27 May Are Your Personal Care Products Causing Your Hormonal Imbalance?
Endocrine disrupters: Xenoestrogens
Many of us don’t think twice about the makeup we wear each day or the plastic container we use to pack our lunch. We also know organic food is a better option for our health, although at a higher cost, eating organic is not possible for everyone.
Unfortunately, we are surrounded by products in our households that can alter the way our body naturally functions because they contain ‘endocrine disrupters’.
Endocrine disruptors are a category of chemicals that alter the normal function of your hormones. Normally, your endocrine system releases hormones that signal different tissues telling them what to do.
When chemicals from the outside get into your body, they can mimic your natural hormones, blocking or binding to hormone receptors. This is particularly detrimental to hormone sensitive organs like the uterus and breasts, the immune and neurological systems, as well as human development.
Most of the patients I see at NatMed have hormonal imbalances and often unaware of how their personal care products may be adding to the health issues.
Xenoestrogens are a sub-category of the endocrine disrupters group that specifically have oestrogen-like effects. Oestrogen is a natural hormone in humans that is important for bone growth, blood clotting and reproduction in men and women. The body regulates the amount needed through intricate biochemical pathways. When xenoestrogens enter the body, they increase the total amount of oestrogen resulting in a phenomenon called, Oestrogen excess. Xenoestrogens are not biodegradable so, they are stored in our fat cells.
A build-up of xenoestrogens have been indicated in many conditions including breast, prostate and testicular cancer, obesity, infertility, endometriosis, PCOS, thyroid dysregulation early onset puberty, miscarriages and diabetes.
Below is a list of some of the sources of xenoestrogens and a larger class of endocrine disruptors but it is by no means exhaustive. We are constantly exposed to these substances in the world we live in.
Examples of everyday items that may include xenoestrogens are: fruits and vegetables sprayed with pesticides, plastic water bottles and Tupperware, nail polish, makeup and the oral contraceptive pill.
Skincare – The main players
- Bisphenol A, BPA-, (monomer for polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin; antioxidant in plasticizers)
- Phthalates (plasticisers) The damage comes from constant daily exposure, and may cause low sperm counts, asthma, increase in breast cancer and tumour risk.
Phthalates is most often listed on a personal care product as “fragrance “or “parfum”. Unless it is an essential oil, it’s a synthetic fragrance, the plasticiser being there to ensure the scent doesn’t disappear.
- Parabens will be named on the ingredients list. Parabens have been detected in human breast cancer tissues, suggesting a possible link and may also interfere with male reproductive functions
- DEHP (plasticiser for PVC) Polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs) (flame retardants used in plastics, foams, building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles).
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
- Phenoxyethanol – animal studies with repeated exposure show that red blood cells, kidney, liver, thyroid gland and respiratory tract have been affected
- Resorcinol – a hormone disrupter found in hair dyes and used in face and body products to break through tough oily skin
- Benzophenone – endocrine disrupter, used to protect from UV light, found in sunscreens , lipsticks and nail polishes as well as sunglasses and food packaging
- Triphenyl phosphate – endocrine disrupter found mainly in nail polish – constant exposure can lead to weight gain and reproductive changes
Other endocrine disrupters
- Sodium Laurylsulphate and sodium lareth sulphate, both are skin irritants, sodium lareth sulphate is a suspected carcinogen.
- Seeing “eth” in an ingredient means that it may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane – a likely carcinogen based on animal studies.
- Triclosan – in antibacterial products – such as hand washes and targeted acne face washes – now banned in the US.
- PEGs – short for, polyethylene glycols are widely used in cosmetics as emollients and emulsifiers.
- Benzoic acid, sodium benzoate – common causes of eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, and hives – avoid unless naturally derived
- Polyquaternium 7 – a synthetic ammonium product a known eye irritant
- Methylisothiazolinone – a popular preservative used since phthalates have been found to be harmful – causes skin irritation, contact dermatitis
- Butoxyethanol – (as well as in skin care it is used as a car coolant)
- Ceteareth/ceteareth-20 – on damaged, sensitive skin particularly active, contains the carcinogen 1,4 -dioxane
- Microbeads – plastics, containing BPA and phthalates, not only detrimental for our skin but flushed away into the waterways and then into the fish.
Guidelines to minimise your personal exposure to xenoestrogens
- Avoid all pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
- Choose organic, locally grown and in-season foods.
- Peel non-organic fruits and vegetables.
- Buy hormone-free meats and dairy products to avoid hormones and pesticides.
- Reduce the use of plastics whenever possible.
- Do not microwave food in plastic containers.
- Avoid the use of plastic wrap to cover food for storing or microwaving.
- Use glass or ceramics whenever possible to store food.
- Do not leave plastic containers, especially your drinking water, in the sun.
- If a plastic water container has heated up significantly, throw it away.
- Don’t refill plastic water bottles.
- Avoid freezing water in plastic bottles to drink later.
Health and Beauty Products
- Avoid creams and cosmetics that have toxic chemicals and estrogenic ingredients such as parabens and stearalkonium chloride.
- Minimise your exposure to nail polish and nail polish removers.
- Use naturally based fragrances, such as essential oils.
- Use chemical free soaps and toothpastes.
- Read the labels on condoms and diaphragm gels.
Down load the chemical Maze App, or The EWG (Environmental Working Group App) which includes food scores, if you aren’t sure about other ingredients, many are abbreviated or different forms of the same chemical.
Just like reading the list of ingredients in packaged goods from the Supermarket, we need to get more savvy when it comes to the hair care / personal care and cosmetics section.
Be cautious when some skin care ranges claim to be organic and natural, unfortunately anybody can use description without the evidence to back it up.
Scents and fragrances – natural smell or not?
Just walking down the cleaning products and household fragrance section will give you an idea how many chemicals are used to enhance the experience of using them as they smell nice. Fabric softeners and washing powders are a bug bear of mine – being so strong leaving a pervasive smell in the house or on the person who has used them, and totally unnecessary.
Natural products may cost a little more but isn’t it worth it? Have a look through your make up, get rid of products you have had for a long time, get back to basics. Make the change especially if you can encourage your teenagers.
Another concern is the use of tampons and sanitary pads, as an average each women will use approx. 11,400 tampons in a life time, direct contact for 2,200 days. One of the chemicals found in tampons and pads is dioxin, and yes you guessed it, it’s an endocrine disrupter.
Pick a couple of things in your household or cosmetic collection and see if there are many of the chemicals listed – you may get a nasty surprise – make the change slowly by replacing them to improve your health and other members in the household you can always do more in the future
Here are a few of the brands I use:
Mokosh – extensively researched organic skin care – made in Fremantle https://www.mokosh.com.au
Antipodes – New Zealand brand of skin care using plants, fruits and herbs https://www.antipodesnature.com
Scout, cosmetics https://www.scoutactivebeauty.com
Are you experiencing hormonal imbalances? Book online or call 9339 1999 to book in for a free 15 minute scoping session with me. Consultation can be done over the phone, online or at the NatMed clinic, conveniently located in East Fremantle, Perth.