Have you ever thought about how many things you put on your body each day? Most women use an average of 12 personal care products each day. Everything from shampoo and conditioner, lotion, face cream, make up, hairspray, and soap.
These products contain a variety of chemicals, many of which have not been tested for safety. In fact, the FDA rules allow manufacturers to use almost any raw material as an ingredient without approval from the FDA and the companies are not required to test their products for safety or share safety testing if they do. The group that does oversee cosmetics is only looking for products and ingredients that cause acute or immediate reactions. It is not looking at the long term effects of low doses daily exposures which is what we get when we use these personal care products.
If this seems frightening or overwhelming, I understand. I want to give you this information so you can make informed choices about your products and what you are putting on your body. At the end, I give you lots of practical ways to upgrade your products to reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
What to look for
One of the chemicals to look for in personal care products is a class of chemicals called phthalates. Phthalates are used in everyday products from shower curtains to kids toys to soften plastics and make them more pliable. In personal care products, they are used as a solvent and as way to stabilize the color and scent. These chemicals can travel through the skin and then enter our bloodstream.
Phthalates are classified as endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals that either block the transmission of a hormone signal or mimic a hormone in the body. Prenatal exposure to phthalates has been linked to genital birth defects in boys, lower birth weight, decreased IQ in preschool age children, and altered timing of puberty.
You can look for the term phthalates on products, but these chemicals are often part of the proprietary “fragrance” or “parfum” that is listed on the label. There are as many as 3000 chemical which can be included under the fragrance or parfum label. And, since it is proprietary, companies do not have to disclose which chemicals make up their fragrance.
The best way to avoid phthalates is to buy products without fragrance or parfum on the ingredient list. But be sure to read the labels, because unscented products may include fragrance to cover up the chemical smell in the product and even “natural” products can contain phthalates.
Another chemical group to look for on labels is parabens. This group of chemicals may be listed on the ingredient list with the prefix methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, or butyl-.
Parabens are used in personal care products to inhibit the growth of microbes, bacteria and fungus. They are found in everything from toothpaste and deodorant, to shampoo, conditioner, lotion and make-up. A 2014 study found higher concentrations of parabens in urine samples from pregnant women who used lotion vs. those who did not.
This group of chemicals mimics estrogen in our body and has been linked to increased odds of preterm birth and lower birth weight and length.
The good news is, once you remove parabens from your products, your body is able to remove them. In one study, urine paraben levels dropped 44% after only 3 days of removing the products with parabens.
What can you do?
Check the labels of your personal care products for the words fragrance, perfume or parfum and for any name ending in -paraben and change out any products you find.
You can also check out your products at the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database or use the EWG Healthy Living app to scan barcodes while you are shopping. The Skin Deep Database is also a great place to look for new products when you are ready to upgrade.
When you are changing out products, don’t feel like you have to spend money to change everything all at once. Make changes in one or two items, and then as you run out, you can upgrade to a new product.
Here are a few products I like:
Acure shampoo and conditioner
Coconut oil for skin and hair
Beautycounter make up
Crunchi make up
Evan Healy face lotion and cleanser
I am not affiliated with any of these companies, I just like and use the products myself.