients in the products you use every day and where necessary, look for healthier, low chemical substitutes. Ask your healthcare practitioner if you should consider doing a detoxification program. For more information on detoxifying your body and on healthy skin care products, contact us today.


Braun, JM. Early-life exposure to EDCs: role in childhood obesity and neurodevelopment.Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2017 Mar;13(3):161-173.

Environmental Working Group. EWG’s SkinDeep Cosmetics Database. Myths on cosmetic safety.

Giulivo, M, et al. Human exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds: Their role in reproductive systems, metabolic syndrome and breast cancer. A review.Environ Res. 2016 Nov;151:251-264

Harley, KG, et al. Reducing Phthalate, Paraben, and Phenol Exposure from Personal Care Products in Adolescent Girls: Findings from the HERMOSA Intervention Study. Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289.

Nicolee, W. A Question for Women’s Health: Chemicals in Feminine Hygiene Products and Personal Lubricants. Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289

Rachon, D. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and female cancer: Informing the patients. Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2015; 16: 359–364

Wang, Z, et al. Low-Dose Bisphenol A Exposure: A Seemingly Instigating Carcinogenic Effect on Breast Cancer. Adv Sci (Weinh). 2016 Nov 21;4(2):1600248.

The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.

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